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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Local, cultural, modern: UM dining gets an upgrade

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The newly opened Tacos & Tattoos on UM’s campus offers a wide variety of Latin and Caribbean foods.
The newly opened Tacos & Tattoos on UM’s campus offers a wide variety of Latin and Caribbean foods. Photo credit: Contributed photo

From the replacement of Lime Fresh Mexican Grill with local, family-owned Tacos & Tattoos, to an influx of vending machines serving everything from cupcakes to coffee; University of Miami Dining has been working hard to revamp their dining options.

“This year I am all about activating spaces and creating gathering spaces,” said Ana Alvarez, assistant vice president for auxiliary services.

The most frequented of these new spaces will likely be the edgy yet charismatic Latin fusion restaurant Tacos & Tattoos. The newest addition to UM’s on-campus dining is located in the Whitten University Center. Marking the fourth location in their up-and-coming restaurant chain, owner Jonathan “Jay” Cruz could not be more thrilled to bring their sit-down style to the university setting.

“I am overjoyed to cook on campus,” Cruz said. “Finding out we would be moving to the university and being able to cook for the most prestigious school in our area while also being attached to the Miami community- it is the biggest thing I’ve done yet.”

First opened in 2014 within a modest shopping center, Tacos & Tattoos has expanded its capacity to seat over 500 customers all without losing the heart and passion that brought their first location so much success. Cruz attributes the restaurant’s success to their continued emphasis on family values and Latin culture from which the food originated.

“This entire concept is derived from our travels, the culture we live within and the recipes we cherish which are recipes we have had close to our family for a long time,” Cruz said. “It’s just a good home grown organic product.”

It was this authentic and local approach that registered so well within the UM community and secured the spot for Tacos & Tattoos over national brand Qdoba.

“They love the university because they are local. So, who better to represent and bring in that feel and flavor?” said Alvarez.

As their slogan “Food & Culture” would suggest, culture is just as much a part of the Tacos & Tattoos experience as the meals they serve.

“We are not just a store where you line up and get food, we are a hub for creative thinking,” Cruz said.

Cruz cultivates a space for “creative thinking” through the arts displayed in the restaurant. Tacos and Tattoos plays music from diverse and vibrant latin artists and lines their walls with artwork from local artists and graphic designers. Cruz considers the food, just as much the atmosphere, to be part of this creative cultural experience, referring to the food as “edible art.”

“These freshmen, when they taste our food and they go back home to wherever it is they live, they are going to take home a piece of Miami with them,” Cruz said. “Not just the university, but the food that came from here.”

UM Dining and the Tacos & Tattoos staff hope that stepping in their restaurant will take students out of the university setting and into one of rich Latin culture; a place to be with friends, relax and enjoy the flavors of Mexico and the Caribbean.

“I think people are going to love the food, you cannot go wrong, there are so many delicious things and it is different from what the university is already offering, so I think we are going to make an impact,” said general manager of hospitality Piero Tijero.

Although Tacos and Tattoos is the only new sit-down style restaurant opening on UM’s campus this fall, there are a variety of new vending machine options for students to enjoy. A few dinning options have also been relocated on campus.

A student favorite, The Corner Deli, will be moving next to the Starbucks in The Shalala Center to prevent line flow issues within The Market. It will replace Yo-Kai Ramen Noodles which has found a new home within the Hurricane Food Court. Additionally, the now-vacant Market space will be utilized to house the many new vending machine partnerships UM has made.

“With the relocation of Corner Deli, we thought why not automate with the use of technology our Market for 24/7 offerings. That space will now offer Misha’s Cupcakes, Yo-Kai Ramen Noodle and the new Costa Coffee – all via vended solutions,” said Alvarez.

The final major change to UM Dining comes with the introduction of the Insta-Market. The cashless, staff-less, vending machine hub will be open to students 24/7 and feature the first Coca Cola unattended retail solution in Florida.

This digitized approach by UM is targeted towards the growing number of commuter students on campus who are in need of more snack style, quick dining options for long days on campus without a dorm to return to.

“It was important for us to have a retail focus so that commuters would want to remain on campus,” said Alvarez. “So having some of these spaces more attractive late at night and comfortable where they feel safe, secure, they can stick around, and that there’s something for them to eat.”

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