By Carter Ottele

HSSC ATRIUM—In a bid to attract more users, the Data Analysis & Social Inquiry Lab (DASIL) has renamed itself “basil” and pivoted toward the food service industry. This transformation seeks to address the concern that the lab had gone unappreciated and underutilized by the student body.

“We now offer a wide selection of locally-grown, organically-produced options to students and faculty,” explains Jonah Fark, the owner of basil. “Our menu has options for our gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, vegetarian, and vegan friends. And if any meat-loving homo sapiens want something else? They can order an undercooked steak, provided that they consume it in the designated meat section of the restaurant.”

According to Fark, the idea for basil sprouted this April. Fark was discussing the long-term future of DASIL with his colleague, Leora Bolton, then the lab’s head data scientist. Both agreed that the situation called for “significant” changes so that Grinnell College would take full advantage of the lab’s opportunities.

“It was kinda sad,” Fark admitted, “to see how students would rather design bar charts on Google Docs with their personal laptops, than use our state-of-the-art, million-dollar resource. A group of humanities majors once stumbled into DASIL, and because of all the tumbleweeds, they freaked out and thought they’d time traveled to the Wild West.”

In an email, Leora Bolton concurred. “I mean, our 240-inch LED touchscreen is capable of visually representing what happens inside the event horizon of a black hole. But, most of the time, it displayed the Roku home screen. Oh, and sometimes a stats professor would use the screen to FaceTime his mistress in Estonia.”

The screen now serves as a menu board.

To complete the rebranding, basil has undergone extensive remodeling. According to the website, the new design tries to be “light,” “airy,” and “clearly too expensive.” Strings of lightbulbs hang over the main dining section. Customers now sit on stools, wooden benches, and industrial metal chairs that are physically uncomfortable and visually repulsive, yet somehow trendy. Interior designers have adorned the walls with houseplants and brightly-colored neon tube lights that spell out “quirky” phrases like “mmmm, good,” and “home is where my stomach is.”

After all, as a “proud millennial,” Fark aims to cater the restaurant toward his peer group: thirty year olds with generational angst, insurmountable student loan debt, and an appetite for the overpriced. “It’s an economic marvel,” says Fark. “When we raise prices, we actually draw more customers—even if the quality of the food stays the same.”

However, early reviews of basil have been mixed. On the review aggregator site Yelp, it currently holds a 3.7/5 stars. Positive reviews highlight the welcoming ambience and complimentary participation trophies. Meanwhile, some critics have complained that the restaurant failed to meet their expectations.

“I spent $12.50 on the lemon ginger spritz mocktail,” wrote one reviewer with the username ChickenWingSlut, “and it turned out to be MinuteMaid lemonade in a Mason jar with an unpeeled ginger root at the bottom.” ChickenWingSlut spoke highly of the pesto, however, praising it as “way better than it had any right to be.”

Another customer complained that their artisan microbrewed IPA was an open can of Bud Light found outside High St. The restaurant defended their choice as “sustainable.”

Looking forward, the owners of basil hope to open other locations around Grinnell. Possible stores include “ice,” a smoothie shop in the IGE, and “schmears,” a bagel shop in Mears Cottage.