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Stanford Report, January 19, 2000

CoHo gets upscale upgrade; Pollo Rey turns into Treehouse


Wide-open spaces, swifter service and safer chairs are among the new features of the newly reopened Stanford Coffee House, which along with the former Pollo Rey has a new look this quarter.

Instead of the dark and wending environment of the past, the new CoHo aims for an "industrial feel" with its lighter-colored walls, purple carpet, mauve countertops and an expanded printed menu.

"Prices went up less than 10 cents on average," said Matthew Almeida, general manager of Bon Appétit Management Co., the contractor for Tresidder Union's eateries.

The CoHo also has a new manager, Melody Lambelet, formerly with one of Bon Appétit's clients in Scotts Valley. The restaurant still operates with 15 permanent staff members and 25 students. It is open from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.

The renovation of the Coffee House was needed in order to bring the restaurant into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. At the service area, the previously 42-inch counter has been replaced with a 34-inch one that now adheres to ADA code.

There is still seating for 167 people, but the chairs are now black, wooden and stable. "Too many of the old chairs were broken," Almeida said.

Also new is a 61-inch television set purchased by an anonymous donor.

The main ordering station is on the White Plaza entrance side. From that approach, customers will pay first and proceed along to the sandwich-making area and the beverage station. "We've cut our service time by about 40 percent. It now takes about six minutes instead of 11," Almeida said.

Another beverage-ordering station on Tresidder's back patio side will be opened for special events or when it's very busy.

The Coffee House now is offering Starbucks coffee, but other popular items, such as the Classic Cardinal Sandwich, still are available.

Interior improvements extend to the kitchen, which now has a walk-in cooler, ventilation, built-in dishwasher and five sinks -- and is also now up to code. "There were wires hanging everywhere," Almeida said.

The grand opening was Thursday for the Coffee House, whose original Sept. 7 reopening date was set back because of the permit process. To date, the price tag for the project, a joint effort of Bon Appétit and the Stanford Management Co., has been about $300,000.

The Treehouse

There still are changes to come at the Treehouse, formerly El Pollo Rey, but the differences are obvious to a couple of regulars fond of the previous setup.

"It is so Americanized," noted Ruth Burciaga, the assistant director of financial aid at the Law School. "It went from Mexico . . . to honky-tonk."

Burciaga misses the oversized jars of fruit beverages and the south of the border décor, such as the gaily painted wooden chairs that have been replaced with the same simple black wooden ones now in CoHo. Her lunch companion, Margarita Ibarra, misses the mashed potatoes and rotisserie chicken of the former menu. Poultry now is barbecued on a grill.

"The concept changed," noted Saul Alvarez, a longtime manager of the now privately owned spin-off restaurant that up until a year ago was part of the Una Mas!/Pollo Rey chain. Mexican food still occupies a prominent part of the menu, which now includes hamburgers.

"Our goal was to improve the food," said catering coordinator Erick Guzman, adding that ground choice sirloin, instead of frozen meat, goes into the burger patties. In addition, the ingredients for salsas are hand cut, Guzman said. The staff of 15 permanent employees is assisted by about six students.

A contest coordinated with the Associated Students of Stanford University determined the new restaurant's name, which features the Stanford tree in its logo.

The Treehouse also extended its hours and is now open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. SR