As the Ivy Room approaches a year since being closed, Cornell Dining plans to make its absence permanent – integrating it with Okenshields Dining Room. Students devoted to the food court have expressed their disappointment, citing the conveniences of a late-night eatery on central campus and a “homey” atmosphere that garnered fond memories.
Nestled beside Okenshields Dining Room in the lower levels Willard Straight Hall, the Ivy Room had a rustic aesthetic with large wooden tables, benches and Ivy League crests lining the walls. It stayed open until 9 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays – later than most dining halls.
The Ivy Room served omelets and burgers from the Ivy Grill, salads from Straight From the Garden and Vietnamese, Korean and Thai cuisines from Bamboo in a food court style. It took Big Red Bucks and other credit currencies, rather than Cornell meal swipes.
According to Dustin Cutler, executive director of Cornell Dining, the merge will improve accessibility and increase capacity for Okenshields. Cutler stated that students have asked for expanded dining capacity on central campus, so Cornell Dining hopes the new model will satisfy this request.
“Reducing the long lines on central campus at lunchtime and expanding the available seating capacity for students who want to use their meal swipes on central campus have been big priorities for us,” Cutler wrote in an email to The Sun.
The staircase that previously provided an entrance and exit into Okenshields will now be exit-only, with students entering through the Ivy Room or Okenshields’ Elmhirst Room door. An elevator will provide access for diners with limited mobility.
“Over the spring and summer, we’ll be rearranging the Ivy Room layout a bit to support the traffic flow of a dining room,” Cutler wrote. For example, Cornell Dining will establish a door-checker at the Ivy Room’s entrance in place of a cashier past the serving stations.
Cutler said that Cornell Dining would consider the Ivy Room’s atmosphere and popular culinary options while making renovations.
The Ivy Room’s variety of seating styles, including the large tables, will remain as overflow for Okenshields.
Additionally, the Ivy Room’s Old Stone Palace pizza oven will continue operations. Cutler told The Sun there will be expanded offerings by the slice, with a daily rotation of different pizza toppings including cheese, vegetable and meat toppings.
New additions to the combined dining hall will include an additional beverage station, a new Cornell Dairy ice cream station, a gluten-free salad bar and a Build Your Own Bowl station that will feature a daily rotation of customizable offerings, including risotto, mac and cheese, chili and mashed potato bowls.
Cornell Dining will use the new space to bolster popular Okenshields service areas, including the wok station. The grill will continue to serve Ivy Room recipes, including burgers and grilled cheese.
Although certain elements of the Ivy Room will remain intact as it integrates with Okenshields, students expressed disappointment at losing the space.
Samantha Sasaki ’23 heard the news on Reddit. She said she would miss the flexibility and atmosphere the old Ivy Room provided. She enjoyed getting dinner at the Ivy Room last year after chorus practices, which ended after the dining room in her dormitory building, Risley Hall, had closed.
“For me, that kind of flexibility was really crucial,” said Sasaki. She found the Ivy Room less crowded than other food court style options on campus, such as Trillium Dining Hall.
Gregory Randazzo ’22 appreciated the vegan options that the Ivy Room provided consistently, especially the Impossible Burgers. According to Randazzo, the large tables made the space optimal for informal group meetings.
“It felt more homey than a regular dining hall,” he said.
Sasaki remembers sitting in the Ivy Room when Cornell announced its March 2020 closure due to the spread of the pandemic.
“The fact that was the last moment of normalcy,” said Sasaki, “And I’ll never be able to have that experience again, is kind of devastating.”