Baked tilapia with asparagus and garlic mashed potatoes doesn’t sound like a typical hospital meal, but at Dodd Hall’s new cafe, it’s one of the chef’s specials.
Beginning Nov. 30, after a trial run on Thanksgiving, patients with disabilities caused by trauma, illness or diseases will dine out their rooms with other patients at Ernie’s Café.
David Crawford, senior director of media relations, said the cafe is named after Dr. Ernie Johnson, a professor of physical medicine.
Ernie’s Café will be open for dinner from 4:30 to 6:30 every night and will be open for lunch beginning in January.
Dodd Hall, located near Cannon Drive on Medical Center Drive, is typically home to patients for three to four weeks, said Lynne Genter, director of nursing.
Patients are out of their rooms for therapy but used to eat meals on trays in their rooms, she said.
Before the cafe opened, patients ordered their meals the night before, Genter said. Now they order from a menu at mealtime.
The new program moves patients to a different floor to eat in the cafe “with a Panera feel to it,” Genter said, explaining that the café has warm colors and wood furnishing to make it homey.
“It’s nice to get out of the room,” said Dennis McKay, a patient. “It builds a sense of community.”
In the past, food was prepared at another location then reheated at Dodd, Genter said. Now the food is cooked at Dodd.
McKay, who had eaten only two meals there, said he already loves the cafe.
If patients don’t like the chef’s special, they can order from a menu of dishes that are always available, said Mike Folino, assistant director of nutrition services.
Cheeseburgers, alfredo pasta with vegetables and chicken, and meatloaf are options on the fixed side of the menu.
There used to be a communal cafeteria in Dodd Hall, but when money got tight, it closed, Folino said. He wanted to bring that atmosphere back to the building.
Working with Genter and the nursing team since early 2008, Folino paired financial, labor and real estate resources to make the cafe happen, he said.
The space was renovated with the help of a food service consultant, Folino said. Renovations began in May, Folino said, and were completed this quarter.