"The Rock Café vs. Center Ice: The Diner Comparison Chronicles" was intended to be the first in a series of papers, a series that ultimately didn't happen. However, it made its own points. It was written for English 250 class with Bernadette Fox on September 28th of 2006, for the fall semester at Ferris State University.
The paper was a look at the service and overall eating environment at both The Rock and at Center Ice. Favorable things said about The Rock were stated before the Dozerfleet founder worked there; before he discovered certain personnel at Dining Services to have a penchant for harassment. After this paper, the Dozerfleet founder began to almost without fail cling to Center Ice. However, that enthusiasm would fade when the campus decided to close down Center Ice after mismanagement made it unprofitable, and so they could baby The Rock further.
This piece was also written before the summer 2009 renovation project that completely altered The Rock inside and out.
English 250 w/Bernadette Fox
September 28th, 2006
Eventually the time always comes for the discussion of one’s favorite place to eat on campus. Is that not true? Some places, like most community colleges, usually just lease spots to commercial vendors and be rid of it all. But then, most universities have at least one or another sponsored café. Ferris has several. But what are the ins-and-outs of each, and what does each want to be? Below, we’re going to look at just two of the cafés on the Ferris campus, and ascertain their values…
One needs only walk in through the front doors to The Rock, and you find yourself already engulfed in its down-home atmosphere. It’s not open for very long in the day, usually around 8:00 AM-7:00 PM. But immediately, the soft lighting of the entry assures you that you’ve found a home of sorts within the confines.
Walking up to the cover charge center, one feels that this is a bit like a visit to Old Country Buffet, but with less sophistication and lower prices. One swipe of the meal plan card later, and I have a remaining balance on my card of one free meal fewer. Those who pitifully use up all their meals, alas, have to pay a cover charge similar to what you might expect to pay at Old Country Buffet—albeit, for much less variety of food.
But who goes for just the atmosphere? Upon first entering, the dirtiness of the Rock becomes readily apparent. It’s not an upscale setting at all. The basic sanitation standards for preparing food are somehow still followed; though if you’re careful, you might catch a glimpse of a girl picking up somebody’s egg order that fell on the floor without changing her glove before handling food.
As for the eggs—delicious! The pans are effective non-stick with a nice selection of high-efficiency spatulas. You simply fill out your name on an order, along with how you want your eggs. You’re certain to get them back in at least 3 minutes—8 minutes if the girl picking up orders that fell down accidentally tosses out your order slip before your order has been completely cooked.
There are certain times to go to the Rock to guarantee the most available food. This is rarely the same from one day to the next. However, they will do what they can to make sure at least some of their food is always available.
They usually offer a fair amount of fair-quality foods to choose from. Their best dishes are their breaded shrimp and crab legs. As one can observe from the picture taken above, the quality dips a little the more you deviate from breaded shrimp. The potatoes are adequately mashed, possibly a powder. They seem to be lacking in flavor, but this could be that they use too much salt and not enough milk or butter. The flavor is nothing that can’t be fixed by adding some butter by one’s self. The taco shell and ingredients are about on-par with the quality of something you’d expect at Taco Bell.
Probably the one weakness of the Rock in terms of food is the quality of its vegetables. The salad bar is only so-so. They use ice, unlike the fancy systems they use at Westview Dining. This chilling method is not always very efficient, but it works for the way the Rock is set up. Their dessert entries always vary in quality from one meal period to the next, but usually consist of bagels and dry cookies, along with at least one dish that is more appetizing. Possibly the best-tasting item in the salad bar besides the sunflower seeds would be the cottage cheese. The pumpkin whip is so-so. I have not tried the gravy, but the boiled green beans don’t look any more nutritious or even appetizing than the ones back home.
Nearly everyone on the likes to eat at this building. However, as friendly a setting as this is, the crowds are still very picky about their privacy. Therefore, the faces in these images have all been pixelated.
Perhaps the most unusual thing about the Rock is that it seems to have a thing with “rocking around the world.” This seems a little out of place with the rest of the atmosphere, but is not obnoxiously intrusive in any way. Flags from various countries dangle overhead. Bearing students from all over the world, the Rock is nevertheless a small microcosm of a micro-community unto itself. It is, from what I’ve observed, the preferred café of choice for the south side of the campus—for more than just the proximity to the South Side dorms! Even on exit, well after you’re full, it feels a shame to leave this place behind.
This café, in the eyes of some rocks more than The Rock, though that remains disputed. Center Ice has no misgivings about what it tries to be: a sports lover’s dream diner. More popular on the west side than the south, it nevertheless draws considerable crowds from both. It’s open for much longer hours than the Rock (closing at 11:00 rather than 7:00 PM), and offers two ways to pay. The problem is, some items require you to use your meal card’s dining dollars as a debit card, whilst other items can be bought with meal plans. Either way, you are buying things on a debit card-style system.
The “Have it Your Way” sign is a place to mix-and-match various soups and other such foods. However, one wonders how a lawsuit with Burger King is avoided. There are sports TV’s, a play basketball arcade machine, and sports-themed mannequins adorning nearly every wall. In spite charging nearly twice as much for dining dollar food as the nearest Wal-Mart ($2.39 for Lunchables Ham & Swiss as opposed to [last I checked] $1.59 at Wal-Mart), nobody seems to mind a trip to this dining hallmark. In some ways, the food is better than what you’ll find at the Rock, even if it is more expensive. Variety is more consistent as well. However, it’s more of a traditional school café. Half the time, it’s like OCB, the other half of the time, more like a grocery store.
If there is one thing Center Ice takes very seriously, it’s the look. Football, basketball—you name it; they probably have it. Standing innocently enough on the table is an Amana RCBL810, a commercial microwave model that has been discontinued for quite some time, judging by the fact that this is the first time I’ve seen one; and the manufacturing detail suggests it to be of an older school of engineering. Given the volume of use in Center Ice, I would personally recommend an upgrade to at least an RCS10MPSA; but that is up to the staff at Dining Services.
If there is one thing both Center Ice and the Rock do well, it would be their use of windows. They effectively use the architecture of their windows to produce a semi-open atmosphere, so that you feel more than just comfortable eating there—you feel like you’re in a place no more intrusive on your psyche and no more claustrophobia-inducing than a trip to the nearest Burger King. The toys and TV sets tuned in to ESPN and CNN are a nice touch.
Unlike the Rock, nearly everything that Center Ice can make available on a given day is available from opening to closing. You do have the restrictions, some things allowed on meal plans and others required to go on dining. But overall, Center Ice tops the Rock on availability of high-quality food. The Rock, by far, makes for a far better social setting. Visitors at Center Ice tended to want to eat alone or in groups of two. Visitors at the Rock preferred to eat in larger groups.
Whether you like simple down-home or ravaging pro-hockey aggression, either diner has something your taste buds are likely in the mood for. Which one’s better? That’s difficult to currently ascertain. Who wins? That too, has yet to be determined. But as far as the south side of campus is concerned, both diners are winners in the end.