After five new vendors opened in the basement of District House last Monday, Aug. 22, students said new discount promotions are increasing the visibility of a dining program they say has gone largely unnoticed for years.
The vendors – DH Pizza & Pasta Co., Crisp, True Burger, The Halal Shack and D.C. Taco House – offer “Meal Deals” for students to purchase an entree, drink and side for $8, a discounted meal price advertised on screens above the ordering counters. GWorld vendors, including those previously in District House, have offered Meal Deals since 2016, but more than 10 students said they weren’t aware of the discounts at the time and only started using the program after the dining hall reopened last week because of new signage.
For $8, students can buy a burger, turkey burger or chicken tender entree from True Burger, two slices from DH Pizza, a grilled chicken or veggie bowl from Crisp, any rice or lettuce bowl with protein, whole fruit and a fountain beverage from Halal Shack or two chicken or veggie tacos from D.C. Taco. All of the vendors add a side and fountain drink with the entrees for no extra cost.
Senior Brandon Lee said the new vendors at District House publicly advertise their Meal Deal offerings more than others on campus, and students are now more likely to use the discounts than in previous years.
“It’s very cool that right when you walk into District, there’s this big sign that says ‘Meal Deals,’” Lee said. “It’s always been this thing at GW, but nobody actually knew how to use it, so it’s very cool that GW is making Meal Deals accessible.”
The University collaborates with 18 other dining partners on and off campus to provide similar discounts through the Meal Deals program with $6-12 meals at popular locations like &Pizza, Beefsteak and Flower Child.
Some of the former District House dining vendors that closed last spring offered comparable Meal Deals in previous years – Kin’s sold $8-10 poke bowls, Wiseguy Pizza offered an $8 two-slice deal and Sol sold burritos for $9.59.
Student Association President Christian Zidouemba said in an interview last week that the affordability of dining at District House presents a budget-friendly solution to GW’s long problem with campus food insecurity. He said the vendors are more affordable meals than most off-campus dining options.
“This new dining system gives a lot of opportunities to our students to bond together and also come together as a community and decrease the food insecurity that we’ve had for far too long on our campus,” Zidouemba said in the interview.
Dining at District House is restricted to GW community members this fall after the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission voted to approve the University’s request to withdraw public access from the space last January. The change from GW sounded alarms for some Foggy Bottom residents about the dwindling number of affordable dining options in the neighborhood.
Freshman Maru Ayala said she dines more often at District House than at other vendors on campus because of the discounts through Meal Deals, which allow her to eat out more often than she normally would with purchases like a rice bowl with two sauces at Halal Shack.
“I’m balling on a budget, so if I were to actually not order from a Meal Deal, it would be actually be like once a week or once every two weeks to treat myself,” Ayala said.
District House, The Eatery at Pelham Commons and the Buff and Brew Coffee Shop on the Mount Vernon Campus are currently GW’s only University-run dining options. A 225-seat, all-you-can-eat dining hall in Thurston Hall will open in mid-September, followed by a 319-seat dining hall in Shenkman Hall in the spring, which will also be all you can eat.
Despite initially planning to convert District House into an all-you-can-eat dining hall, officials changed course and readopted the traditional vendor style in the building in June. A month later, they said “global supply chain issues” delayed plans for all-you-can-eat dining halls to open in Thurston and Shenkman halls by the fall, pushing back the debut of the Shenkman dining hall to mid-spring.
Associate Vice President of Business Services Seth Weinshel said the new vendor options in District House’s basement – all operated by GW’s dining partner Chartwells Higher Education – have received “very positive” initial feedback from students.
“We are excited for District House dining to reopen under the GW Dining brand,” Weinshel said in the email. “Refreshed space offers students affordable, high quality food, which is a staple of the new dining plan.”
Weinshel said dining at District House is equipped to serve 2,000 students per “meal period” and can seat more than 400 students.
Initial plans for the other two dining halls opening this and next year – located in Shenkman and Thurston halls – projected a seating capacity of approximately 319 and 225 seats respectively. These numbers concerned some community members in May because the capacity of these dining halls lags behind those of other D.C. universities, including universities with fewer students.
Weinshel declined to say whether or how the University will swap out District House dining vendors with new cuisines if requested by students, which he said in June that officials would accommodate.
Henry Huvos, Shea Carlberg and Faith Wardwell contributed reporting.