The Barn at UC Riverside has opened its main restaurant for indoor dining.
It’s the latest step in a gradual reopening of the iconic campus dining and entertainment venue since a renovation and expansion project was completed in April 2020.
Over the summer, the main restaurant opened to customers during the same afternoon and evening hours as the outdoor Patio Bar, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Eventually, Dining Services hopes to extend hours and serve lunch before the end of the fall quarter, although an exact date has not yet been determined.
For many on campus, it has been their first opportunity to get the full dining experience at the improved facility.
“Opening up the indoor dining room is a huge win for us after COVID,” said Patricia Ramos, manager of the Stable and events at the Barn. “We’re excited for the forward momentum.”
The new Barn opened its doors in July 2020, a few months after the pandemic began when much of the campus community was studying and working off campus. It later closed due to operating losses.
In fall 2021, it opened its outdoor Patio Bar, serving drinks and appetizers during the afternoon and evening hours. Later, it also opened the Stable dining lounge, providing a more upscale, indoor alternative.
And this past spring, the Barn hosted its first concert in seven years, kicking off a regular series of happy hour shows on its new outdoor stage.
The gradual reopening was due to staffing shortages, Over the past year, Dining Services has been rebuilding its staff, concentrating first on its residential restaurants before expanding to its other venues, said Moses Preciado, a senior manager with Dining Services.
“We’re in a better place than we were last year,” he said.
In May, Dining Services hired Sean Layne as a culinary manager and chef at the Barn, allowing them to create a more robust menu beyond appetizers that were served at the Patio Bar, Ramos said.
Culinary staff, who had been preparing food in the kitchen at the Stable, moved to the larger kitchen at the Barn restaurant, adding dishes like cheeseburgers, sandwiches, and salads to the menu. They’ve also created rotating weekly specials such as a banh mi chicken salad and brisket melt. For the weekend before Labor Day, they offered a build-your-own barbecue pack.
For now, all menu items are available at the Grill station, one of four dining counters at the restaurant.
“We can accommodate a diverse menu out of the station,” Layne said.
The Barn will kick off its fall concert series on Sept. 29 with singer-songwriter Tim Apple. Shows will continue biweekly, featuring a mix of local and student artists. Free tickets are available at the Barn’s ticketing site.