By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
The wait is over for one of the most anticipated breaking news events of August: What’s new to eat this academic year?
GCU Dining has seven new options among its 31 venues on the Grand Canyon University campus.
The headliner is Canyon Pizza Co. in the Student Union. Because pizza and a college campus is a match made in heaven. Because this will be an improvement over prior pies, said General Manager Melanie Schissel, a GCU graduate.
“It is completely different,” she said. “We are hand-making our dough and sauce every day, so everything is totally fresh.”
Healthier menus are another trend.
The new Purple Greens, for example, offers tofu in a bowl with vegetables. Healthy? You will absolutely glow. Menus will include GCU Dining symbols for healthy picks, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-friendly.
Have no fear. The campus will have burgers and wings aplenty and, if you so desire, purple cotton candy for dessert.
“What we try to do is keep things fresh. Students want something different,” said John Milleson, Resident District Manager of Sodexo, contractor for food services at GCU. “Students are really driving the food operations at GCU.”
Every year, his company surveys students on what food options they like, then takes the 3,000 to 5,000 responses and hundreds of comments to heart.
“I’ve added vegan and low-fat options that our student body was looking for,” Milleson said. “We understand that vegan isn’t just a veg plate. We have health options and quality, quality, quality.
“Our chefs have knives, not scissors. Chefs with scissors cut tops off and dump in the product. There are no microwaves in my operation, and you have to look hard to find a pair of scissors.”
The new options
Canyon Pizza Co., near the south entrance to the Student Union, has replaced Slices with restaurant-quality pizzas available in either slices or full pies. It will be a student-run enterprise, like the arrangement with GCBC. The thin-crust slices are $2.75 apiece (cheese or pepperoni) or $3.25 (for veggie or barbecue chicken). More specialty pizzas also will be available and will change as students offer feedback.
“With our comment cards for students, we are going to let them be in charge of the menu,” Schissel said. “Pizza is a pretty simple concept, but there are a lot of variations of it. We want to hear from the student body what they want on campus.”
Milleson said he spent six weeks eating meatballs, pepperoni, tomato sauce and different cheeses to find the right mix. “We are using the best ingredients we can find,” he said. “If you start with great ingredients, you end with a great product.”
Purple Greens, on the second floor of GCU Arena, replaces Lean Canteen and arises from a food ethos that what is simple is good. “Simple, good ingredients at a good price,” Milleson said.
The build-your-own bowl menu features fresh ingredients and proteins that include salmon, steak and tofu. Fresh-pressed juices, too.
Milleson said he listened to students who wanted healthier but cheaper options, so the prices will be closer to $6 than $9.
Canyon Crepe, on Lopes Way next to Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, is an exciting new cart that will offer several sweet or savory crepes made with quality ingredients, yet in the $5 range. “You can get a little protein in a crepe instead of just bread from Auntie Anne’s,” he said. “We developed all the recipes ourselves by going out to crepe locations in the community to find out what is popular.”
Lopacellis Pasta, the made-to-order pasta cart in the Student Union's North Dining Hall, was created from popular demand, replacing one of many taco options on campus with a cart that instead fulfills the hunger for fresh ravioli, garlic knots and pasta bowl combos for as little as $5.
“For a lot of people, it will be a meal and a snack, because it will be a very large portion,” Milleson said.
Sweet Disciple, GCU’s first candy store, is located next to Taco Bell in Thunder Alley and will have scoop-and-weigh candy. It also will offer frozen yogurt but has added gelato, popcorn and – get this – homemade purple cotton candy. Purple teeth are the ultimate in school pride.
Harvest Kitchen in the Student Union will be a healthy upgrade from the old Urban Center Café, offering down-home but wholesome items such as steamed broccoli and zucchini, fresh-carved lean meat and potatoes. The buttery sauces are all off to the side, so you can choose straight-up good for you.
An expanded salad bar is also a highlight of the all-you-can-take eatery.
“It gives students a chance to have good, wholesome ingredients,” Milleson said.
New on Saturday and Sunday will be an all-day brunch – and who doesn’t like weekend brunch?
Herd Stop, a 5,000-square-foot convenience store/grocery in the new Antelope Apartments, will offer a hot-food bar, big salad bar, 1,000 square feet of fresh produce and high-end sandwiches made to order.
Familiar venues with new menu items
The Arena Café will have a new menu featuring the Impossible Burger, the new rage in vegan and vegetarian dining that is made from plants but tastes just like a burger. Really. There also are new hot dogs (this year, Nathan’s Famous hot dogs) and wings. (Those are “real” meat.)
Fresh Fusion will have new fresh panini sandwiches, including the Italian panini, chicken and pesto, roast beef and cheddar, and more.
But, yes, all the favorites are returning.
“The ones I personally hear about most often are Chick-fil-A, Fresh Fusion, Taco Bell, Qdoba and Pita Jungle,” said Zachary Casavant, Sodexo’s Marketing Manager. “Lately, everyone seems to be asking about when Qdoba is reopening.”
News flash: It’s open. Let’s eat!
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.