The Hurricane Food Court at lunchtime is swarmed with students and faculty, a hive buzzing with the anticipation of hunger about to be sated.
As a refuge for the hungry masses that pass through campus from noon until night, the food court has always been a popular mainstay of the University of Miami’s dining culture.
This year, small shifts and clever tweaks have been administered to the menus of almost every dining outlet in the Chartwells program.
Aside from Sushi Maki, changes have not been grounded in replacing the established eateries with new companies; instead it is the offerings and prices of the existing places that have been refurbished. The abundance of food types and flavors continuously gives students the opportunity to either try new things or stick with old favorites.
“I like coming to the food court for its variety; if I’m in the mood for ethnic food I do Salsarita’s, or if I want a big salad I go to Market Square,” sophomore Bianca Falcone said. “I’m a vegetarian so it’s important that there are a lot of non-meat options.”
Salads and health foods have always been a popular preference for health-conscious Miami, but even the calorie counters can head to Niko’s for their salads and sandwiches with a “twist.” Niko’s sub sandwich offerings have been a recent addition, as well as the same combo option that has been included at Salsarita’s: adding a drink and small side for $1.99 extra.
“Niko’s is amazing,” junior Theresa Tarzia said. “It feels like I’m eating healthy, but there’s still the taste of that warm, cheesy bread underneath my salad.”
Another student, Adam Rashap, said, “The Panini bread is really good, and the ingredients are so fresh.”
Panda Express has also taken on a healthy initiative with its new “Wok Smart” option: portioned meals (including classics like beef and broccoli) that are all less than 250 calories. The food is the same, but the packaging and prices have been reformed for the benefit of students.
“I love Panda Express,” freshman Zeyu Feng said. “I come twice a week, and I like that I can choose to get either a big or small portion.”
Oasis and Sbarro, located in the UC, have seen a shift in their menus too. Sbarro has new additions to its Daily Specials, with different pizza toppings and tasty sides such as mini chicken wings. Oasis continues to be a popular student and family locale because of its quiet atmosphere and all day breakfast, lunch, and dinner options.
“I’m a vegan, so I’ve had hummus on a pita here,” Jessica Hall, an Oasis frequenter, said. “It’s actually a great place to come eat and study.”
Eli Benhamou, the kosher supervisor at Oasis, has noted the progress of the “all day” breakfast and inclusion of “bundles” – lunch and dinner pairings priced at $4.95.
“The bundle is popular right now; it’s a consistent seller for the afternoon and evening rush,” Benhamou said. “The all-day breakfast and special of the day options have been successful so far, as well.”
Mel Tenen, Vice President of Auxiliary Services, maintains that the menu facelifts for the food court and UC eateries have lent to a rise in profits and overall student satisfaction.
“In this difficult economy, sales are still strong,” Tenen said.