From restaurants to residence halls, diverse options await hungry students

While the University is promoting a variety of diversity initiatives, some students say one type of diversity, a diversity of food options, has already been achieved.

“There are so many places on Green Street,” said John Nixon, sophomore in business. “If anything, there’s too much variety because it kills your bank account.”

Nixon said he takes advantage of the variety of foods on campus and in the community by trying new restaurants instead of becoming attached to a few. Some of his favorites are Insomnia Cookies and Green Street staples Chipotle Mexican Grill and Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches, all eateries he had never visited before coming to college.

Many non-chain restaurants make their home in downtown Champaign or Urbana, including Radio Maria, a Latin American-themed restaurant and tapas bar at 119 S. Walnut St., and Courier Café, a classic American eatery in the former office of the Urbana Courier newspaper at 111 N. Race St.

However, the area lacks an authentic French restaurant and bistro-style dining options, said Jean-Louis Ledent, chef at Bevier Café inside Bevier Hall.

Lorne Rodriguez, senior in ACES, said there are still plenty of cultural cuisines students can experiment with and experience.

“Down Green Street, you have all the different ethnicities: Indian, Chinese, Italian,” Rodriguez said. “There’s so many choices so I don’t know why someone would stick to something they know.”

Food options for students looking to stick to a religious eating plan, such as Judiasm’s kosher regulations, have expanded greatly over the past four years, said Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel of the Chabad Center for Jewish Life.

Students can find hot kosher dinners Monday through Thursday evenings in Allen Hall’s cafeteria, as well as microwave-ready meals in all University dining halls.

“We’re not Chicago yet, but kosher food is a lot more available today than it was in the past,” Tiechtel said.

Dorm food diversity has also been on the rise at Hendrick House, where food service staff members write weekly menus based on student suggestions.

“We’re trying to expand our menu,” said Diane Cooper, assistant food service director at Hendrick House. “We had a rather diverse group last year, so we started introducing more Indian food.”

Cooper said the cafeteria offers Indian-based dishes about once a week, including paav bhaji, a vegetarian dish with potatoes, carrots and cauliflower in a tomato paste.

No matter where students live, Nixon said they are sure to find some foods or eateries new to them on campus or in the surrounding communities.

“For new students, they should expect a lot of things they have never seen before,” Nixon said. “On campus, there’s no Wendy’s, McDonald’s, or Burger King. There’s new and exciting food options.”