Dining Services at Eastern Illinois University has evolved alongside the residence halls. From its inception with Pemberton Dining in 1908, to present day, on-campus residents have had an array of pleasing menu options.
The Pemberton dining room functioned as a facility for the ladies of Pemberton Hall to gather and eat. Ladies were expected to be prompt to meals and dining times were restricted so that all residents ate together.
In 1934, plans for expanding dining options that would allow for men to eat on campus were developed. The Panther Lair opened in November of 1934 in a rented house at the northeast corner of Fourth and Grant streets. The Panther Lair was rented by the Men’s Union and College Recreation Center. The site was later used as the location for a married veteran’s complex known as “Traierville;” and finally as the site of Lincoln and Douglas Halls.
With the opening of Lincoln and Douglas Halls in 1952, dining services evolved to meet the needs of Eastern’s growing residential population. Both buildings shared a kitchen, but used separate dining rooms located on the lower corridors of the hall. These dining areas have since been renovated into student rooms. Students went to the kitchen to pick up breakfast, while lunch and dinner were served family style in the dining room by student waiters. Lunch was served at exactly noon and dinner at six in the evening. Residents gathered in the common area of the building, eagerly awaiting their meals. Once doors were opened, resident poured in, followed by hall staff. The haste was attributed to the fact that each table was set for exactly eight individuals and food was passed from the head of the table counter-clockwise. This meant that the student who got the seat to the left of the head got the last chicken leg, or what was left in the bowl.
As the rest of campus grew, so did dining operations. Residents of Ford, McKinney, and Weller Halls were served at the University Union until Gregg Dining opened. Thomas Dining served Thomas and Andrews residents while Taylor Dining served residents of Taylor and Lawson. Carman Dining opened in the spring of 1971. With Carman Dining available, Panther Dining operations stood at six residential dining facilities along with operations in the University Union. For a short time, residents of Greek Court were served in their own complex.
Panther Dining has continually evolved and transformed their services throughout the history of on-campus housing. Panther Dining changed its service style, allowing residents to eat at any center of their choosing. It became clear that by consolidating service, dining operations could focus on the quality of food and service provided and expand weekend dining options. With that, Gregg Dining and the dining room in Pemberton Hall closed. Today residents can choose from a wide variety of options in any of the dining centers.
Currently each dining center specializes in meal options, with an array of choices to fit students’ tastes. Tower Dining located in Stevenson Hall offers made-to-order breakfast items as well as a grab-and-go option that provides deli style meals. Tower Dining is also home to Reservation Only Dining that brings the restaurant experience to campus. Thomas Dining focuses on gourmet sandwiches and Italian options, while also offering “Late Night Pizza” for residents. Taylor Dining is known for its chicken entrées and ethnic cuisines.