From the outside, Franklin Dining Commons, commonly referred to as “Frank,” looks something like a double decker Pizza Hut encased with windows. But the oddly shaped and weirdly laid out building is the friendliest dining commons on campus, serving a large portion of the University of Massachusetts’s on-campus population.
The dining room is located on the second floor, which is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays. Weekends have a different schedule; Saturday it is open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., while Sunday it runs from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and often features a jazz band during the breakfast hours.
Aesthetically, and of course sustainably, what sets Franklin apart from other eateries on campus, and for that matter in the country, is the permaculture garden situated on the side closest to the Fine Arts Center. The garden, which mimics nature, is used to provide fruits and vegetables to the dining commons.
As for the meat of the matter, either literally or figuratively, the food, Frank offers plenty of options. Dorm-side features a wide array of things, from the scheduled hot meals of the day to the daily selections of pizza. The food varies from day to day, occasionally the pizza is too dry or too greasy, though sometimes it is done just right.
On the edges of the main line of food, there is a buffet of vegetarian options, as well as a gluten-free bar available for those with alternative dietary needs. On the other end of the line, there are waffle machines and various selections of breads and bagels, spreads, butters and jellies suited to satisfy anyone with a hankering for breakfast or PB&J.
The wide assortments of bagels from poppy seed to everything may not be the most luxurious brand, but they’re certainly not bad. And if you are a fan of peanut butter, there is a station right next to them offering freshly ground peanuts.
Tying in with this, the sole kosher dining spot on campus is located in Franklin and readily able to serve anybody who requires its services. Housed on the adjacent sides of the main sections are the drink fountains, as well as the boiling water dispensers for tea, and two separate flavors of coffee.
Drinks are similar to all other dining commons with a couple of soda fountains and juice dispensers, however the distribution of them on opposite sides of the building is a nice personal touch.
On the side facing the Studio Arts Building and Fernald Hall, diners can help themselves to omelets or sushi – depending on the hour – a pasta bar, or an assortment of desserts, spanning from the generic soft serve ice cream flavors to a monstrous collection of hard ice creams that change on a daily basis. Other treats depend on the day, varying from cookies and pieces of cake to pudding and Jello.
At dinner time the dessert section can be swarming with people, but hassle usually goes no further than pushing your way through a crowd for a moment. If you’re a fan of the chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, you shouldn’t have a major issue grabbing a piece.
The campus-side serves the basic unhealthy American entrees such as burgers, fries, grilled cheese and hot dogs. When facing this display, to your right you’ll find the all-day made to order stir-fry bar, in which you can choose your assortment of vegetables and fixings to be prepared by the chefs. All the ingredients look and taste fresh, the chefs more than adept, and you’re even able to personalize your choice of rice or noodles.
All the way to the left you’ll find the sandwich bar, where Franklin employees make sandwiches and paninis to order. This sandwich bar differs from that of Worcester’s, considering the fact that in Franklin the sandwiches are prepared for you, as opposed to you making your own sandwich. The quality of meats and sandwich toppings are the same as other dining halls, but sometimes a sandwich made by somebody else just tastes better. The employees have always been friendly and adept at breezing through even the longest lines.
Those aspects aside, frequent flyers at Franklin have undoubtedly heard of the pervasive smell that can stick to your clothes suitably referred to as the “Frank stank.” The Frank stank has become something of a legend or myth on campus, some people argue that it sticks to their clothes for the rest of the day, but others continue to say it doesn’t exist. There is no conclusive evidence on the validity of the smell, however one thing is certain: if you eat at Franklin you’ve at least heard of it.
All of this being said, and while Franklin has proven itself to be a respectable dining hall, it is certainly the smallest on campus. During peak hours, it can be exceedingly difficult to find a table even if you’re by yourself, and the slow moving line has been known to snake all the way down to the door at the bottom of the ramp.
While these few demerits may stick to Franklin’s reputation, the pros may outweigh the cons for this one. Frank offers the warm welcoming atmosphere and pretty view, as well as a delicious variety of options, ready-made or cooked to order. Regulars will begin to recognize faces, and if you live near the DC, it can become less of a dining room and more of a hang out hub.
Thomas Verdone can be reached at [email protected]