Before the times of Peirce Express and rumors about the opening of a student-run bar, Kenyon offered another distinguished dining option: sushi at the bottom of the Hill. In April 2006, the Collegian announced the arrival of a new cafe in the Lowry Center, then called the Kenyon Athletic Center (KAC). A small institution run by AVI Fresh, Xtraction cafe served sushi, juice, sandwiches and other healthy food options for students and gym-goers in what is now the meeting room on the first floor.
The variety of foods on the menu was meant to promote healthy eating, according to Chief Business Manager Dave McConnell. The station was designed for the convenience of the student body: The menu selections reflected input from student surveys and accepted K-Cards as a form of payment. The food venue also sold workout gear, such as swim caps and goggles.
The quirky food station drew people to the gym, according to News Director and Writer David Hoyt ’14, who works in Kenyon’s Office of Communications. “I can say the cafe was a nice motivation for the more workout-averse to visit the KAC because it provided the opportunity to give yourself a treat after your visit,” Hoyt wrote in an email to the Collegian. “It was also quirky, novel and incongruous enough to be kind of a bizarre ‘fun fact’ to share about Kenyon — ‘Why, of course one of the newest and fanciest college athletic centers in the country comes equipped with a sushi bar, doesn’t yours have one?’”
Xtraction was also a favorite lunch spot for those who frequented the Lowry Center, including Assistant Athletics Director for Fitness and Recreation Emily Heithaus. In addition to the tasty sashimi, she remembers the cafe as a hub for developing community connections. “I just really liked it. You’d grab lunch and sit down with people and everybody eats together and it was really nice,” she said. “And I also miss the people who worked in the cafe. I know at least one of them still works up at AVI, and I see her every once in a while and she always always asks how my kid is. So it brought lasting relationships, which was another really nice but unexpected benefit.” Heithaus hopes to see more healthy or plant-based food options on campus, whether for fueling athletic or academic performance among members of the student body.
It was certainly an amusing topic of conversation for community members. In a February 2012 issue of the Kenyon Thrill, the sushi bar was named the number one worst place to break up publicly at Kenyon: “Everyone loves the Xtraction Cafe, but nobody loves having sushi flung in their face.”
While unsure of when the cafe closed, Ryan Summers, the resident director for AVI Fresh at Kenyon, believes the cafe eventually closed because it wasn’t bringing in enough business, according to an email he wrote to the Collegian.
“I would love it if something came back here. I really doubt that it’s possible though, just with the fact that they have to make enough money in order to pay the employees and everything,” Heithaus said. “So, you know, I don’t know that it would be feasible for something like that to come back, but I wouldn’t mind having sushi.”
Those in search of a quick grab-and-go meal style similar to the cafe can now eat at Peirce Express, which opened for students two weeks ago on the north side of campus. To Heithaus and other community members, though, Xtraction is remembered fondly for bringing charm to the community and sashimi to residents in the landlocked state.
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