Dear Bell Tower Place,
I discovered you about three weeks into my first semester at Miami.
Living on North Quad, I had previously eaten mostly at Martin and Garden, with forays to Western for dinner most nights due to my marching band practices. But I would always see you as I walked to and from my classes, your namesake beside you, tolling out the hours.
Eventually I stopped in to grab lunch between classes one day, and from then on, I was in love.
Your stir-fry at Wok This Way was the best on campus, and the guy who worked the stir-fry bar at the same time as when I would always stop in learned my order by heart. (Tofu, one egg, extra broccoli, soy sauce — and normally brown rice, with noodles on Thursdays only.) Soon enough I didn’t even have to order — I could just show up and get in line, and bam, there would be broccoli sizzling in the wok. Extra broccoli — lots of it, just the way I liked.
Sometimes I would show up and get stir-fry for lunch after my 1:15, just before the bar closed, and then wait until it reopened again for dinner to go back for seconds. Your stir-fry was just that good.
I also kept going back to your taco bar, the Sonora Stop, even when I got allergic reaction after allergic reaction throughout the year from guacamole cross-contamination in your sour cream. My avocado allergy isn’t that serious, so I’d pop a Benadryl and sleep it off. It was always worth it for one of your good old taco salads, even if the workers did give me weird looks every time I showed up with a bowl of spinach and veggies from the salad bar and asked for beans, sour cream and queso on top.
You are the reason I fell in love with cheesecake. Ask my friends and family — I was a fervent cheesecake hater growing up, enemies with its squishy texture. But your chocolate cheesecake was the only dessert option at lunch one day, and I discovered that I enjoyed its sharp tang. You had two flavors that I can remember — chocolate and plain — and sometimes I would even get both, though I usually limited myself to one.
And although I was a vegetarian and didn’t partake in this, your chicken chunks were the stuff of legend among my friends.
Last year, upon my return to campus, I was so looking forward to your soy-sauce-covered noodles, allergic-reaction-inducing taco salads and even an occasional bowl of pasta with marinara. Sure, I can get these things from other places — stir-fry in MacCracken, taco salads at Maplestreet and pasta literally anywhere — but no one does them quite like you did.
Imagine my disappointment when I got one sad, lone burrito out of you before you became the COVID-19 dining hall and then closed, seemingly forever.
I eagerly awaited the beginning of this year, thinking that you would open again, ready to force my underclassman friends to use their guest swipes to let me back through your double doors.
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Then I went to grab lunch with a friend in late August and found “Closed for the rest of the semester” emblazoned on those very doors.
I miss you, Bell Tower Place.
And with Aramark’s recent acquisition of dining for next year, I am keeping my fingers crossed that I will be able to relive my first year and enjoy at least one more meal from you, one last time.
When it takes over on June 1st, Aramark is going to do a lot, according to the official Miami announcement. It’s going to make Garden “plant-forward,” for instance; it has plans to showcase local Oxford restaurants in Maplestreet, implement a Taste Test Kitchen in Western and even bring in food delivery robots.
That’s all well and good. But I’m most excited, Bell Tower Place, about your glorious and triumphant return to literally being the top of the campus food chain.
Two years now I’ve gone without Wok This Way, Sonora Stop and the Campus Grill. Two years now without that fantastic cheesecake.
I can’t wait to have you back.
To Aramark: I understand needing to change other things on this campus when it comes to dining. I’m excited for your new developments.
But I promise you, Bell Tower Place needs very little overhauling. I think I speak on behalf of the student body when I say that we don’t want this campus’s favored dining hall to be changed or redone — we just want it to be open.
If you take away my stir-fry, taco salads and cheesecake for good, you are going to have one very unhappy student on your hands. Please bring back the Bell we all know and love.