Mason after Dark: Late-Night Offerings Provide Entertainment, Dining Options for Students

Posted: April 23, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Ike's diner
Ike’s Diner has been wildly popular since it opened three years ago, largely due to its operating hours: Sunday through Thursday from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., and Friday and Saturday from 9 p.m. to 11 a.m.

By David Driver

The weather is getting warmer, and indoor events have been replaced by playing and studying outdoors. But there are still plenty of popular after-hour spots for Mason students who need a break from studying.

20,000 Customers Per Month

One of those places is Ike’s Diner, which has been wildly popular since the moment it opened in 2004. The location, for one, is a big hit, since Ike’s is right in the middle of the President’s Park residential complex on the Fairfax Campus, making it extremely convenient for students.

Ike’s hours of operation are also a hit with students. Fairfax, Va., may not be the city that never sleeps, but Ike’s gives the region a feel of the night life in places such as New York City. Ike’s is open Sunday through Thursday from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m., and Friday and Saturday from 9 p.m. to 11 a.m.

“It is being used largely as a late-night venue,” says Gregg Toney, associate director for University Services. “It has become a great meeting place for students.”

Decorated in a 1950s theme, Ike’s has high ceilings, an affordable jukebox that plays period tunes and an array of diner food that includes grilled chicken sandwiches, burgers, fries, soups, salads, waffles and pancakes. Photos from the opening, in which orientation leaders dressed up in 1950s garb, line the walls.

Three years after its opening, Ike’s continues be a favorite night-time place to eat and mingle, serving nearly 20,000 customers per month. The wear and tear that comes with serving that many people necessitated replacing the original tables and chairs recently, says Toney. And the restaurant’s freezer space had to be expanded last fall to accommodate all the food that needed to be stocked.

“I think the students enjoy the food, convenience and atmosphere,” says Toney.

And at least one student enjoys Ike’s for another reason. Dane Styler, a senior with a double major in English and film and video studies, says, “It has good Internet access. I have been to Ike’s a few times when I need to cram for a test.”

Mason at night
In the past few years, Mason has added several popular options for late-night socializing.

Word has spread about the popular eatery, says Toney. Officials from several universities, such as Emory University in Atlanta, have been to Mason recently to take notes on Ike’s success. Ike’s is the brainchild of Chris Chisler, now assistant vice president of University Services.

Full-Service Sports-Theme Restaurant

Ike’s is hardly the only late-night spot for students. Damon’s restaurant, in Student Union Building I, is open Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to midnight; Thursday and Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.; Saturday, noon to 2 a.m.; and Sunday noon to midnight.

damon's grill window
Damon’s Grill, one of Mason’s newest dining options, is a full-service restaurant on the Fairfax Campus.

Damon’s, which opened in 2005, is a 150-seat, sports-themed restaurant with two giant video screens and 11 42-inch plasma televisions for sports, network programming and interactive entertainment.

Damon’s is a popular venue for watching sports and other high-profile televised events and was a magnet during the past two Mason men’s basketball seasons.

Jian Deleon, a senior English major with an electronic journalism minor, is a Damon’s regular.

“I hang out at Damon’s a lot because I have a lot of afternoon classes. Any class that gets out at the 7:10 time frame, you want to hang out … why not have a beer?” says Deleon, who has a lab that concludes around 7 p.m. on Tuesdays.

Toney notes that representatives from Virginia Commonwealth University, West Virginia University and other universities throughout the nation have also been to Mason to get a peek at Damon’s, which became the nation’s first full-service, branded casual restaurant on a university campus when it opened.

Damon’s is owned and operated by Sodexho USA, the university’s campus dining partner. The Damon’s project was also spearheaded by Chisler, working closely with Sodexho.

The menu includes the signature Damon’s Steamboat, a hearth-baked loaf filled with southern barbecued pork and topped with melted jack and cheddar cheese; grilled chicken Caesar “freshwich”; and chocolate malt cake.

There is also a full bar at Damon’s, and the restaurant includes an adjacent “Damon’s Express,” a quick-service dining area, a take-out window and on- and off-site catering.

Toney notes that Damon’s is a great place for student-faculty interaction.

“That has been very nice to see, to have those casual conversations that may not happen anywhere else,” he says. “The concept was so ahead of its time. It is such a wonderful place for students, and I think we are only beginning to see its full potential.”

“Every Freakin’ Friday,” Movies and More

This is the second academic year for “Every Freakin’ Friday,” and Alissa Karton, program director for the Johnson Center and University Life, notes this new weekly tradition is also a hit, as it provides another opportunity for students to socialize on campus.

Each week of the month has a theme: the first Friday of the month is generally a music act; the second Friday is game night; the third Friday is live music; and the fourth Friday is comedy night. Some of the more popular events recently were a hypnotist and the Pride Week Drag Show.

The Johnson Center Cinema is also becoming more popular, according to Lisa McCalla, associate director of student activities. Students can see first-run movies for free, with free popcorn to boot. Movies are shown on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; Karton says Sunday shows will be added in the fall semester.

Attendance records indicate 3,796 viewers came to the midnight screenings during the spring semester of 2006. This figure rose to 5,835 viewers at the midnight shows last semester.

Some of the popular movies on the schedule for this semester have included “Dreamgirls,” “Blood Diamond,” “The Pursuit of Happyness,” “Casino Royale,” “The Departed” and “Borat.”

Deleon, the Mason senior, also enjoys the Johnson Center library, where he can watch DVD movies for free. There are two groups of DVDs at the library: those reserved by professors for their students for class assignments, and those open or not reserved.

Students have four hours to watch a DVD at the library. If an instructor has given permission, they can be taken home. The library is open from 7:30 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to midnight Sunday.

Students having fun at Every Freakin' Friday
Every Freakin’ Friday offers students music, games and entertainment beginning at 9 p.m. during the fall and spring semesters.
Creative Services photos

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