What’s Up With: Sandella’s in DuSable?


Nyla Owens

The closed Sandella’s Flatbread Cafe sits empty with high top tables in front in the lobby of DuSable Hall. Sandella’s is projected to reopen under a new name in 2023. (Nyla Owens | Northern Star)

By Joseph Howerton, Video Editor

Editor’s note: This piece is part of  an investigative news series called “What’s Up With?” You can fill out the form for potential coverage of a topic here.

DeKALB – The Sandella’s Flatbread Cafe in DuSable Hall has been closed since 2020, the service window shuttered, seating tucked away and hidden from view by a row of vending machines.


Located in the front of DuSable Hall, Sandella’s is a cafe students could enjoy food at until March 2020 when NIU closed it due to the COVID-19 shutdown.

Dan Koenen, executive director for campus dining services, said the cafe has remained closed due to challenges in hiring full-time staff. Due to an increase in student workers in the past year, Koenen said it’s in campus dining’s plans to reopen Sandella’s under a new name in Fall 2023.

This decision stems from challenges in dining, or lack thereof, in the DuSable area.

“We have a lot of off campus students who commute who come to DuSable and classrooms in that area,” Koenen said. “So we (campus dining) definitely think there’s a big need to offer something.”

Koenen said Dining Services’ main concern reopening the former Sandella’s space is the ability to staff it, but said the Three Sons Bistro in Barsema Hall shows that dining spaces can still be run without full-time staff. This past year, the Three Sons Bistro has been successfully run by only student workers. Before this year, the dining area needed full-time workers to run.

“That (student workers) gives us optimism that we’d be able to do DuSable Sandella’s the same way,” Koenen said.

Koenen said he doubts the existing cafe area will still be branded as a Sandella’s. As for how the cafe space will be rebranded or changed is still in the planning phase, but Koenen said the new menu will resemble the Three Sons Bistro’s menu. Koenen said Dining Services is looking to improve its program and is still receiving feedback from students on what they would like to see.

“I think it’d be good if it (Sandella’s) opened because it’s a lounge for students,” said Mir Kirmani, a sophomore electrical engineering major. “Everyone just comes here and studies for a class so if this is open it’d be cool.”

Students who would like to give feedback to dining services or have questions on employment should visit the dining services contact page or email [email protected].