“Frips and a pickle?” can be heard many times over on days when the beloved New England Classic is available at Hillside Cafe. The New England Classic’s journey into the hearts—and stomachs—of customers began as a mere suggestion from a member of the Boston College Dining team, who had eaten a variation of the sandwich at a restaurant in Vermont.
By borrowing ideas from different sources in New England and using locally produced ingredients, BC Dining created the version of the New England Classic that its customers know today.
Hillside opened in 2002 with a fresh menu of specialty sandwiches as part of an initiative from BC Dining to introduce more variety into campus dining. The Hillside menu has not changed much over the past 13 years, with 85 percent of the original menu items still being offered, including the New England Classic. Hillside was the first location to offer the sandwich, and the New England Classic’s popularity has persisted to this day.
“I always thought it would be popular, but I never thought it would sustain that popularity,” said Megan O’Neill, associate director of BC Dining, in regards to the continued demand for the sandwich.
While different versions of the New England Classic are served in many locations throughout New England, all of the variations share many common ingredients such as smoked turkey, cheddar cheese, honey mustard, and Granny Smith apple slices, served as a pressed panini with a side of chips and a pickle.
BC Dining added its own twist to the sandwich by using cranberry bread and frips to add bold flavors to the already appealing dish. “We sell through all of them,” said Mark Judd, assistant manager of Hillside, who noted that over 200 sandwiches are prepared and sold on the days they are available.
With the success of the New England Classic in Hillside, BC Dining planned to bring Hillside items to other dining locations and continue to offer variety to campus dining.
The sandwich was first introduced to Stuart Dining Hall on Newton Campus six years ago in order to accommodate law students and freshmen who could not easily get to Hillside, and has remained on the menu ever since.
When Hillside was removed from the mandatory meal plan, BC Dining sought to find a location that could both serve the New England Classic and accept the mandatory meal plan, eventually designating Eagles Nest to serve the sandwich.
The sandwich’s tenure at Eagles was short-lived, however, as the popularity that had propelled it to other locations on campus was unable to give it a foothold at Eagles. Only about 50 of the location’s daily 1500 customers, approximately 3 percent, ordered the sandwich on the days it was available.
Beginning this semester, the former New England Classic station has been replaced with a second Green It station in order to keep up with student demand for the more popular dining option.
Currently, BC Dining is working on new dinner items to add to the menus of Corcoran Commons, McElroy, and Stuart Dining Halls. “When we look at new concepts, we always try to do something fun and different,” O’Neill said. Chefs constantly create new sandwiches and offer them on a rotating schedule, with BC Dining encouraging all customers to provide feedback to help improve the menu.
It seems that no sandwich will ever be able to compete with the humble Classic, however. Originating in New England and handcrafted using only local ingredients, the simple New England Classic has become a classic part of the BC Dining experience.
Featured Image by Breck Wills / Heights Graphic