UB Campus Dining & Shops allows students to divulge Buffalo’s cuisine without leaving campus
Living on campus can make it difficult for students to explore the cuisine that Buffalo has to offer.
To expose students to Buffalo’s culinary scene, Campus Dining & Shops (CDS) has begun a new program this semester to take restaurants and showcase them at UB.
UB will feature three restaurants from the Buffalo area in all three dining centers – Culinary Crossroads Center (C3), Governors Dining Hall in Governors and Goodyear Dining Hall – on special nights throughout the fall semester: Sun Restaurant, Cantina Loco and Sato Ramen. The program started Tuesday night with Sun Restaurant and will continue for future semesters to come.
Jeff Brady, executive director of CDS, believes that this program is a fresh and new concept of food for students to have on campus.
“The thing we’re mindful about is when people are on the meal plans they are eating with us three times a day,” Brady said. “You can only be so creative and you can only give them so many options.”
CDS is spending $500 on each restaurant that comes to UB for their employee’s service. Brady said he thinks the costs are going to be different depending on the menu but CDS isn’t looking for the cheapest items – it wants the restaurants best selling items and leave it in the hands of the owner to decide.
The restaurant owner is asked to spend an hour and a half to two hours the day prior at the Statler Commissary – UB’s main food distribution center – to coach and mentor the Commissary staff.
Brady advised owners to feature their two best menu items to serve to the students.
When Kevin Lin, owner of the Sun Restaurant, came into the Commissary, he introduced the staff to chicken coconut noodle soup and chicken curry with black rice.
“Jeff asked me if I wanted to join UB dinner night so I got interested and wanted to do it,” Lin said. “I had quite a few student customers from UB so I am hoping they continue to follow me.”
Lin told the Commissary staff what all the ingredients are for the items and explained to them the recipes before the food got distributed to the three dining halls.
“Most of the food is at least prepared – not cooked – but prepared the day before,” Brady said.
The day a restaurant comes to visit UB, the owner will come in an hour before dinner starts to set everything up. One of the stations at each of the dining halls will be specifically set to serve that restaurants food.
Brady said they require the restaurants to bring three of the key employees – the owner, the chef and the manager so each one can be stationed at each dining center.
“They are going to have their business cards and wear their uniforms,” Brady said. “We encourage them to go around to the tables and talk to the students about their restaurants and about how they made the food.”
Jake Cohen, a freshman business major, said he is looking forward to the restaurants improving the dining hall food.
“I think that it is a good idea because it will give the students a change of their dining options as opposed to the normal dining options we have every day,” Cohen said. “It would be nice to have Duff’s and Chipotle come in to give the students who aren't off campus a chance to eat other common favorite foods.”
To propose this idea to restaurants, invitations were sent out to more than 90 restaurants by email from CDS. Out of those 90 restaurants, 35 responded.
Brady and Neal Plazio, CDS executive chef, made the decision of which restaurants to have on campus after discussing what they thought students would want.
The idea surfaced once Brady surveyed about 16 students and asked them if they would come to a dining hall event that would feature special restaurant nights. Most students said they loved the idea – so they made it happen.
Last year, the program was piloted with Ilio DiPaolo’s Restaurant, a Tuscan-style restaurant located in Blasdell.
Three months after the pilot, Dennis DiPaolo, the owner, told Brady that he had more than 75 people from UB come to the restaurant.
Plazio believes that events like these adds excitement to the student and opens up a connection between restaurateurs and UB.
“One of the things I found talking to some of the student advisor boards is they are always looking for events in the dining halls,” Plazio said. “It adds to the excitement and I think they can learn something too. This event is nice it’s more awareness of Buffalo for a lot of kids its hard [for students] to get around and they don’t even think about Buffalo they just think of what’s right around here.”
Cantina Loco is coming to the dining halls on Oct. 20, followed by SATO Ramen on Nov. 3. CDS has two restaurants scheduled to come next semester and is working on scheduling one more.
Dani Guglielmo is a features desk editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.