c/o Kat Struhar, Executive News Editor

c/o Kat Struhar, Executive News Editor

Cardinal Café, located within the Freeman Athletic Center, reopened for the fall semester on Monday, Sept. 12. This marks its third academic year in operation, and the first year it will be open in conjunction with an athletics schedule closely resembling that of a semester before COVID-19. Students can purchase menu items with meal plan points from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m or with meal swipes at breakfast and lunch. Though many items are similar to those found at Usdan Café—such as sushi, sandwiches, and overnight oats—there is also a variety of smoothies which are only offered at Cardinal Café.

Cardinal Café was originally intended to open in the spring of 2020, before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which derailed operations until the café was reopened with a scaled-back launch in October 2020. Bon Appétit Resident District Manager Michael Strumpf explained that the café’s operations during the 2021–22 academic year were affected by issues with staffing, the lack of outside athletic events, and pre-existing challenges the Café has faced due to the pandemic. 

While there was previously a snack bar in Freeman, Cardinal Café also operates as a concession stand during athletic events, providing a chance for Bon Appétit to expand offerings and hours in the athletic center. 

“Feedback from students and visitors identified a need to improve our operations and offerings,” Strumpf wrote. “Back in 2020, we asked Bon Appetit to take responsibility for the operation and to expand offerings and hours. We envisioned a Café being open during the day catering to students using the Freeman Athletic Center. We also saw an opportunity to be able to operate more of a concession stand model during various athletic competitions.”

The return to more regular athletic operations this year will work in conjunction with the Café’s continued functions, explained Chair of the Physical Education Department Michael Whalen. They shared that the Café will be a particular draw during the winter season. 

“The Cardinal Café will also enhance our environment for home games this winter,” Whalen wrote in an email to The Argus. “It provides Cardinal fans and other spectators the opportunity to purchase food without having to leave the Freeman venue.  Athletics will work with Dining Services to coordinate schedules, so the Cardinal Café can support as many home events as possible.” 

Whalen highlighted that Cardinal Café is a particularly helpful dining option for student athletes, who can easily grab a meal or snack after practice. 

“I can tell you that the Cardinal Café is a welcomed addition to the Freeman Athletic Center,” Whalen wrote. “So many of our student athletes finish practice at 6:30 pm and find themselves running to an evening class, exam, or TA session at 7 or 7:30 pm.  Having easy access to the Cardinal Café ensures they can grab a quick meal before their next commitment.”

Anne Horton ’24, a member of the women’s crew team who frequents the Café, said the variety of options can be viewed as a draw for all students, whether they are on athletic teams or not. 

The Cardinal Café is really amazing because there are so many options when it comes to smoothies and little snacks,” Horton said. “Even though it is in the Athletic Center, it should not be limited to only athletes. Everyone should be taking advantage of it!”

Jem Shin can be reached at jshin01@wesleyan.edu.

Carolyn Neugarten can be reached at cneugarten@wesleyan.edu.  

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