SMFA Café Express brings new dining options to Fenway campus

The SMFA Café Express, new dining option on the Fenway campus, is pictured here on Nov. 29. (Seohyun Shim / The Tufts Daily)

Tufts Dining added a new food option on the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) at Tufts campus, addressing the lack of dining options for Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) and five-year Combined Degree BFA+BA/BS  students on the Fenway campus.

The SMFA Café Express, opened on Nov. 13, according to Tufts Director of Dining and Business Services Patti Klos, offers a variety of food options for the students, faculty and staff on the Fenway campus, including several different kinds of light snacks, hot paninis, soup, beverages, salads and sandwiches.

The café is located on the ground level of the school’s main building on 230 The Fenway, Boston and is approximately one-fourth of the size of Tower Café in Tisch Library. Despite its small size compared to the existing café-like dining locations at Tufts, the new café offers comparable varieties of food and beverages at the same price as the other dining options on the Medford/Somerville campus.

Klos noted that the students may use their meal swipes to purchase food at the new café. She explained that this decision has been made to serve different dining needs on the Fenway campus.

“The SMFA is a unique situation since the campus is over seven miles [away] from the Medford/Somerville campus, and dual-degree students as well as others spend time on both [the Fenway and the Medford/Somerville campuses],” Klos told the Daily in an email. “Allowing a meal swipe at the café is convenient for students and helps provide them with easy access to food on the SMFA campus.”

The SMFA Café Express’ hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday through Thursday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on FridayKlos explained that hours have been set to “coincide with the times when student presence on campus is highest.” She added that weekend hours may be added with enough interest.

“We might entertain weekend hours sometime in the future if we can determine there would be sufficient demand for service to make weekend operations economically feasible,” she said. 

Several students noted that the new dining option has made meaningful differences in their day-to-day lives. In particular, many mentioned that the new café saves them time and money.

Isaac Choi, a first-year combined-degree student who spends two days a week on the Fenway campus, said that the opening of the new café allowed him to make better use of his meal plan.

“As first-year students, we are all required to have premium meal plans and it put [those going to the Fenway campus on a regular basis] at a disadvantage, because we couldn’t use almost two of our meal swipes, maybe even three for some of us because we have to leave at eight in the morning so we would have to run to breakfast. I have some friends that stay [on the Fenway campus] past the dinner [hours],” Choi said. “It was very inconvenient, but now that the café is here, we at least have an option to use meal swipes.”

He also mentioned that now he can make better use of his time, as he doesn’t have to travel to find a food option in the area.

“During a small class break, I can come down [to the café] and grab something to eat … and go back up,” Choi said.

Agreeing with Choi, Barbara Gallucci, professor of the practice in sculpture, said that the café increases dining accessibility on the SMFA campus.

“You have to walk four or five blocks to get anything in this neighborhood, so this is convenient and it gives us a place to sit down and talk together [in the school’s lobby],” Gallucci said. The SMFA lobby was also recently renovated, according to Gallucci.

Second-year combined-degree student Alexander Didkovsky appreciated the opening of a new dining option on the SMFA campus.

“It’s nice to have it on our meal plan. Before [the café opened], I was spending easily $30 a week on take-out [food],” Didkovsky said, describing the difference the new café has brought to his dining experience. “It’s so much easier [to get food] now that we have this café.”

Didkovsky also said he is satisfied with the variety of food being offered.

“I am getting along fine. I am a pretty picky eater, so premade sandwiches don’t really appeal to me but you know … I am enjoying it,” he said.

Choi said he is content with the food options as well.

“It’s not like a dining hall, but personally for me … I eat three to four meals here, and I am not bothered by [food options] they have.”

However, Elizabeth Leary, a senior in the BFA program, suggested that the café should offer more options.

“[The cafe has] a few sandwiches, yogurt, fruit,” Leary said. “[It] should have more things, when we had the actual dining hall, they had real meals.”

Klos said that Tufts Dining will be adding additional food options on a schedule.

“We’re pleased with the amount of variety we can provide in this small place, and will be adding new items regularly as well as changing out the variety through planned rotation of products,” she said.

Leary also added that there is a need for a full dining hall on the Fenway campus, especially for first-years who spend many hours on the Fenway campus and are not familiar with the area.

“Our classes are six hours long and we get a two-hour break in between. [First-years] have no idea where to go for food,” she said. “They need to be able to swipe in somewhere.”

Rachel Yao, a second-year in the combined-degree program, also noted that the school may benefit from a new dining hall on the Fenway campus, should the university increase the school’s enrollment.

“It’ll be nice [to have a new dining hall]. If they increase the enrollment, there would be more people and this café would obviously not be sufficient,” she said.

Yao noted that she thinks the café could use another employee, as the place often gets crowded. She also suggested that having another employee could help the university save resources.

“During peak times, like breakfast or lunch, there’d be really long lines because there’s only one staff [member] working there. I think it’d be good if there are two people working at the same time, so one can do the cashier, and one cook food,” Yao said. “I’ve also noticed … [employees] always have to wear latex gloves to make food, but they would take it off when they deal with cash or card. I think it will be better if one person is strictly for food and another person is strictly [for] the money, so we don’t have to waste a lot of gloves.”

Didkovsky agreed that the school could have more dining options, but pointed out that the SMFA’s current enrollment does not justify anything more extensive than the Café Express.

“I also think that [the SMFA] is a small school so [the café] serves the purpose that it needs to serve. I don’t think I can complain. My food is on the meal swipe [and] it’s nearby,” Didkovsky said.