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A Delicious Slice of Local Color

By Eleni Zaninovich

IMC Student


Photo by Eleni Zaninovich

Dennis Van Oostendorp puts his life and love into his restaurant, Luv Shak Bagels. 

A devotee of rock music and food fanatic who’ll be friends with you as long as you can keep up with him, he is a rare soul who connects with the people who walk up to order without even trying. A rare soul who’s never tried to be anyone he’s not. 

Photo by Mark Dolan

Nestled behind other restaurants and businesses on West Oxford Loop, the Luv Shak is a home to originality and quirkiness. Step inside and you enter a time machine. 

Nostalgia rushes through your veins as you see the 1970s style brown paneled walls, graffitied with the names of customers who’ve waited in this crowded room of hungry 20-somethings.

His love for the students, the youth of Oxford and the spunk of those who can keep up with his fast-paced lingo is what attracts the students who come back week after week.

“Dennis is the man.” says Arnie Coritana, a senior at Ole Miss who frequents the shack every Sunday with his best friends.

Van Oostendorp will tell you what’s wrong with today’s music as he’s making your fresh bagel sandwich that you’ve waited in line for.

“Can you believe they’re charging me monthly to have this TV screen on the wall?” he asks. “I paid for this. Why should I have to pay a fee?”

This May he will be in Mississippi for 12 years with the Luv Shak being present for seven, growing into what it is today.

 You come here for the bagels, but you also come to hear Van Oostendorp. He’s a treasure of one-liners and offhand humor, moving from topic to topic, almost a stream-of-consciousness. 

“Twenty years from now that music you listen to, you’re gonna be like phfft. Twenty years ago, for us, I mean, Bruce Springsteen came out with The Rising. It’s 22-years-old and I still consider it new work. That to me, is still new Bruce.” 

Photo by Mark Dolan

Van Oostendorp, 60, grew up on the New York City side of the Washington Bridge. He values good friendships, good people and being honest with yourself, be it your good or bad self. 

His musical journey started at a young age, playing classical violin, which he abandoned over time when he realized no rock stars played violin. He later regretted it once violinists started to pop up in rock bands over the decades. His father played in a polka band when Oostendorp was growing up. And while he appreciates all music, rock is the best genre of all time, he emphasizes. 

Stepping into the Luv Shak, you feel like you’ve been here before, and perhaps you feel like you were born in the wrong generation – a feeling you’ve never experienced in real life, only through the recollections of others. 

Here you are, in a living past, but with people your own age, and Van Oostendorp as guide. It reminds you of the hangout spot in Dazed and Confused or the mall in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. You’ve never been so happy to see a pinball machine in your life.

Framed posters from groups like the Dave Matthews Band decorate the walls, along with names of countless patrons, tattooed by Sharpies. “Rocket Man” by Elton John is playing, followed by Johnny Cash’s “Jackson” and then the sweet, sweet vocals of Stevie Nicks. 

As the sun comes in, merging with rainbow LED lights that surround the room, you take a seat at one of the old tables that seem straight out of a 1980s pizza parlor, with dozens of concert tickets under glass. Everywhere you look are ticket stubs, from rock shows to World Cup soccer. The sun has lightened the ink from most of the tickets that most likely were printed from a fax printer decades ago, he explains.

As you finally reach the counter to order a bagel sandwich, you can’t wait to see what words of wisdom Van Oostendorp will speak today. Without even leaving Mississippi you feel like you’ve just gotten off the Washington Bridge in New York, talking to your dad’s old buddy from college. Even if you’ve never had one of those, you feel at home.

Students are drawn to Van Oostendorp’s witty demeanor because he doesn’t sugarcoat life, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a negative conversation. He doesn’t mean to be full of wisdom, he just is. He offers opinions on everything, and whether you agree or disagree he’ll still think you’re cool because, he says, not everyone thinks the same.

“I don’t do microwaves. I’ve never cooked with one. I won’t,” Van Oostendorp offers in another stream-of-consciousness aside. “That’s the way it is. Anyways, my all-time favorite concert? Well, I saw Zeppelin. They’re my favorite, and to me it’s number one in a way.”

What students might see as just a collection of random antics, vintage posters and photos are Van Oostendorp’s intention to create a vibe, his vibe, just him being genuinely himself with the things he likes. 

“Yeah, but none of it is really old. When you make something too clean that’s the problem. People don’t understand that today” Van Oostendorp explains. “They think you have to, on all levels, have all kinds of things that have no value, even in their houses, and they don’t touch it. You should be able to put your feet on the couch. If you can’t, you got the wrong couch.”

When asked a more sentimental question about what he loves about Luv Shak and his job, Van Oostendorp pauses before saying, “Cool people…and annoying professors.”

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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