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Fresh for the spring, Ellington’s restaurant reopens

February 14, 2017

White tablecloths. Attentive waitstaff. Three-course prix fixe gourmet menu. Wine selections. Opportunity to help educate NIU students.

Sound like the ideal lunch break? It is, and you can enjoy it at NIU’s student-run restaurant, Ellington’s, which reopens for the spring semester on Tuesday, Feb. 21.

Photo by Michelle LaVigne/Creative Services
The dining room of Ellington’s located inside of the Holmes Student Center begins to fill up for lunch. The preparing of the menu, meals, service, and everything else needed to run a restaurant is handled by the students who are enrolled in the school of Family Consumer and Nutrition Sciences. The experience of running Ellinton’s gives them the full real-life opportunity of seeing first hand what it’s like to operate a restaurant.

Students in the hospitality and nutrition programs partner to develop a restaurant theme and menu. They have a six-week window to prepare the opening of Ellington’s, which is located in the Holmes Student Center, in the heart of the campus. They are tasked with building a menu around current seasonal fruits and vegetables to make nutritious and cost-effective menus. The groups are also responsible for the restaurant’s managerial functions such as marketing, costing and supervision, making this a truly experiential opportunity.

Like many of today’s top eateries, Ellington’s features seasonal and locally sourced food. That’s not just because it’s trendy; it’s because it makes good business sense.

“Our goal is for students to learn and understand how to make the best of what’s in season and what’s local. It’s a smart financial aspect to running a restaurant. There’s no point in spending money for ingredients shipped from around the country when you can get quality local ingredients cheaper,” said Chef Bryan Flower, food systems lab coordinator for NIU’s Family, Consumer and Nutrition Sciences program.

Since a three-course lunch at Ellington’s is only $10, the goal is to be as cost effective as possible, using available local ingredients, Flower explained. Another focus of the restaurant is to offer a three-course meal that meets the requirements of the American Heart Association’s heart-healthy guidelines.

Students learn how to analyze their menus in order to disclose the nutritional data on the menu for the consumer to view.

“It is always a challenge to make nutritious food tasty and well-presented, but that is a fun aspect of the class,” said Diana Garcia, a nutrition, diets and wellness major as well as a teaching assistant for the class.

“Taste is very important; if people aren’t eating the food, they aren’t getting the nutrients,” said Josephine Umoren, coordinator of NIU’s Nutrition Dietetics Program.

Menus change daily every Tuesday and Thursday for the first four weeks, but don’t despair if you miss one, as they come around one more time in the final four weeks of the semester. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Visit Ellington’s website to learn more or to make a lunch reservation.