A fresh start for Commons

Where other stores stock Coca Cola, Uncommon’s sleek refrigerated cases contain beverages like Hansen’s Natural Cane Soda.

Uncommon, Yale Dining’s newest convenience store, located to the left of the entrance to Commons dining hall, began keeping regular hours on Monday. Students interviewed on site said the store, which advertises “healthy, natural and sustainable” food offerings, provided a convenient way for them to grab lunch on the go while still using a meal swipe.

Students now have a variety of foods to choose from at Uncommon.
Brenna Neghaiwi
Students now have a variety of foods to choose from at Uncommon.
Common items at Uncommon
Jared Shenson
Common items at Uncommon

Where a manager’s office once stood, shelves now line the new store’s walls, which are stocked with natural, healthy food choices like yogurt, sushi, sandwiches, wraps and fresh fruit. Students who do not notice the many labels touting “organic” and “soy” choices will get the message with “Uncommon” T-shirts for sale near the back that ask, “How big is your footprint?” Refrigeration cases, shelves, a counter and a cash register circumscribe a small, though bright and well-lit room.

Uncommon’s emphasis on reducing Yale’s carbon footprint was familiar to some customers.

“There is a greater selection of organic food that reminds me of that of Whole Foods,” Julie Zhu ’12 said.

Holding a tuna sandwich and yogurt parfait, Anne Van Bruggen ’13 said she found Uncommon particularly convenient because it provided her options as a vegetarian and allowed her to spend her lunchtime in the library rather than in a dining hall.

But Uncommon is reminiscent of more than Whole Foods’s organic fare. One student complained about the costs associated with healthier food.

“Uncommon is like a more expensive version of Durfee’s,” Annie Yu ’11 said.

Still, Zhu said Uncommon was cleaner than Durfee’s and the prices, if higher, were easier to find than at Yale Dining’s retail counterpart on Old Campus. For example, while some large bags of chips at Durfee’s hide their price markers in shabbily-printed ink on an obscure corner of the bag, Uncommon proudly features its Whole Foods-reminiscent prices on clear, white labels.

Uncommon’s opening comes at a particularly apt time for undergraduate diners.

To achieve budget cuts required of all University departments, Yale Dining announced this summer that it would no longer allow swipes at the Law School dining hall, where undergraduates were once able to trade a meal swipe for $7 of merchandise. With Uncommon, Yale Dining hoped to replicate the convenience of grab-and-go dining the Law School had offered during the lunch rush. Students with meal plans can similarly exchange their lunch-time meal swipe for $7 of Uncommon fare.

But Nkem Oghedo ’12 said the food that Uncommon offered fell short of the Law School dining hall’s.

“[Uncommon] tried, for example, to offer wraps, like the Law School did,” Oghedo said. “But the Law School just has better quality food.”

Another student thought Uncommon’s convenience was more important than the quality of its food. In fact, of 12 students interviewed upon leaving Uncommon, all said they made their decision to use their lunch swipe there because they were pressed for time and found it more convenient to buy the food rather than to have to sit in Commons and eat it.

“Uncommon makes everything really convenient because Commons dining hall is so central,” George Ortega ’13 said, as a line waiting to enter Commons dining hall stretched behind him into the rotunda.

Mimi Nakajima ’13 said she agreed the store was useful for those who had a time crunch between classes.

The store is staffed by Yale Dining employees, who Zhu said provide one big advantage over the Law School.

“They’re friendlier to undergrads,” Zhu said. “At the Law School, I always felt like the staff as less welcoming.”

Although Yale Dining originally hoped to open the store in the second week of September, the opening was delayed because the refrigerators were delivered late, said Tom Tucker, Yale’s director of retail development and operations. Until Monday, Uncommon kept irregular hours to work out logistics with merchandising and staff training.

Uncommon will now keep regular hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Lunch swipes will be accepted from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.


  • DumbDining

    Why not just have good, healthy, convenient food at Commons, a mere doorway away? The hours of operation are the same. This is a lousy gimmick of an excuse for dining to try to rip us all off even more. How about some decent vegetarian and meaningful organic options in the dining halls? More than cupcakes “with organic ingredients” ugh. YDS is getting worse by the minute.

  • Yalie ’06

    It’s great to see that better food options are finally becoming available for undergrads. However, Uncommon should evaluate its specific purchasing options in greater depth… for example, is tuna truly a “sustainable” option? Healthy, probably. Sustainable, not so much. Any business touting its sustainability should make sure it has done its research! (See Monterey Bay Aquarium or Climate Counts info on fisheries etc for more info). On a similar note, Hansen’s or not, soda is still soda, at least when it comes to its impact on your body.

    I’m also left shaking my head about the student who is excited about the vegetarian options available, such as her fish sandwich.

    And I have to agree with DumbDining that better healthy food options– particularly vegetarian and vegan offerings– would be a more logical place to start if Yale Dining really wants to improve its offering for the sake of students.

  • Anonymous

    I think that Uncommon is great. It is somewhat expensive but not more so than local shops like Gourmet Heaven, The food is actually pretty good and it is really convenient to purchase from uncommon. Uncommon goes a long way towards filling the gap left by the removal of the law school from Undergraduates’ dining options. Durfee, on the other hand, is a disaster. The new layout is nice, but the number of items has decreased significantly to the point where I have no reason to go there. What am I suppossed to do with my $200 in Flex points (Swing Space Meal Plan)? Buy soda, pizza, and hot pockets?