Three new dining options to open on campus

By the end of April, Dartmouth Dining Services plans to operate The Fern, Back of the Napkin and Cafe@Baker, all of which will only take DBA.

by Lauren Azrin | 4/1/22 5:00am

by Emil Liden / The Dartmouth

This month, three new on-campus dining options will be available to students: The Fern Coffee and Tea Bar at the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society, Back of the Napkin at the Engineering and Computer Science Center and the Cafe@Baker in Baker-Berry Library. 

Director of Dartmouth Dining Jon Plodzik said that the first location to open was The Fern, which began operating on March 28 and will now be open on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. He said that Cafe@Baker is scheduled to open on April 11 and will also be open on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. He is “hopeful” that Back of the Napkin will be open by late April. Each location will accept only DBA.

Plodzik explained that in terms of food choices, Dartmouth Dining Services is trying to “create some differences” between the new locations. According to Plodzik, The Fern offers a selection of items including grain bowls, açai bowls, bubble tea, espresso and coffee drinks and pastries and sandwiches made at King Arthur Flour.

Aligning itself with the mission of the Irving Institute, The Fern will center itself around sustainability, with a “focus on all natural [products],” Plodzik said. 

Plodzik said that one element of The Fern’s “all natural” goal is to reduce packaging by serving sandwiches on reusable trays and allowing students to bring their own coffee mug in exchange for a reduced price. In addition, he said that the coffee company supplying the café is 100% solar powered.

Olvin Abrego ’25, a student worker at The Fern, said he heard about the job from a friend who works at Hinman. Abrego noticed that “compared to other places” on campus, the cafe is less busy since they only accept DBA.

Many students who have already visited The Fern expressed positive reactions to its opening this week, in terms of both its location and its diverse culinary offerings. 

“Especially living in the River [cluster], I was glad that this is opening,” said Cara Marantz ’25.

Molly Fried ’25 said that she struggles to find good plant-based options on campus, but said that the options at The Fern were “really good.”

“I’m really happy that there are more options available for everyone,” she said. 

However, Fried did note that The Fern is “a little expensive,” especially because students can only pay in DBA.

Plodzik said that Cafe@Baker will be offering hand pies and quiches in addition to pastries, coffees and teas. The April 11 opening follows a delay — the cafe was tentatively scheduled to open in February — which Plodzik explained was caused by supply chain issues and mask mandate restrictions.

In the Engineering and Computer Science Center, Plodzik said that Back of the Napkin will operate seven days a week serving grab-and-go items, in addition to having a “high end” drink machine where customers can make their own espresso drinks, lattes and cappuccinos. Like the other new locations, Plodzik said that Back of the Napkin will initially operate from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., with plans to extend these hours later into the evening at some point in the future.

Plodzik added that all three locations will only take DBA, without an option to pay with meal swipes, in an attempt to “reduce overhead” for Dartmouth Dining .

“I think these properties are all unique enough and exciting enough that you’ll want to use your dollars,” he said. 

Throughout these openings, Dartmouth Dining has continued to face staffing shortages, which is the main reason they are “reluctant” to keep locations open past 3 p.m.

“Staffing, particularly on nights and weekends, is very, very difficult to recruit for,” Plodzik said. “We’re starting a new campaign on TV and have it on the radio and on buses and on social media as well to try to attract people to join Dartmouth Dining.”