At 6 p.m. on a typical night in the Silliman college dining hall, a group of three or four friends may be hard-pressed to find seating. Be it for the new made-to-order chicken wraps and burgers or for the customizable beef bulgogi bowls, students and faculty members from all over campus seem to be flocking to 509 College St. for their meals.

Due to Silliman’s positioning between Science Hill and Cross Campus, Yale Dining and Operations management had anticipated that the college’s dining hall would see increased traffic in light of the growth of the undergraduate student body and the recent closure of the Commons dining hall. Since the start of the spring semester in particular, students have come to expect the long service lines and difficulty finding open dining space.

“It’s busy to such an extent that it often times reaches capacity,” Silliman student Nikita Klimenko ’21 said. “It can take a while to find seating.”

Still, despite the arrival of the largest-ever first-year class and the increased dining traffic at centrally located colleges such as Silliman, Senior Director of Yale Dining Adam Millman said the overall dining system has “enough capacity” to accommodate larger student participation during lunch hours. He added that traffic patterns have shifted “across campus to balance out.”

“We have made a number of changes across various colleges to accommodate for more seating and more efficient service access,” Millman said.

He did not respond to requests for exact statistics on dining hall traffic.

Like a number of other colleges, last month, the Silliman kitchen introduced a build-to-order service counter where students can select from a menu including chicken wraps, vegan sweet potato and black bean burgers and the “Beyond Burger,” which is made with a plant-based patty that mimics the taste and appearance of meat. On some nights, a customizable bibimbap bar serves beef bulgogi bowls. These options were made available at a few select colleges during the fall semester, and are now offered in most dining halls across campus.

Unlike other popular dining halls, though, Silliman does not place restrictions on student entry. The Berkeley, Stiles and Morse dining halls, for example, are closed to students not affiliated with the colleges during peak hours Monday through Thursday, from 5 p.m. to 5:45 p.m. at Berkeley and 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Morse and Stiles.

“I think Silliman sets an example for other colleges for openness and spirit of welcome,” said Lucas Vázquez Bassat ’21.

The historic Commons Dining Hall will be closed until 2020 to accommodate the construction of The Schwarzman Center, which is expected to be a new hub for student life. According to current blueprints, the main spatial configuration of the dining center located next to Woolsey Hall will be retained for weekday lunch service. Along with other major events like alumni reunions and ceremonies, the center, once open, will also host Yale Hospitality’s popular culinary series, including Food Conversations with guest chefs. Preliminary proposals also contain plans for an outdoor cafe opening up on Beinecke Plaza.

According to Millman, the dining halls at Silliman, Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray colleges currently have the largest seating capacity.

Julianna Lai |