ERC unveils its new eatery

Originally slated to open last year, Café Ventanas opened its doors on Oct. 20. The dining facility is part of the new Eleanor Roosevelt College residence complex that opened this year.

Victor Ha/Guardian
“”Mm mm good””: Eleanor Roosevelt College freshman Holiday Blanchard samples the different food selections in the newly opened CafŽ Ventanas.

Budgetary and construction issues delayed Café Ventana¹s openings twice; the complex was scheduled to open in 2002-03 and again this September. Despite the delays, the dining complex was generally well received.

“”In the time that I¹ve been here, delays due to construction were common,”” ERC Resident Dean Rey Guerrero said. “”Café Ventanas is such a great addition that we have never had before.””

Because of budget problems, a lower floor for holding large banquets was scrapped from the plans, and planners had to redraw the blueprints. Living spaces were first priority to the construction crews, who had to wrap up the facility¹s construction afterward, according to Housing and Dining Services Food Service Coordinator Michael Weinreich.

Initial reactions of some students were positive, especially those concerning the large glass windows, the namesake of Ventanas, which means “”windows”” in Spanish.

“”The atmosphere is really nice,”” ERC sophomore Purwa Bansod said. “”I really like the high windows.””

The $1.06 million café boasts new additions to UCSD dining complexes, such as a sushi chef. Focus groups were consulted by a marketing company to create menus. Weinreich, who also runs Canyon Vista and Earl¹s Place, plans to base additions on customer feedback.

“”I want to go out there and have personal contact with the customers, not suggestion boxes,”” Weinreich said.

Café Ventanas also has a coffee bar featuring fair-trade coffee from Pura Vida, a company that gives the profit back to its coffee-growing community in Costa Rica. Some students feel that the choice sends a positive message to UCSD.

“”Buying fair-trade coffee is a good start,”” said ERC sophomore Ashley Burke. “”I¹m glad to see that our campus is moving toward socially conscious stances.””

Besides usual grill, sandwich and pizza stations, the dining complex will also strive for dishes that are more original. However, some students were unimpressed by the fare on opening day.

“”I had a vegetable pasta dish that did not appeal to my taste buds at all,”” Sixth College freshman Christina Chung said. “”Even though Café Ventanas just opened, their garlic bread was stale.””

Other students wanted to see more variety or authentic dishes.

“”The food is really good so far, but there has not been much variety on the menu yet,”” ERC sophomore Adry Walsh said. “”I want to see some sashimi in the sushi section.””

Guerrero has many plans for Café Ventanas. He wants to use the theme meals as a continuation of “”Global Marketplace,”” an ERC event where on certain nights, students get to try out authentic dishes from other countries. Guerrero will try to implement the dining complex into ERC¹s emphasis on a global perspective.

“”I hope they will be more adventurous and try for more authentic tastes,”” Guerrero said.

Weinreich also wants to apply the menu to an international theme.

“”Weare going to work with resident advisors and resident deans to support special events,”” Weinreich said. “”The chefs here at Café Ventanas are really comfortable with international themes.””

The opening of Café Ventanas relieved some of the student traffic from OceanView Terrace, where most ERC residents previously went to dine. OceanView Terrace manager Scott Berlin noted a predicted decrease in sales on the opening day of Café Ventanas.

“”Sure, there will be some healthy competition between OVT and Café Ventanas,”” Berlin said. “”But we’re not built for competition, but rather for the community.””

Guerrero feels that Café Ventanas finally offers a communal place for ERC students.

“”It’s really nice to see people sit around and feel like it’s theirs, and not feel so segregated,”” Guerrero said.