"Ready, set, Guac N' Roll: UB opens new Mexican eatery in Ellicott Complex"

Guac N' Roll promises to serve up more authentic Mexican food, students give mixed reviews


Salsa’s has left the building and a new Mexican eatery has rolled into its place, bringing boards filled with photos of spices, meats and vegetables that cover the walls of a revamped kitchen.

An abundance of bright colors and a new design signifies Guac N’ Roll has taken Salsa’s spot in the Ellicott Food Court.

Approximately 400 customers were served at the opening of Guac N’ Roll Thursday, Aug. 21, according to Assistant Manager of Ellicott Food Court and UB alumnus Timothy Malley. Guac N’ Roll replaced Salsa’s with a revamped menu and atmosphere that, according to the Campus Dining and Shops (CDS) website, serves more authentic Mexican food including burritos, fajitas, guacamole and quesadillas.

“This really is your grandma’s recipe,” Malley said.

And he would know. Malley’s wife’s family is of Mexican descent and many of their recipes were incorporated into the menu of Guac N’ Roll.

Guac N’ Roll is about “fresh Mexican” food and takes inspiration from authentic “street fare Mexican,” according to Malley.

But some students aren’t sure.

“The speed that they work at is unprecedentedly slow,” said Barry Lee, a sophomore computer engineering major. “The food is subpar. They do not stock up very well.”

Adam Coats, the assistant director of CDS, said that at the start of the semester, students are still learning their jobs, and there is a “bit of a learning curve.” He added students will see “a great improvement of speed” as the semester continues.

At the soft opening for Guac N’ Roll on Aug. 19, Malley coached the Guac N’ Roll staff on customer service, repeatedly reminding them to smile, but some students said they noticed issues in the speed and efficiency of the station.

Ja-Naia Adams, a sophomore health and human services major, said Guac N’ Roll is a “step up” from Salsa’s but the staff wasn’t fluent in the menu, which caused a longer wait for customers, she said.

Malley said the steady decrease in business at Salsa’s inspired CDS to make a major change. They began last February and took a full semester to research recipes and develop the space for the new Mexican spot.

Ashism Mahagaonkar, a graduate student in industrial engineering, worked at Salsa’s last year. He believes Guac N’ Roll looks much better than Salsa’s did.

Freshness applies not only to the food at Guac N’ Roll, but also the design. New menu boards feature photos of the ingredients to showcase the food.

Malley has been an employee of the Ellicott Food Court for eight and a half years and said he is passionate about food.

“Food and innovation is what I like,” he said.

Since opening Guac N’ Roll, Malley and his team have been working on a tumbling process for the meats which will give them a “more robust flavor.”

Erik Forys, a freshman aerospace engineering major, thought the “chicken burrito was excellent” and appreciated the variety of toppings. Mahagaonkar appreciates the variety Guac N’ Roll has compared to what Salsa’s had.

Leah Pilcher, a freshman intended dance and psychology major, disagrees.

“The black bean and avocado quesadilla I had was really good, but I do agree [with other students], I could have had eaten more of it,” Pilcher said. “Also, the guacamole was OK, at best. It wasn’t the creamy kind I like. It was too chunky, choppy and didn't have much flavor to it, but the chips were good.”

Mahagaonkar and Yugandhar Prashant Yawatkar, a graduate student in industrial engineering, both agree that Guac N’ Roll is better than Salsa’s but wish Mexican pizza was still on the menu.

The barbacoa beef is the only item that “survived the chopping block” from Salsa’s, according to Malley. Salsa’s never served pork, but is a dish that Malley cites as his current favorite. He said the chicken and steak have been the most popular menu choices thus far.

Malley is confident in the menu options at Guac N’ Roll, but some students weren’t pleased with the ingredients or the portions.

Chris Gnam, a sophomore physics and math major, said the “chips were stale, salsa was flavorless, the service was slow and there was a lot of confusion. I know it’s early on in the year, but they definitely seemed unprepared.”

Gnam said he did, however, enjoy the rice and quesadillas. Coats said the eatery’s meats are fresh and never frozen and the tomatoes being used are locally sourced.

Malley does not think Guac N’ Roll is competing with Moe’s, a CDS branch of the well-known Mexican chain, in the Student Union. Matt Biele, a freshman computer science major, however, could not help but compare the two food stations.

“It’s so slow that even the warm meat and beans are cold by the time you pay and honestly the portion is lacking compared to Moe’s or Chipotle,” he said.

Student opinions are varied in regards to the new food station but CDS officials said Guac N’ Roll promises to serve fresh, authentic Mexican food.

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