When Schuyler Daum ’12 came to Harvard, she expected to concentrate in classics and spend most of her time in the library. It turns out she was only half right. Daum is indeed a classics concentrator, but she can most often be found at the Quincy House Grille.
“I do all my homework here,” she said from a seat in one of the grille’s booths. “It’s different than being in a dining hall or at a ‘brain break.’ I like having the buzz of people around me, and there’s always something going on here.”
Daum’s affection for the Quincy Grille is shared by many of her classmates. Part of 57,000 square feet of social space renovated or constructed by Harvard College over the past five years, the grille is a popular spot for undergraduates in Quincy and the surrounding river Houses. Students crowd in nightly (Sunday-Wednesday and Friday from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.; Thursday, 10 p.m.-3 a.m.; and Saturday, 10 p.m.-4 a.m.) to gorge on burgers, munch on mozzarella sticks, and scarf down curly fries — all while catching a game or the news on the flat-screen TV in the corner above the bar.
Quincy resident Kerry Clark ’12 said that her housemates may come for the food, but they end up staying for the camaraderie.
“The food brings you in,” she said, “but then you run into friends and end up hanging out. The grille is more like a neighborhood diner than a dining hall.”
Daum spent so much time at the grille that she decided to apply for a job there. Today, she and Clark co-manage the Quincy House hot spot.
“I started working here last year,” Daum said. “I wanted to pick up a job on campus, and I liked the food and atmosphere at the grille. Then I recruited Kerry.”
Clark said working at the grille is more study break than work-study. When the economics concentrator finds herself dragging through another problem set or a chapter on aggregate demand, spending a shift at the grille revives her.
“It’s not like putting books away at a library,” she said. “It’s fun. I get to talk to people, and it’s an adrenaline rush when we get a bunch of customers and need to move fast.”
Working at the grille may be fun, but it’s also serious business. Clark, who interned last summer at Barclays, a multinational financial services firm, said that she and Daum work with a House tutor each year to write a business plan for the grille. They also interview and hire new staff, decide on the menu, order food and drinks, maintain workplace health and safety standards, and manage payroll.
“We’re held accountable to our plan,” she said. “This year we added fruit smoothies and veggie burgers, and we want to do more to implement healthy foods and improve our menu. We want to increase efficiency and run the grille like a business.”
Clark and Daum say they get a lot of support from Quincy House Master Lee Gehrke, a mentor. Gehrke said the grille is a priority for him because it plays an important role in the lives of Quincy residents and in the river House community.
“Quincy Grille is a unique space,” he said. “It’s the only late-night dining option in the river Houses and a central … space for our residents to meet socially, to study, to watch the grille TV — and, of course, to have delicious mozzarella sticks and burgers. It’s a place where Harvard students do something unusual. They linger, unhurried, to catch up with friends.”
Josh McIntosh, associate dean of the College’s Office of Student Life, said Gerhke’s involvement and the dedication of the 17-person, all-student staff are behind the grille’s success.
“Lee Gehrke is really committed to the space, and there’s a real team atmosphere among the staff,” McIntosh said. “Together, they help create community among the people who work and eat at the grille, and so facilitate a broader sense of community at the College. Quincy Grille is one of the truly cool social spaces at Harvard.”
Clark says that she and Daum see “lots of growth potential” for the grille. The managers plan to make more improvements to the menu and possibly throw a Super Bowl party to kick off spring semester. Clark said that the opportunity to run a small business adds practical work experience to her liberal arts education. The best part of her job, though, is being at the center of one of the College’s most lively social spaces.
“It’s important for Harvard to have places where people can meet that aren’t academic and go beyond the dining hall,” she said. “These small pockets in the Houses are really nice. When you’re halfway through a paper and need a study break, we’re here. You don’t need to schedule it in. It’s a real comfort.”