Pilot House has become a hot spot for a late night snack, providing an alternate option to Ike’s. Photo By Peter Flint

Recession or not, business is booming at The Pilot House.

“Anywhere from 300 to maybe 400 students come through here on a busy night,” said Dee Dee Daye, the unit manager at Pilot House. “Thursday, Friday and Saturday are our busiest nights.”

Pilot House opened at the beginning of the semester, offering an alternative option to Ike’s, the other late night dining option on campus. Located next to Hampton Roads and Northern Neck, late night hunger pangs no longer mean a 10-minute walk for many of the residential students who live outside of Presidents Park.

“Pilot House had been in the works for years,” said Denise Ammaccapane, the resident district manager for Mason Dining. “They [the university] were concerned about all the new dorms and needing a late night place to eat on this side of campus.”

Ammaccapane said that as the idea evolved and Southside became busier, it was decided that Pilot House should also serve dinner. Pilot House has helped to ease the strain on Southside, Ammaccapane said.

Ammaccapane said Mason has a naming committee which names all of the restaurants on campus. Since the front of the building resembles the bridge of a ship, and many of the dorms near Pilot House are named after areas that are close to bodies of water, the naming committee decided on Pilot House.

“Students love Pilot House,” Daye said. “They love the food choice. They like the quality that they get and the amount of food that’s served for the dollar.”

Daye said Pilot House offers seafood choices that cannot be found anywhere else on campus.

“I come to Pilot House fairly often,” said Michael Kolakowski, a sophomore theatre major. “I think it’s a very good addition to the campus.”

In addition, it is the only place on campus that serves traditional pizza.

“When we looked at what was going to be our main feature, we decided it should be pizza,” Ammaccapane said. “We didn’t have traditional pizza ovens anywhere on campus. Being a New Jersey person, you can’t find good pizza in Virginia, so let’s make pizza a mainstay.”

“One of our best pizza makers is a student,” Ammaccapane said. “She had never made pizza before, and now she can throw pizza dough in the air and catch it to stretch it out.”

Many of the employees at Pilot House are Mason students.

Freshman Nate Lorence has worked at Pilot House since its opening.

“I think the students love it,” Lorence said. “It’s very busy, and people come here a lot.”

Lorence said the restaurant was forced to shut down on its first night since it ran out of food.

Starting in January, students who live on campus will be able to order pizza via strategically placed e-kiosks and have it delivered to their residences, Ammaccapane said. She said there are already students lined up to deliver pizza. The service would also cater to Masonvale.

Daye said the restaurant will soon begin to serve daily and weekly specials, such as a popcorn fish sandwich.

While the restaurant could serve food similar to what is offered at other campus locations, Ammaccapane said it was important to have a unique menu so that Pilot House would become a destination for students.

New lighted menu boards will be installed behind the counter in the coming months. The current menu is printed in ink and hung on a window near the front door.

Ammaccapane said many lessons were learned from Ike’s. Ike’s is set up so that when the food is ready, students approach a counter and pick it up. Ammaccapane said that this arrangement leads to confusion at the counter, with students congregating at the pick-up area.

Pilot House gives students numbered tags, which are then displayed at the table so that wait staff know where to deliver the food.

Pilot House also features live music, with a first concert that drew a huge crowd.

“We had people ordering four or five pizzas at a time,” Ammaccapane said.

There are more outdoor concerts planned in the coming weeks.

Ammaccapane invites any student with questions or bands interested in performing to contact her at dammacca@gmu.edu so that performance dates can be set up.