Students eating at Dave’s Boathouse, formerly a traditional grill on the Rollins College campus, now choose from a menu packed with comfort foods and international fusion items.
Dave’s Burger is an all-beef patty served on a brioche bun with the works, including spicy mustard aioli and crispy onions. Falafel is on offer as a filling for a pita pocket (or on a flatbread pita) with the requisite Mediterranean salads and dips. Their deli sandwich menu includes a turkey club, a hot pastrami sandwich, a chicken wrap and a portobello mushroom wrap. There’s something for everyone.
What’s unusual is that every dish is certified kosher and halal. The burger comes with vegan cheese. The spicy mustard aioli is a replacement for Dijon. Behind the scenes, ingredients, equipment and preparation methods are carefully overseen.
Adena Muskin, Dave’s Boathouse manager with Sodexo at the Florida campus’s restaurant says they made the switch — from an everyday grill to a kosher- and halal-certified kitchen — because students requested it.
“It was really very college driven,” she says. “Many students were requesting forms of dining that catered to their religious needs. So we opted to provide both kosher and halal for an all-inclusive dining experience.”
The liberal arts college, which had a student population of about 2,100 in 2021, has students from 60 countries of origin.
To adhere to kosher and halal standards, the restaurant doesn't serve shellfish or dairy products. In addition, they decided to cut fish, peanuts and tree nuts, to cater to students with food allergies. They also offer soy-, gluten-, sesame- and egg-free options. The menu is dotted with badges indicating vegetarian and vegan options.
“We really wanted…students, no matter what their dietary restrictions, [to] feel comfortable eating out of our kitchen,” Muskin says.
They started the process of becoming a kosher-certified kitchen first. It was an intense process, Muskin says, which required them to clean every inch of the kitchen thoroughly and either sterilize or replace equipment. All their grills, ovens, stainless steel countertops, refrigerators, cast iron, metals and some stoneware could be kosherized while plastics and ceramics were replaced. They acquired and sterilized a slicer for their deli items.
Then they started looking at their menu and sourcing, switching to a different supplier and collaborating with sales representatives from Sysco and Freshpoint to get a list of kosher-certified items.
Once these elements were in place, they started the halal certification process, which builds on the kosher preparations they’d made. They sent a list of suppliers and ingredients to the halal certifying agency to cross-check their lists. Then they cut out any ingredients containing alcohol, such as wine vinegars, cooking wines and Dijon mustard.
During this process, they discovered new suppliers, including a high-quality Miami-based company that supplies them with high-quality Mediterranean ingredients and sauces.
With a list of certified ingredients in hand, they started reimagining the Dave’s Boathouse menu.
Diners choose from a full menu of appetizers, items off the grill, international fusion entreés, deli sandwiches, salads, sides, desserts and beverages that include vegan milkshakes and their ever-popular smoothies.
Muskin says the menu is “constantly dynamic and changing so students have something new to look forward to.”
The restaurant is popular with all students; notably, the majority of their customers do not seek out the restaurant for religious-based dietary needs. It’s the only full-service restaurant on campus and is frequented by students who live in campus housing and are on a dining plan.
Part of being certified kosher and halal means keeping up with certification requirements. Muskin is supervised through the kosher certification agency and takes monthly courses to stay up-to-date. Muskin, in fact, serves a dual role; she is both the manager and one of two kosher supervisors, ensuring that ingredients are being handled and equipment being used properly whenever food is being prepared.
Both the kosher and halal certification agencies perform regular audits to make sure the restaurant is maintaining standards.
Asked what the reimagined venue means to the campus, Muskin says, “Kosher and halal dining is very unique in that it provides for students’ religious dietary needs. These are the populations that are so often used to fending for themselves. Many students come to college and…feel left out. They don’t have the same access to food options as their peers. Offering this program really incorporates them…It really is very beautiful to see [people of] so many diverse backgrounds coming together and sitting together around the same table…The students feel that this restaurant really represents them.”