Applause, the newly renovated gourmet cafe at The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, reopened Monday after remaining closed for about four months.
The cafe began undergoing renovations at the end of the fall semester to better accommodate healthy and upscale dining options for The Clarice, said Bart Hipple, Dining Services spokesman.
The cafe had a soft opening April 27 through April 29, its last day coinciding with Maryland Day, said John Gray, Dining Services Senior Executive Chef. The staff at Applause recorded about 100 customers between April 27 and April 28 and about 150 customers on Maryland Day alone, Gray added.
The popularity of Applause showed on Maryland Day, said Lea Humphreys, a sophomore french horn performance major. Events like that are exactly the sort of occasions the new cafe will cater toward, Humphreys said.
“The food is better, but it’s not as quick as it was [before],” she said. “It seems almost too fancy for us regular students, but [when] we have guests and activities here, then it looks good on us.”
Applause features paninis, macaroni and cheese and hand-squeezed lemonade. The menu changes on a six-day rotation, prioritizing fresh ingredients in customizable salads, braise and ragouts, including options not available at other dining locations on the campus.
During renovations, Encore, a cafe in The Clarice’s main lobby, sold sandwiches and other grab-and-go items to appease the lunch rush. Now, Encore will return to its coffee bar menu, while more substantial meals will be available upstairs at Applause.
Although Applause has reopened, Humphreys said she will still frequent Encore.
“[Encore] is more like a Starbucks, which I like,” Humphreys said. “I still will go down there because it’s nice and close and [at Applause] there’s so many food options. [Sometimes] I just want a cup of coffee.”
One unique addition in Applause is a station where customers can customize their own soda and carbonated water with flavored syrups. The cafe also serves pastries from the Maryland Bakery. On Monday, the cafe offered chocolate mousse, turtle brownies and white chocolate cookies, Gray said. The end result is a menu very distinct from other campus dining locations, Gray added.
Erica Bondarev Rapach, associate executive director at The Clarice, said the intent behind Applause was to create a venue that would fit a place where people are “naturally inclined toward the arts.”
“The cafe in its former state probably needed a little bit of updating,” Bondarev Rapach said. “We noticed that all of the dining halls had similar items, so we wanted to do something that was outside of the box.”
Reimagining the cafe was a collaborative project across multiple departments, Bondarev Rapach added. In addition to Dining Services, graduate students from the architecture, planning and preservation school worked on Applause, said Madlen Simon, an architecture professor.
Ten of Simon’s students helped to design the kitchen, which has new tiles and ovens, and the seating area behind the cafe. The seating area is not completed, but the students are building prototype furniture for students and staff to test this spring, and the area should be completed in summer.
Mike Gessner, an architecture graduate student who worked on the project, said they found students wanted to be able move the furniture, so the architecture students incorporated stools and chairs that can be moved around in the cafe.
The new design will complement the outdoor patio that can be seen from the cafe, Gessner added.
“We were going off the image of an outdoor garden with trees, so all of the pieces of furniture will have large curves to emulate the branches and the root systems,” Gessner said.
Applause is open between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays, but Gray said those hours could change depending on the venue’s success and demand by The Clarice’s administrators.
“We hope this goes really well,” said Gray. “It’s the first time we’ve ever tried anything like this on campus, so we’re hoping that it goes well here so I can take this and bring it to some other [buildings].”
CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story incorrectly identified Mike Gessner as Mark Gessner. This story has been updated.