Because of its name and history, many people didn’t realize the LSU Faculty Club restaurant is open to the public as well as the entire campus community. Its staff is hoping its transition to The Club at LSU Union Square as a fine dining destination for both lunch and dinner will solve the problem.
“The name was changed so people would realize it’s not only for faculty,” said Jon Jackson, executive chef of The Club at LSU Union Square and Retail/Catering for LSU Dining by Chartwells.
Its new name comes from its location at Highland Road and Raphael Semmes Road, in the heart of the area of campus being promoted as LSU Union Square. That area, bounded by Dalrymple Drive, Tower Drive, East Campus Drive and South Campus Drive, will include a new five-story, 750-vehicle parking garage scheduled to be completed in about a year. The parking garage will be available to the restaurant’s dinner guests, who now have access to a small metered parking lot behind the club.
Jackson, 50, of Baton Rouge, graduated in 1992 from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and holds a degree in restaurant management from Baltimore International Culinary College. He has worked as a sous chef at the City Club, worked with John Folse at White Oak Plantation and with Gerard Maras at Mr. B’s Bistro in New Orleans.
Jackson has been affiliated for 14 years with the LSU restaurant, which is run by LSU Dining, a contracted service operated by Chartwells Higher Education, a division of Compass Group.
“Only an à la carte lunch was here from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday,” he said. “We also offered catering” for such events as weddings, banquets and breakfasts. “Now, we will be open from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, excluding game days.”
On LSU football game days, The Club at LSU Union Square will be open as The Game Day Oasis. Reservations are preferred.
“We’ll be open from noon to an hour before kickoff,” Jackson said. “It’ll be more of a casual setting with fresh pastries, sandwiches, corned beef, hamburgers, quick foods, and the bar will be open.”
The evening menu, operating under the banner “Repas le Soir,” “embodies the rich culinary heritage of Louisiana within the classic charm and tradition of LSU,” said Dean Samuels, marketing director for LSU dining by Chartwells.
With its new Thursday, Friday and Saturday night service, the restaurant’s kitchen staff increased from seven to 11 people who rotate lunch and night hours, said Jonathan Miller, director of The Club at LSU Union Square who handles day-to-day operations.
Fifteen students work in the restaurant during lunch and dinner, and 65 students work with catering.
Terry McDonner, retired executive chef of Juban’s Restaurant, is chef de cuisine for lunch; Cody Grosshart is the chef de cuisine for night service.
The new dinner menu “is a collaboration of all the chefs,” Jackson said. “Everyone was fighting to get their ideas accepted. We offer five center-of-the-plate specials every night and 10 regular entrees.”
The lunch menu changes seasonally.
Among the new dishes is scallops caramelized on fennel and onion served with a sweet potato puré e and saffron beurre blanc. The scallops dish will be on the menu all the time, Jackson said, but the restaurant will run a specials menu every night along with the static menu. A recent special was a New York strip topped with heirloom tomatoes with a pearl onion chimichurri and roasted potatoes.
The facility has seating for 164 people, Jackson said. Of that, 116 can be seated in what is now the main dining room.
“The original main dining room is now used as an auxiliary dining room,” he said. “It originally was exclusively for Faculty Club members.”
About 40 professors began the LSU Faculty Club as a social club in 1927 shortly after LSU moved its campus from what is now the location of the State Capitol, according to a club history written by charter member Harold T. Barr in 1982. Construction on the Faculty Club building began in 1938 and was completed in 1939. It housed a dining room, dormitory, lounge, library and rooms for billiards, pool and ping-pong.
The Faculty Club building and land were transferred back to LSU by 1964, when the upstairs was refurnished and used for a few years as a graduate dorm for women, according to Barr.
The history is unclear on when the club actually began offering meals to nonmembers and townspeople, but Barr said an experienced chef was hired in 1980.
Jackson said when he was hired by LSU Dining by Chartwells, “I went up before the Faculty Club Inc. board, which is a social organization independent of this facility.”
“Presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter dined here; (Great Britain’s Prime Minister) Margaret Thatcher dined here,” Jackson said. “I fed Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia here about five or six years ago. He was very nice. He sent me a signed photo.”
“I know how to put out good food. Being consistent on food is a hard job … I want to put out big food.”
To learn more about The Club at LSU Union Square, go to www.lsudining.com or search for the restaurant on Facebook. Call (225) 578-2356 for reservations for lunch or dinner.