A renovation of the East Campus Dining Center is serving an expanded slate of meal options for University of Nebraska–Lincoln students, faculty and staff.
The Nebraska East Union space, which opened in mid-November, is designed to handle students on University Housing’s all-you-can-eat meal plan while offering a la carte selections that cater to faculty, staff and campus visitors.
“It’s definitely something different than our traditional campus dining approach,” said Kathy Sildmets, manager of catering and the East Campus Dining Center. “The a la carte concept is intended to give faculty and staff the chance to come in because there aren’t a lot of breakfast and lunch options near (East) campus.”
The change starts at the door, where patrons — rather than swiping an NCard or paying upfront — can select from two primary paths. A turn to the left allows for (via a kiosk) ordering from a grill that offers freshly-made custom sandwiches, wraps and sides for a set price. Veer right, and patrons will find traditional buffet-style dining with stations that feature a rotating selection of international dishes, homestyle cooking, a pizza station and salad bar — all priced at 49 cents per ounce.
Additional stations include a dessert case, drinks, ice cream and cereal.
Meals are paid for prior to seating. Students on a University Housing dining plan must present a valid NCard, while all others pay via cash or a credit/debit card.
“This new concept has taken a little getting used to, but it’s becoming pretty popular,” Sildmets said. “Students really like it and we have a number of faculty and staff who are regulars.”
Erin Bauer, an entomology lecturer, is among the faculty and staff who regularly visit the new dining center.
“This new space is a great addition to East Campus and the food — as it was in the old dining center — is really good,” Bauer said. “I know it’s primarily here to serve students living and studying on East Campus, but it’s a convenient option for faculty and staff looking for a quick meal.”
The East Campus Dining Center offers the a la carte service during breakfast (6:45 to 10:30 a.m.) and lunch (10:30 to 2 p.m.).
While slightly smaller than the previous East Campus dining facility, the new space seats 305. And dining center staff — which includes 25 full-time employees and nearly 60 part-time student workers — will continue to offer home recipes whenever possible.
“Many of the recipes for our Home Cooking station are provided by Ron White, our assistant food service manager,” Sildmets said. “It’s a point of pride for us and something we are definitely continuing in this new space.”
White’s family recipes from his roots in New Orleans will also take center stage during the dining center’s Mardis Gras celebration Feb. 25. The event will feature two different menus, offering custom recipes for lunch and dinner.
The renovation of the East Dining Center is part of a multi-phase upgrade to the Nebraska East Union. When finished in the fall, the East Union will feature three dining options, including the East Campus Dining Center, a Starbucks (which is scheduled to open in February) and convenience store.