New food venues draw mixed opinions

by Peter Frost

Students will have some new and improved choices of where to grab their grub this fall.
In response to student complaints about boring, less-than-fresh and sometimes nauseating food in the dorms, University Dining Services opened three venues in the past week that students will hopefully find more palatable.
The new restaurants are as follows:
ù The Mediterranean, in Pioneer Hall, serves pasta, risotto, flatbreads and pizzas.
ù The Granary, in Middlebrook Hall, features a vegetarian/vegan menu with fresh produce as well as pita pocket and pannini sandwiches.
ù The Pasta Kitchen, on the Carlson School of Management’s lower level, has Italian-style entrees and pastas.
Dining service director Douglas Hubbard said he hopes the new restaurants will improve the lackluster reputation of dorm food.
“Our student boards help pick our menu, and we base all of our decisions in response to what our customers want,” Hubbard said.
At the new facilities, food is made fresh right in front of the students.
“It’s really pretty cool, and I think it’s a great idea,” said Arlo Horton, a Carlson School of Management junior and a community adviser in Territorial Hall.
“It looks like one of those corny cooking shows on TV where the chef just throws all of this stuff in a pan and tells you what she is doing step-by-step. It’s actually kind of funny,” Horton said.
Amanda Stemke, a Carlson School freshman, agreed, saying the food was “surprisingly very good.
“In general, the (Pioneer Hall) food makes me nauseous,” Stemke said. “All that I really eat in there is the soups, salads and bagels. The food is cold sometimes, too.”
Stemke said she likes that she now has another option and that basic improvements have been made: “The chef looked normal,” she said while at The Mediterranean in Pioneer Hall. “Some of the other people back there — I’m like, ‘gross, you’re touching my food?'”
But not everyone is as satisfied.
“That new pasta deal wasn’t really going for me,” said Luke Pederson, a College of Liberal Arts freshman. “They try to make it all exotic and crap, but it just didn’t taste right.”
Pederson said dorm food wasn’t that bad to begin with, except for the occasional meal he said he has to work to keep down.
Getting rid of those substandard meals is the dining service’s main concern in addition to providing more choices.
“Right now, one of the major student complaints is consistency. We really need to get meal quality at a high, consistent level — we can’t afford to have that occasional bad meal,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard said that staffing is a big issue in the food industry because keeping high-quality standards is difficult when managers are constantly training and adding new employees.
University Dining Services will survey students in October to gauge whether new restaurants have changed people’s sentiments for the better.

Peter Frost covers business and welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3215.