Homeplate grill will sizzle Tues.

by Richard Lazarus | 8/18/03 5:00am

For only the second time this summer, beef strips will flow like water as unimitatable campus dining option Homeplate opens for a one-night-only showing tomorrow.

Homeplate, Dartmouth Dining Services' leaner alternative to neighboring Thayer powerhouse Food Court, is generally "Camper World" during Dartmouth summers. Instead of the usual turkey burgers and John Stamoses, it serves kid-friendly grilled cheeses and pizzas to the hundred of campers that flock the summer programs that rent Dartmouth space and dining.

Anywhere from 50 to 300 campers can swamp Homeplate every night during the summer, but Tuesday night is one of barely a half-dozen times when no campers at all will be eating there.

Usually on these nights, Homeplate staffers fill out spots left by vacationing or sick DDS employees at other departments like the butcher or salad shop. But earlier this term, DDS cashier Erin Cleaves came up with the idea to open Homeplate "as Homeplate" for one zero-camper Tuesday night.

Homeplate grill chef Marty Emerson and Homeplate Manager Beth Rosenberger liked the idea, and that night was a tremendous success. Over 380 customers came.

"The kids loved it," said Emerson. He had a steady stream of customers all night, with no long lines but no downtime between orders.

From a business perspective, the night was perfect for Homeplate. But it seems that just as important to Emerson is that the Homeplate regulars that had been stopping him and Cleaves in the halls to ask what had come of their beloved Homeplate for the summer could finally eat there again.

"We wanted to do it before finals, sort of as a treat for everyone," Emerson said. "To see them happy and satisfied is the number one reason we do it."

The hot line will be serving beef carbonade over noodles and Spanish rice and beans, both Homeplate favorites, according to Rosenberger. The grill will have all its usual favorites -- even the Tiny sandwich will be available on request, Emerson assured The Dartmouth -- but no other specials.

The hot line sold out their entrees by 6:30 p.m. and the grill just barely covered the demand for beef strips and Homeplate burgers last time, Emerson said, but he and Rosenberger reassured that they were ordering to cover an even greater number of visitors tomorrow night than at the last Homeplate night.

Emerson said that after a summer of chicken fingers and grilled cheese, he is looking forward to cooking beef strips and Homeplate burgers (made of fresh meat, not prepackaged and frozen like those at Food Court) the most, and looking forward to eating them even more.

Homeplate will have to gear back up to its normal level of operation soon, when student athletes return for preseason training. Where 300 campers each eat about half as much as a regular college student, the 300 student athletes that will arrive in a few weeks will each eat about three times as much at each meal as other college students.

"I look forward to it," Emerson said. "We all do. They're all great kids ... We're all so attached to them. When you see these kids every day and see them every day, you really get to know them. You care about how well their season's going."

Next summer will certainly have at least a few "Homeplate as Homeplate" nights, staffing permitting, Rosenberger said. For next year, Emerson is excited about doing theme nights at Homeplate like the already successful ones at Food Court.

Food Court's Mardi Gras parties have already achieved an enviable status in the world of College eating, but Emerson seemed most excited by their dessert night.

"It was so funny. It was all they ate," he said. "The kids really got into it."

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