The evolution of Runk Dining Hall, located near the Gooch-Dillard suites, has become the focal point of all first-year dining thanks to Harvest Table Culinary Group. Harvest Table is a culinary group that collaborates with local farmers and vendors to bring fresh ingredients and meals to Runk to connect the community through food. They strive to create authentic food experiences through their freshly sourced meals. In the fall of 2020, Harvest Table visited Runk only a limited number of times, almost acting as a pop-up attraction. They announced their kitchen takeovers about three to four times last semester, attracting a flock of students to Runk. Now, in the spring of 2021, Harvest Table has completely taken over all of Runk’s meals.
The dining hall includes the Street Food Grill line, which offers hamburgers, grilled chicken sandwiches, quesadillas and vegan meat options which you can get hot off the grill. Additionally, there is now a student favorite smoothie and juice counter. Here you can find different combinations of fruit smoothies served everyday and a citrusy orange juice served freshly squeezed and straight from the presser. The fresh salad and yogurt line also attracts students who prefer a quick bite to eat or a snack to study with. The newest addition that Harvest Table has brought to Runk is the soft serve ice cream bar. Runk has advertised this new dessert option through its Instagram account, indicating that it was partnering with Kline’s Ice Cream from Harrisonburg, Va. This high-quality soft serve is paired with topping choices such as sprinkles, Oreos, maraschino cherries, strawberries and more. This refreshing frozen dessert has given something for students to look forward to as we enter into Charlottesville’s beautiful spring weather.
Now, with their simple and professional looking page which promotes healthy food choices and clean eating, Harvest Table is able to promote their specials and occasional pop-up tables on Instagram. One notable pop-up table is the avocado chocolate mousse served for National Chocolate Mousse Day. Recently, Harvest Table has created a raffle for students to enter where they can gain access to a catered dinner called a “Farm Table Dinner.” Here, Harvest Table provides a safely distanced multi-course meal prepared by their culinary team.
A surprise for the students this semester at Runk is the glass plant case located in the middle of the dining hall. Not only does this give the appearance of a fresh and healthy kitchen, but these fresh herbs and plants are actually used in the cooking. In many of Harvest Table’s posts, they strategically post their fresh ingredients to show that they are health-conscious. In one post, they shared a picture of their fresh basil plants and let their followers know that they would be used as toppings for their pizza for that night’s dinner.
Runk’s new and improved menu paired with its socially distanced booths make for a cozy and secluded study spot. Another touch that Runk offers is a piano free for students to use at their leisure. I’ve had the privilege of hearing many talented pianists play fun pop or classical songs during my meals. This live music adds to the overall ambience of Runk and also allows Runk to become a hub for creative minds.
Harvest Table has also made student dining into an educational and engaging activity through their events to promote healthy eating habits. One recent event has been their Milk Tasting, which addressed the importance of providing milk substitutes for lactose intolerant students. Students were able to taste the different milks, and they were also given educational information on sustainable non-dairy, plant-based options.
With classes and extracurriculars, I’m often losing track of time and finding myself unable to really give thought to what I eat and the quality of every meal. As a college student focused on studies and maintaining a healthy mind and body, I truly value the effort Harvest Table has made in preparing balanced meals for their patrons.
Runk Dining Hall has become a place where students gather to eat healthy meals, study and, of course, improve their musical skills on the piano. I can foresee a future where all dining halls on Grounds take inspiration from Runk and make improvements to their menus and amenities. Although Runk can be a lengthy walk from where most students are living, I believe the food and experience is worth all the trouble of walking that extra five minutes.