Circus Lunch

Author: Jamie Reidy ’92

The collegiate culinary experience trails possibly only airline food (when airlines served food) in public disparaging. Notre Dame’s two dining halls are no exception. But one ND tradition did cut the mustard: Circus Lunch.

“My absolute favorite day!” Holy Cross Hall resident Buddy Leo ’92 raved in an email. His roommate Phil Sheridan ’92 agreed. “They really went all in. I loved that lunch.”

Once per semester, workers transformed the dining halls into pseudo-circus tents, complete with balloons and banners. The show did not stop there. Employees scanning IDs at the entrance and serving on the food lines dressed up as clowns with face paint, baggy clothes, red noses, crazy wigs, over-sized shoes — the works.

Nowadays, the news would spread across campus instantly on Twitter and Facebook. But back then, the quickest way to know today was Circus Lunch was to spot the tell tale smiles of the students exiting the dining hall. Oh, and the cotton candy in their hands.

Yes, the menu featured the kind of unhealthy food and treats for which kids clamor at the circus. Double Domer Burgers, corn dogs, and a potato treat, as well. “I specifically recall curly fries,” Walsh Hall resident Kath Salvaty ’92 said, beaming at the memory.

Naturally, sugary delights took center ring, with Twinkies and circus peanuts joining the aforementioned cotton candy. For fans of saltier fare, popcorn machines popped hot kernels.

Most kids fall asleep in the car on the way home from the circus, exhausted from the spectacle. Notre Dame’s Circus Lunch was no exception. “I remember the ultimate food coma that would last a good four to five hours afterwards,” Keenan Hall resident Kevin Bailie ’92 admitted.