New Coffman restaurant puts emphasis on diversity, sustainability

Meta Flavors uses student votes to decide on its menu each month.

The current installment of the new Coffman restaurant Meta Flavors, Tavolino, as seen on Monday, Jan. 29. The new restaurant's format uses student polling to decide which menu it will carry each month.

Maddy Fox

The current installment of the new Coffman restaurant Meta Flavors, Tavolino, as seen on Monday, Jan. 29. The new restaurant’s format uses student polling to decide which menu it will carry each month.

Max Chao

A new restaurant on the University of Minnesota campus brings diverse food options and a rotating menu, all controlled by the student body.

On Jan. 16, the University launched Meta Flavors on the ground floor of Coffman Memorial Union. The restaurant uses student polling to decide which menu it will carry each month. 

The name “Meta Flavors” is meant to show the restaurant’s constant metamorphosis, said Chris Elrod, district marketing manager for M Dining.

The restaurant has 10 to 15 planned menus, which were deliberately curated to include a wide variety of cuisine, ranging from Indian to Mediterranean, Elrod said.

“All of our research is showing … Vietnamese, Indian, Korean and those types of foods [are] more appealing than ever before,” he said.

All menus have also been tailored to feature at least one vegetarian option, and include vegan and locally sourced ingredients in their dishes as much as possible, Elrod said. 

“In general, we’re seeing a bigger ask for these options,” he said “We know that’s important to the student, in addition to the ability to personalize and customize what is being offered.”

This focus is partially due to student response and input made by groups like the Minnesota Student Association, and a recently created student vegan team.

“As more and more people become vegan and vegetarian and care about that stuff, more places like this pop up, so that’s always good to see,” said junior Marina Kirkeide, president of vegan student group Compassionate Action for Animals.

MSA also played a role in distributing the voting survey, said James Farnsworth, campus life committee director for MSA.

The restaurant currently occupies the space in the Coffman food court previously held by Baja Sol, which abruptly went out of business in the middle of last semester, Elrod said.

Meta Flavors was created as a temporary solution until another long-term vendor can be found, he said. 

Though the University has received offers from other vendors for the space, Meta Flavors could see permanent implementation if its initial run is successful, Elrod said. 

The initial round of voting garnered over 2,400 votes from students, and the second week saw just under 1,900 votes. 

“We are seeing a lot of success … we’re very excited about the response that we’re getting and the information that it’s telling us,” Elrod said. 

The restaurant just completed its second week of operation as Tavolino, an Italian-themed menu specializing in pasta dishes. Students chose a ramen bar as the next concept, which will take over after Feb. 9.