By: Shane Mumma
“It was one of the most popular places on campus,” Vanderbilt Student Government (VSG) Senator and graduating senior Joshua Kayiwa said of The Pub, “Even pre-pandemic, you’d have to order ahead to get your meal. That’s how popular it was.”
Colloquially known around campus simply as ‘The Pub,’ The Pub at Overcup Oak above Rand dining hall has become a legend known only to a shrinking portion of the Vanderbilt population. Shuttered since the Spring 2020 semester with the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the beloved Pub is yet to make a full, triumphant return to campus.
With such a long hiatus, only current juniors and seniors (excluding transfer students who came after the pandemic) have gotten to eat at a fully functioning Pub. Kayiwa is one of them, fondly recalling the iconic on-campus restaurant’s operational days.
“I think The Pub was a really cool socializing atmosphere. It was actually very different from other parts of campus, and it felt like its own area for people to hang out and eat and do homework,” Kayiwa recounted, emphasizing once more that The Pub “was a very unique part of campus.”
While I have never gotten to eat at The Pub functioning at its normal capacity, I did have the opportunity to eat at one of The Pub’s three February 2022 pop-up events, the first time the restaurant opened its doors to students since it originally closed in 2020. Like Kayiwa pointed out, I was struck by the unique atmosphere of The Pub, which was nothing like any of Vanderbilt’s other dining halls. It was decorated from floor to ceiling like any stereotypical pub, with weathered brick walls covered in student writing, warm lighting, and cozy booths.
At the pop-up, which I attended with another Pub newbie and a senior who had the honor of enjoying the real Pub prior to the pandemic, limited food options were served buffet style. Many infamous Pub offerings like milkshakes, wings, burgers, and even beer were not present, with the senior noting how different it was from The Pub he remembered.
Instead, we were served fried chicken, macaroni, fries, and cookies (not the warm Rand-style ones unfortunately). The fried chicken was quite good—it was both juicy and tender, and I also enjoyed the macaroni and fries as well. However, while this meal was certainly enjoyable, it seemed to be more-so something that could be served at any regular Vanderbilt dining hall, rather than the special Pub food I’ve heard so many stories about.
Still, these pop-up events marked a glimmer of hope that The Pub would soon reopen in its full capacity. After all, Vanderbilt’s assistant director of Campus Dining Maria Portelli had noted that she “hopes for a full reopening of The Pub in the coming weeks” in the university’s February 11 announcement of The Pub’s February pop-up events. Sadly, it is now about two months later and there is still no new sign of The Pub permanently reopening.
Asked about this prospect, Kayiwa enthusiastically exclaimed, “Heck yeah, I’d love [The Pub] to come back. Obviously, I’m graduating but I would’ve loved it to come back, and I would love it to come back.” As would I, like the countless other freshmen, sophomores, and upperclassmen transfer students who never got to truly experience this quintessential part of Vanderbilt dining. We no longer have to wear masks or distance at Vanderbilt, our classes are all in-person, and the pandemic is becoming a distant memory. Thus, it is time for The Pub to finally return, like the rest of life at Vanderbilt outside campus dining, to its pre-pandemic glory.