Nathaniel's, known fondly as Nate's, was a dining facility in the A-level of Nathaniel Rochester Hall.
Nathaniel's opened in December of 1985 after New York State raised the drinking age to 21. For 13 years prior, the space where Nathaniel's stood was known as 'The Cellar' and served beer, wine, pizza and subs. Nathaniel's underwent a renovation in December of 1986 and reopened in 1987 with great success. At the beginning, it was only open for dinner; after the renovation, the hotspot began serving lunch as well.
In the early nineties, Nate's offered a more restaurant-like atmosphere than either Gracie's or the Shumway Dining Commons. It was small, dark, and intimate, with a consistent menu of items like burgers, chicken fingers, pizza, and ridiculously good milkshakes. Orders would be placed at the counter; a customer would be given a ticket and would have to watch the TV screens for her number to appear, at which point she could go pick up her food. Take-out was available from Nate's Back Door; students could call orders in, then pick them up and take them back to their room or lounge.
Most importantly, though, Nate's accepted only cash and debit. Students couldn't use meal plan meals there—only at Gracie's or the Dining Commons. Nate's was very popular, but students were limited in their ability to go there by the balance on their debit accounts.
In 1994, that all changed. RIT introduced the all-debit dining plan that year. All of a sudden, students could eat at Nate's for every meal. And many of them did, because the food was made to order and tasted better than what was available at the dining halls. Nate's was slammed. Customers had to wait up to an hour for food, sometimes up to thirty minutes just for a milkshake. The small size of the restaurant couldn't handle the newly-liberated crowds.
Nate's was closed after the 1994–95 school year. Dining Services promised to revamp the Dining Commons—at the time, the dining hall of choice for NTID students—into a Nate's-like restaurant called "The Commons". The valiant effort failed, in large part. The space was just too open and airy, and the cafeteria-style kitchen wasn't equipped to truly handle a Nate's-like menu. It also lacked Nathaniel's central location. Despite improvements over the years, The Commons never recaptured the magic that was Nathaniel's.
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