Regina Sung, Contributing Photographer

With many of Yale’s campus eating spots closed due to the pandemic, students have been forced to find new places to get a quick bite to eat. For many, that place is the Ground Café, a spot in the Becton Center that serves meals on weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Since its reopening in September of last year, Ground Café has been a popular place for students to get food in between classes. The semi-hidden location, in a small room off the side of the Becton Center, has been difficult for some to find, but for Jennifer Yakubov ’24, the cafe was a cornerstone of her food experience at Yale when she lived on campus last semester. The spot expanded its menu in the fall to include sushi.

“The Murray and Franklin kids were the first to find out about it,” Yakubov told the News. “It’s the closest food place to Murray … so we went a lot. There was a point when I went there every day.”

For Yakubov, going to the cafe was more than a matter of convenience. She and her peers found that, when they did not like the food that was served in their residential college dining halls, they were able to use their meal swipes for food at the cafe. The cafe offers outdoor seating for those who want to eat there. However, since the cafe has become more popular among students, the lines and wait times for lunch have grown steadily longer, according to Yubakov.

Despite the long lines, Yakubov said she will still choose to go to the cafe due to the variety of options it offers.

“You can get sushi, sometimes you can get poke bowls, spring rolls and you can also have them make sushi for you if they don’t have what you want,” Yakubov said. “It’s obviously nothing insane, like, it’s not like a sushi restaurant, but if you get there and the sushi you want is gone, they can make it for you.”

Students also have the opportunity to choose from a range of sides, including Bubly drinks, carrots and Milano cookies, to accompany their main dish. However, the sides are limited. Patrons are only allowed two sides if they order sushi, but they can get a third if they choose to pick up a sandwich or salad instead.

While the main draw for many students has been the sushi, in an email to the News, senior director of Yale Hospitality Adam Millman stressed that the “location is not a sushi store.” Rather, Yale Hospitality made the decision to serve sushi and poke bowls in addition to other food as a way “to provide our students with a break from the norm, [with food] that’s freshly made right at Ground Café every weekday.”

Like Yakubov, after finding the cafe, Gabby Montuori ’24 quickly became obsessed, getting sushi from the cafe upwards of four times a week. According to Montuori, one main appeal of Ground Café is the sushi.

“I just really became a packaged sushi addict,” Montuori said. “They would remember my order, which was super cute … which also shows how much I went.”

In light of Durfee’s remaining closed for this academic year, Yalies are turning to Ground Café as an alternative convenience store for food. According to a video posted on the YouTube channel Quarantined at Yale, “This [place] really is Durfee’s, but, like, transported to the engineering building.”

Despite the in-person dining option, the cafe and its employees have been careful to adhere to social distancing guidelines. While in line, students must maintain social distancing and can only enter one at a time. Before choosing their meals, students must also sanitize their hands.

While the staff has worked hard to ensure the health of employees and students, the popularity of the cafe has raised other ethical concerns among students. Yakubov expressed moral qualms over eating at the cafe when she knows she could be eating at New Haven restaurants.

“I think [the cafe] is a great thing,” Yakubov said. “Obviously there’s sushi restaurants in New Haven so it’s kinda crappy because Yale students, if they have this option where you don’t have to pay extra, you don’t go out as much, you don’t support New Haven restaurants, which is not the best.”

Intcha Choi, the owner of popular New Haven sushi restaurant Sushi on Chapel, spoke with the News about the student clientele since the start of the pandemic.

“We still have Yale students coming,” Choi said. “Some come and take food to go. Some come to sit in. But [there have been] fewer than in 2019, 2020, before the pandemic.”

The cafe is located next to the Center for Engineering Innovation and Design.

Marissa Blum | marissa.blum@yale.edu