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Steam Cafe Opens, Menu to Offer Student Recipes

By Michael Snella


The Steam Cafe opened yesterday, replacing the Dome Cafe on the fourth floor of Building 7.

The Cafe opened with a new style, oriented towards serving nutritious snacks and organic products. In addition, student-submitted recipes will be introduced to the menu.

Bruce Scott Francisco G, an architecture student who developed the concept for the Steam Cafe, said that “the objective is to create a change in MIT food culture, to get everyone thinking and talking about the way we eat.”

In order to achieve this goal, students are encouraged to submit their own family recipes through the cafe’s Web site. “We want to provide recipes that are unique to a family, somebody’s comfort food... mom’s pasta,” said Nicholas S. Senske G, co-developer of the Steam Cafe.

“Once we get into the rhythm, we hope to implement a student recipe once a week or once a month,” Francisco said.

“The healthy eating aspect and hot entrees are good addition, both of which were lacking in the Dome Cafe,” said Richard D. Berlin III, director of campus dining services.

Steam Cafe result of collaboration

The Steam Cafe is the result of a collaborative project between the School of Architecture and Planning, MIT Dining, and Sodexho Corporation, which had operated the Dome Cafe and will continue running the Steam Cafe, according to James Gubata, director of operations for Sodexho.

“The project involved 50 students, mostly graduates but with a few undergraduates” during all aspects of the Cafe’s design and construction, Francisco said. “It was a collaboration between the administration and students.”

Funded by the Architecture Department and MIT Campus Dining Services, Senske said the project was not very expensive. Construction lasted for six weeks, and “we reused resources from campus like the wood from old tables which were sitting in the Walker Memorial basement and old display cases that were not being used.”

Customers enjoy new cafe

Students reacted positively to the Cafe’s menu when comparing it to that of the Dome Cafe. “The variety is better than the Dome Cafe,” said Heather E. S. Richardson G.

“I love the Indian food,” said Samina Shaikh ’05.

Several students also welcomed the Cafe atmosphere. “I’m glad it’s open again. It’s always been a good place to study,” said Lauren A. Killian G.

“Judging from the way things are going, this will be the place where I’ll be eating breakfast more often,” said Stephen R. Form, ’05, an undergraduate who worked on the Steam Cafe project over the January Independent Activities Period. “It’s been a great experience for the whole architecture department,” he said.

The concept for Steam Cafe evolved from Senske’s independent study course on open-source design and was developed by Culture-Lab, a research group of designers interested in how design can affect changes in culture as well as how culture affects how students eat, Francisco said. “We wanted to apply open-source design methods, like those employed in Unix, for architecture design,” he said.

“It is an infrastructure to be built upon,” Francisco said. “We are looking for constant improvements; student improvements to space, seating, and the menu.”

The Steam Cafe Web site can be found at