The Meatball Obsession stand outside of Lower dining hall was torn down Tuesday morning—much to the dismay of many students, who mourned the loss on social media and at a makeshift candlelit vigil on Wednesday night.
“The Shack”—as Dining Services calls it—came into being in 1994, when the dining hall on Lower Campus first opened up, according to Megan O’Neill, the associate director of Restaurant Operations for BC Dining.
The structure was originally used as an information booth for the University. But within a couple of months after the opening, it was offered up to Dining Services, who accepted it and converted it into “Beans, Creams, and Dreams.” The “beans” in the name referred to the iced coffee that was served and the “creams,” ice cream novelties.
“It wasn’t any great menu,” O’Neill said. “We kept trying to tweak the menu, but we’ve never found anything that really worked out there. We’ve had students approach us over the years of starting a business and running it out there, but we couldn’t because of safety.”
There were some problems with The Shack, said O’Neill, that made the conditions inside rarely conducive to food service. For one, it had no heat or air conditioning. It was also made out of metal, meaning it would get very hot or cold inside depending on the weather.
“Over the years, we’ve tried to make it more user friendly,” O’Neill said. “But as students know, and they joke about … it’s never open.”
Another obstacle in The Shack’s way was that it couldn’t be opened until the weather was warm enough for BC to turn the water on without the pipes freezing, which wouldn’t be until March or April, depending on the year. The water would then be turned off in September or October, meaning there was only a short window during which The Shack could be used, O’Neill said.
“It’s a great place, but it was not the right structure for out there,” she said.
Dining Services typically opened The Shack on Marathon Monday and occasional days in the spring. It would also open during the summer, because Lower would close during those months.
But come fall, when students would return to campus and Lower would get busy again, Dining had a hard time justifying keeping The Shack open.
“To put someone outside didn’t make sense, right? Because then we would have even longer lines,” O’Neill said. “So it was invariably not open when students were here.”
The Shack hasn’t been open since the summer of 2017—it wasn’t opened this past Marathon Monday because it was pouring rain, and Addie’s was open this summer, so The Shack stayed closed.
BC rebranded the structure to Meatball Obsession in 2014. The New York-based company, started by the members of the Mancini family, sells beef, turkey, and sausage meatballs made with their grandma’s recipe, according to its website.
“It was an easy product for us to sell—the students love them—but we didn’t get enough customers,” O’Neill said. “We’d get maybe 20 customers a day, and that’s not enough to keep anything open.”
Boston College was already planning on removing The Shack this summer, O’Neill said, since the University is considering remodeling Corcoran Plaza.
“It’s been sitting out there, it’s an eyesore, kids are always asking when are you going to open it,” O’Neill said. “It was kind of the joke of the campus and Dining Services. And so they’re looking at redoing the plaza this summer potentially. One of the biggest complaints we get … from students in this building is they want more seating outside.”
O’Neill pointed out that during the spring and on nice days in the fall, students will sit around the wall and on the ground in the plaza. She talked to Facilities Services, which was open to the idea of adding more seating students can use.
While the removal was scheduled for this summer, Facilities ended up taking it down early, simply because they found an opening in its schedule.
“Literally I got a call [Tuesday] morning that said, ‘We can take it today,’” O’Neill said. “I’m like, ‘Go for it.’ So they took it down.”
O’Neill said she was sorry students were sad to see such an iconic structure go.
“You know, we hate to crush their dreams,” she said. “Come spring, hopefully you see more tables and chairs out there, and people will be thrilled … So we’ll try and figure out what we can do out there … to, you know, bring the love back from the student population.”
O’Neill pointed out that many students have been saying their beloved meatballs are gone, when in fact, Meatball Obsession is served every night for dinner and at Late Night at Addie’s and has not been served in The Shack in over a year.
“Have no fear—the meatballs are still here,” she said.
A Facebook event titled “Meatball Obsession Candlelit Vigil” circulated around Facebook on Tuesday and Wednesday, with over 1,000 people saying they were going to or interested in the event.
“A candlelight vigil in memory of Meatball Obsession, gone but not forgotten,” the description read. “In lieu of flowers, please bring Addies meatballs as a gesture of solidarity. We ask that you please be sensitive of the Meatball Obsession family’s privacy at this time. Black tie optional.”
On the evening itself, a crowd of roughly 20 students assembled at the spot where The Shack used to sit. They remembered the “meat hut” with “Candle in the Wind,” “Taps,” and an “On Top of Spaghetti” sing-along.
“For five years, [Meatball Obsession] served the Boston College community selflessly, diligently, and, above all else, inconsistently,” said Brendan Barnard, one of the organizers of the vigil and MCAS ’21. “It was a uniting force among both sides of the aisle—that is meat eaters and vegetarians alike. But sadly, all good things must come to an end.”
“Though I never got to see it open in my two years here at Boston College, its presence was such a steady force in my life,” said Cole Hammers, another organizer and CSOM ’21. “I walked past it, I walked near it, I looked at it. And though it’s no longer with us, I think it will live on forever, through us—the meatball obsessed.”
Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Editor