Meatloaf, mashed potatoes and green beans, anyone?
Most senior living homes aren’t known for serving fresh, innovative food in their dining halls. But Presbyterian Village North (PVN) isn’t like most senior living homes. The Dallas-based facility, which serves some 1,200 meals daily, recently underwent a $93 million expansion to offer residents more amenities—including some seriously delicious food.
As a new generation of seniors begins to take advantage of dedicated senior living communities, facilities are modernizing their menus. “Baby boomers have bigger expectations from traveling, from business and from what’s been available to them at home,” says Director of Dining Services Dane Cummins, who’s clocked more than 25 years feeding senior residents and their guests. “They have those same expectations going into retirement. They’re wanting more choices.”
Lamb chops with roasted vegetables and gravy (left) and shrimp and grits.
Delivering called for some big changes. As part of the expansion, PVN added a third kitchen to its 65-acre property, allowing for more everyday options to be served in the campus’s nearly 20 dining locations. The biggest menu updates took place in the main dining room, where Cummins and Executive Chef Kevin Neff expanded the five-week menu cycle to include a selection of upscale signature specials—many made with produce that was grown locally. “With those offerings, the menu increased from three choices to 22 choices on a daily basis,” Cummins says.
Today, guests can choose from healthy options like pan-seared salmon or turkey bacon avocado club sandwiches on whole wheat. And when they’re in the mood to indulge? There’s steakhouse-style New York strip, rib-eye or tenderloin topped with demi-glazed mushrooms, as well as the kale Caesar salad with sliced tenderloin steak, blue cheese crumbles and tobacco onions. In addition to the signature items, there’s also a rotating list of specials—including al pastor grass-fed beef burgers with grilled pineapple and guacamole, wild-caught salmon with local watercress broth, and pork roast with fig and port wine reduction.
For a quick bite, guests can head to the café for Reuben and French dip sandwiches on bakery-fresh bread. On Wednesdays, Chef Neff and his team host Build Your Own Grass-Fed Burger events on the café patio, where burgers are grilled to order and washed down with ice-cold beer. There are healthier options, too. “We have several nutritionists who are living here, as well as other residents who are pursuing a more health-conscious diet,” Cummins says. So he and Neff added 20 lighter choices including kale salad with smoked salmon and feta, a quiche and salad or soup combo and a variety of fresh fruit smoothies.
The al pastor burger made with grass-fed beef.
Nutrition wasn’t a primary driving factor of the new menu items overall, though. Instead, it was creating a restaurant-quality experience—and giving guests the option to make dietary decisions for themselves. “We do have a full-time dietitian on staff, so we do get her input,” Cummins says. “But we wanted to keep it as upscale as possible and not compromise the flavor or the taste.” Neff and his team do take care to avoid using unnecessary amounts of salt, though, by relying heavily on fresh herbs and spices.
More changes are on the way, too. PVN is in the process of adding a full-service, 24-hour micro market where guests (as well as staff) can help themselves to hot and cold to-go offerings including sandwiches and snacks. “That way, there are dining options available at all times,” says Cummins.
Even so, residents are already delighted with the bevy of fresh offerings. “They’re just overwhelmed by the variety,” Cummins says. There’s been a noted uptick in the number of family members and guests coming to dine with residents, too. “We’re seeing a lot more participation at our Sunday brunches and our holiday events,” says Cummins. (And speaking of holidays, big turnouts are expected for Thanksgiving, where residents and their guests will be treated to whole-roasted turkeys garnished with sugar-coated champagne grapes.)
And while making guests happy is PVN’s primary goal, the new food options have the added benefit of making the facility stand out from the growing crowd of senior living communities. “The new offerings make us more competitive, without a doubt,” Cummins says. “We’re always striving to take our service and hospitality to the next level. And I think we’ve done it.”