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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Jan. 12, 2007

ISU Dining eyes next project

by Anne Krapfl

With the opening of Bookends Cafe in Parks Library already two months past, ISU Dining begins the new year with more plans for new projects. ISU Dining director Nancy Levandowski, who arrived on campus just two weeks before the Bookends opening, talked with Inside about those plans. They are outlined below, in approximately the order she expects they'll be completed.

With the exception of the residence dining centers, Levandowski said expansion or remodel plans will be covered with ISU Dining operating funds. The university plans to seek a total of $12 million in bonds to finance the work at the two dining centers.

The Hub

Two concepts are planned for the Hub. Levandowski said ISU Dining still is working with Starbucks to bring the full Starbucks menu (beverages, sandwiches and desserts) to central campus. And ISU Dining's own Hub Cafe will feature grilled items currently served during warm weather months. Levandowski said the grill is being moved indoors and will operate year-round.

The Hub will close for renovation in March and reopen before school begins in August.

Memorial Union food court

More changes are coming to the food court. Panda Express, Subway, Sunset Strips (chicken) and Burrito Works are staying. ISU Dining will introduce World Bistro, a venue that will feature a rotating menu of customer favorites - pizza, pasta, gyros, salads, Sunday-type dinners - from the venues it replaces: Hearthstone, Greek Odyssey and Tomasitto's. ISU Dining also will operate a burger bar featuring fresh (not frozen) quarter-pound hamburgers and cheeseburgers, skin-on fries and a vegetarian burger.

"We're going to stick to the basics, offer a great quality burger and do it with speed. I'm excited about this decision," Levandowski said.

She also said the growing popularity of the deli case, featuring packaged sandwiches, salads, desserts and fresh fruit, means that option will remain. Earlier plans for the food court eliminated the deli case.

The inner part of the food court will close for remodeling in early May following spring commencement and reopen the first week in August. Panda Express, Subway, Onion's and the MU Cafe will remain open during the remodel.

MU Market and Café

The existing MU Café and Onion's convenience store will be merged into one venue, the MU Market and Café, and moved to 2,000 square feet of new space adjacent to the University Book Store in the south addition to the Memorial Union. The new location will open during fall semester 2008. The café will continue to feature Roasterie brand coffees out of Kansas City and bakery items. It also will serve sandwiches, vegetarian items and natural foods. The additional space will allow for some seating and more products in the store.

Maple-Willow-Larch dining center

ISU Dining plans to create two more "marketplace" student dining centers on the east side of campus, building on the success of the Union Drive Community Center. (The second will be at the Oak-Elm dining center.) Plans for Maple-Willow-Larch include a two-story building addition on the north side of the existing dining center. In it will be a marketplace with an anticipated seven venues, the signature one featuring BBQ and smoked meats prepared on site.

As planned, the M-W-L dining center would close following commencement in May 2008 and reopen in August 2009. Levandowski said the Linden Hall dining center will be reactivated during the dining center remodels to help accommodate diners.

Oak-Elm dining center

When the M-W-L dining center reopens, the Oak-Elm dining center will close for a 12-month remodel of the existing space. The new Oak-Elm marketplace will feature six venues including an indoor grill station; large salad, soup and vegetable bar; saute station for fajitas, grilled burritos and rice bowls; and a special dessert area.

"Oak-Elm is a unique community in that a majority of the residents are women," Levandowski said. "We've found that they like to linger and talk after dinner. They like their sense of community. We'd like to support that in the dining center."

A remodeled Oak-Elm dining center would open in the fall of 2010.

Design Café

Levandowski said ISU Dining plans to expand its cafe in the College of Design. She said she is aware of the college's building addition plans and understands that the college has found additional space for the cafe in the subsequent space shuffle, but said she has had no conversations yet with college officials.

She also is aware of early plans for a cafe at the transit station in the Iowa State Center parking lot. The parking division of the department of public safety is one possible partner for this proposal. Levandowski said she hasn't yet had any conversations with parking officials, either.

Dining staff changes

With Nancy Levandowski in place as the new ISU Dining director, changes are occurring on the culinary staff:

  • Everett Phillips, formerly the sous chef in the ISU Dining commissary, has been promoted to executive chef.
  • There will be three sous chef positions, one each for the commissary, Memorial Union and Scheman. A fourth position is anticipated when changes in the east campus residential dining centers are complete.
  • ISU Dining's first pastry chef was hired this fall to specialize in baked goods of all degrees of difficulty.

New leader for ISU Dining

Nancy Levandowski comes to ISU Dining after 20-plus years in food service in California, but don't be fooled. She was born and raised through the age of seven in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and retains her Canadian citizenship.

"I came here for the quality of life," she said of her decision to move to central Iowa. "I've met a lot of people from Iowa - outside of Iowa. When this opportunity came, I didn't have to think twice about it."

She comes to Iowa State with experience in university self-operated dining services, with several food contractors - ARAMARK, SAGA (since purchased by Marriott) and Service America - and as an independent consultant in the food service industry.

"I think my skills are a good match for Iowa State," she said. "There's an opportunity for me to bring so much here." Not just new food concepts from both coasts, she said, but concepts like viability, stability and stronger customer service.