An impassioned defense of E-Hall

My hot take: if you don’t like E-hall, you’re a picky eater


Jenny Hellwig

Students dine in Evans Hall, which offers options similar to D-hall as Elrod Commons undergoes renovations. Photo by Jenny Hellwig, ’24

Annalisa Waddick, Opinions Editor

I’ve written a lot of articles for this paper, some of which have earned me some heat. I take that. I own that. I revel in that. And now I’m ready for that heat to fuel a fire, because I have some very hot takes about Evans Hall dining, colloquially known (at least on Gaines second floor) as “E-hall.”
Before I get into my (you guessed it!) defense of what I believe is the most unjustly-attacked dining location on campus, I feel the need to offer some backstory for all of my not-currently-on-campus readers. Parents, alumni, my grandmother (hi Gram!), what you need to know is that at the end of February, Washington and Lee University dining options drastically changed for students. This was due to the launch of a construction project which will renovate and expand two beloved university dining locales, D-hall (the dining hall) and Coop (a popular café). While they are being renovated both places are closed, and so campus Dining Services came up with a new solution to feed 1,867 hungry undergrads: E-hall.
Many, many students hate E-hall. I choose that word purposefully, as “dislike” seems to be too mild given some of the criticisms I’ve heard. Students avoid it like the plague, eat all their meals elsewhere (as the campus bagel and smoothie shop is still open, as is a dining venue that serves Mediterranean food), complain that they haven’t eaten good food in weeks, and do a whole bunch of other dramatic things that make me and a few select others roll our eyes.
But I don’t mind E-hall. In fact, I’ll even say I like it.
First of all, the food is the exact same. The menu did not change. The hot line food options each day are identical to what was served in D-hall. I know this as an RA who eats a lot, and I mean a lot, of on-campus meals. I mean, I had that three-week D-hall rotating menu memorized almost every semester. I could tell you what day they had vegetarian chicken nuggets and what day they had mashed potatoes, and I can tell you now that the hot food is no different in quality or preparation than it was a few weeks ago.
Second of all, the only food that did change is the removal of a pizza section (which I will come back to), the slimming down of the salad bar, and the downsizing of the sandwich section.
Now, the sandwich and salad bar slimming hurts, I won’t lie. I get that. I feel that too. I miss my vegetarian breakfast sandwich as much as the next person, and those two weeks (or whatever it was) without the sandwich section hurt. But we’ve got one now, and it’s not like what we’re left with is bad. The salad bar still has oodles of options, more than you would ever get at most restaurants or basic build-your-own places. The sandwich bar stocks multiple types of bread, bagels, numerous spreads, and ingredients to make a whole slew of cold sandwiches.
Let’s circle back around to the pizza now. If you miss the pizza section (and really the D-hall sandwich section too) because it was the only thing you ate consistently, then you just don’t like Evans because you’re a picky eater.
In fact, I think most people who don’t like Evans are picky eaters, and/or they’re spoiled rotten when it comes to food typically.
Of course, there are exceptions to this. If you are someone with a food allergy, especially a dairy allergy or a wheat allergy, then you do not apply to this. I understand that E-hall is different for you than the rest of us, and you may go on complaining if you wish. Also to my vegans out there – as someone who slips in and out of veganism myself, I know that the hot line can be a bit dry when it comes to vegan dishes, especially on the protein side of things. You are also exempt from my picky-eater shaming, and you may do as you wish. Finally, to anyone who struggles with food or eating in any way, you are absolutely not who I am referring to. That is a different situation completely and I mean no harm by my words.
Really, the people I’m referring to are those who have no dietary restrictions and yet complain about Evans and its lack of options with the dogged perseverance that I complain about the washing machine on my hall. (Which I do a lot. Pretty much daily. Sometimes twice daily.)
But what about Coop, Annalisa? You can’t possibly think E-hall or Evans Late Night is better than Coop?
You’re right – I don’t think E-hall or Evans Late Night are comparable to Coop. I miss Coop a lot, and I am upfront in admitting that. It is a loss to hungry falafel eaters everywhere, and I really do wish it was here for my last semester.
But I also know that focusing on what’s gone is not a healthy way to live life in any capacity, whether that be with the small things or with the big things. What’s more, what we’re left with is not a bad option. It’s not like they closed Coop and D-hall and left us with nothing, saying, “You’re hungry? Sucks to suck. Go snack on some rocks.”
We have delicious, healthy, expensive food prepared for us, and we get to enjoy it in what is undoubtedly a more aesthetic dining locale than D-hall ever was.
One final point before I get off my E-hall soapbox and go back to bothering my hallmates about the current state of our laundry facilities: E-hall is better than the dining halls at many, many other colleges and universities, and those are their permanent options, not a short-term stint! In the past five months, I’ve eaten in the dining halls at Northwestern University, the University of Alabama and the University of Georgia. Not a single one of these even comes close to E-hall. Our food is tastier, hotter in temperature, fresher, and cheaper on a per-meal basis than the food I ate at all of these places. I think it’s important to realize that the grass really is greener over here on our side of the fence.
Maybe I’ve changed your mind about Evans and maybe I haven’t, but all I’m really hoping for is to persuade my classmates to do what we should all practice doing on a daily basis: give a little grace, thank our dining service workers and give things – like E-hall – a second chance.