by Allie Leach
Attention Wildcats, et al: The UA Student Unions—The Student Union Memorial Center and Park Student Union—both have some new restaurants, opening on or before August 22. From Sabor, a Mexican restaurant, to the The Mesa Room, dubbed as UA's only upscale restaurant, there are plenty of places over at The Student Union Memorial Center that are sure to tantalize your tongue. Over at the Park Student Union, there will be smaller shops like Park Avenue Market, a convenience store, and also a cute cafe called La Petite, with French-inspired fare, including made-to-order crepes, pastries, smoothies and coffee.
The University of Arizona's Dining Services is unveiling several new offerings this fall, including new restaurants.
One restaurant replaces Café Sonora, another introduces French cuisine to campus and a third carries more of an upscale vibe.
The driving philosophy is that the collective dining experience on campus should "meet everyone's diet," said Jon Levengood, retail dining manager for Dining Services. "It is our responsibility and our mission."
Another initiative is under way to launch a cooking class series later in the year.
Called "Cooking on Campus," the program was piloted earlier in the year but is now in the process of being expanded, said Timothy Stevens, a senior supervisor with Dining Services.
The classes will be offered through a partnership among Dining Services, Campus Health Service and the Campus Recreation Center.
The classes are expected to center on nutrition and cooking techniques with the majority of instructors being student chefs affiliated with members of the Student Health Advisory Committee, Stevens said.
One such class, which is being planned to be held at the UA BookStores, will cover ways to create a healthy and nutritious meal using foods purchased entirely on campus. Others may cover appropriate snacking habits and dorm room cooking.
But as far as the new restaurants, let's turn to Park Student Union.
La Petite, a French cuisine-inspired niche modeled after a patisserie, will offer sweet and savory cooked-to-order crepes, pastries and also smoothies, coffee and espresso. The cafe is in the space that previously housed Papa John's.
In addition to Core and Bagel Talk!, both well-established at the Park Student Union, La Petite "complements very well what already exists here," Levengood said.
Also situated on the west side of the Park Student Union is Park Avenue Market, a convenience store in the style of Highland Market and U-Mart. There, patrons will be able to purchase food, beverages and also toiletries and school supplies. The market will also maintain a section of Wildcat memorabilia for sale, including caps, water bottles and T-shirts.
At the Student Union Memorial Center, Sabor and The Mesa Room are the two other new restaurant offerings.
Sabor, located on the second floor of the Student Union, is all about the swift and casual dining experience.
The restaurant, which includes table service, serves tacos, burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas and other options and also has a full salsa bar.
On the third floor, adjacent to the buffet-style Redington Restaurant, is The Mesa Room, which is being pegged as UA's only upscale restaurant.
"We know that a lot of people may shy away from buffets, sometimes because they want to watch their portion sizes," Levengood said. The Mesa Room, which will be managed by the same staff and chef overseeing Redington, offers that option — but with its own menu.
The Mesa Room is designed to be more of a quiet and business-minded setting.
The restaurant will have wait staff and a full-service menu, which will change about every two to three weeks, "with seasonal offerings being the driving force behind the changes," Levengood said.
The menu price will be fixed at $11 per person and will include a salad and a choice of several entree options, which will include vegetarian options and the "catch of the day" — a selection of fresh and sustainable fish and shellfish — and also a dessert choice.
The current menu includes a panko-dusted salmon with fresh spinach, balsamic braised chicken breast served alongside roasted red potatoes and seasonal vegetables; pork tenderloin with the restaurant's adobo sauce; an organic local grass-fed beef burger; and also the vegetarian-friendly polenta served on mushroom ragout.
Levengood said more is expected during spring 2012, when Dining Services will phase out Boost to make space for a Pinkberry Frozen Yogurt location at the Student Union. U-Mart will absorb some of Boost's offerings.
He also said the Dining Services staff is preparing for a barbecue joint — to include smoked beef and pulled pork, among other items — that will replace Fro-Yo once Pinkberry opens.
Levengood said: "It's a big moment when we bring new dining ideas and flavors to campus."