Southside Dining Facility Promises to Be ‘the Best of the Best’

Posted: September 9, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Dave Andrews

Comparing Mason’s new dining facility to the current one is beyond “apples to oranges.” For first-time patrons, it will be like walking into Oz, says Nancy Pickens, project manager of the dining hall.

Southside, the new $10 million dining facility built to replace Ciao Hall, is due to open early next month. Located across from Student Union Building II, Southside will boast 40,000 square feet of first-rate dining services, including exhibition cooking, optional take-out and indoor and outdoor seating.

“It’s going to be totally different from anything Mason has seen. People will be awed by it,” Pickens says. “[Patrons] can experience booth seating, small tables, long tables, high seats, low seats, soft seats, hard seats, even a private dining room to hold meetings. Each of the many different areas of Southside will afford a different feel.”

Southside construction
Work crews put the finishing touches on the building that houses Southside, Mason’s newest and most innovative dining facility.
Mason Gazette photo

And that’s just the seating, which can accommodate 537 diners at a time. The plans for food are also creating quite a stir.

Mason recently hired Peter Schoebel as executive chef to oversee the entire dining overhaul from Ciao to Southside and add a little spice to the menu. After having spent more than 20 years as a chef and six years in dining services, Schoebel brings a lot of experience to the dining table.

“Over the years, I’ve developed many different dining ideas,” Schoebel says. “I want to make it fun, as well as provide great service and exceptional food.” With seven different food stations with different themes to choose from, diners won’t be left without options.

“4400 Grill” will use flat-top cookers to prepare a large variety of classic grill options, such as hot sandwiches, burgers, fries and onion rings.

“Changing Colors” will be the main salad bar, offering an expansive selection from sizzling, protein-based salads all the way to classic vegetarian fare.

“Gold Rush” will be located on the ground floor of the facility and serve as a take-out station. Hot and cold entrees, sides, sandwiches, salads, grill items and pizza will be available. The station will open early — 7 a.m. — and is expected to close at either midnight or 1 a.m.

“Spaghettaboutit” will offer a wide variety of pasta dishes and gourmet pizzas cooked in a professional deck oven. Diners will be able to order many classic Italian dishes, such as calzones, stromboli, linguini putanesca, fettuccine alfredo and even meatball subs.

“Without Boundaries” will feature cooked-to-order international cuisine. It will offer breakfast on weekdays as well as weekend brunch.

“WrappedUp” will have deli meats, salads and cheeses on fresh baked breads with an assortment of deli sides and hot soups. Diners will have the option to use the Panini grills to heat up any sandwich.

“After All” will be the dessert station, with soft-serve and hand-dipped ice cream, fresh baked pastries and donuts, pies, cakes, cookies and Belgian waffles.

Southside is a key part of Mason’s strategy to improve the facilities and meet the needs of current and prospective students. With 1,200 students living in the new housing of the northeast sector, university officials knew it was time to beef up Mason’s dining accommodations.

Despite the small increase in price of about 50 cents per person, Schoebel estimates the volume of diners at Southside will triple the current volume at Ciao Hall. The number of employees will increase from 50 to approximately 130 to handle more customers and serve them as efficiently as possible.

Schoebel also notes that Southside is making huge strides to exceed “green” standards. An increased emphasis is being placed on recycling and using as many biodegradable products as possible. Southside will do away with trays in an effort to cut down on waste as a result of overzealous eaters piling their trays with too much food.

“Everyone’s extremely excited to get Southside up and running. The student feedback has been especially enthusiastic,” Schoebel says. “What we’ve incorporated here is the best of the best of what I’ve seen and done in the dining industry.”

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