Purdue Union reopens with a dozen food concepts

After being closed for about 16 months to complete renovations costing about $47 million, the Purdue Memorial Union basement reopened Jan. 10 to resume its traditional role on the University campus. Purdue as a place to socialize, study, or grab something to eat or drink. As it should be, the opening also coincides with the 100and anniversary, as it made its debut in 1922.

In the basement dining room, food and drink options have grown from the seven or eight restaurants the space once housed to a dozen now, while the ambience is now enhanced by plenty of natural light.

The new line of dining choices are managed and overseen by contract company Aramark and include five from Cornerstone Restaurant Group, an acclaimed Chicago-based restaurant collective known for Michael Jordan’s Steak Houses and its partnership with chef Bill Kim, which developed three of the five upcoming Cornerstone concepts in the Union: Urbanbelly, Chef Bill Kim’s Ramen Bar and Chef Bill Kim’s Pizza & Parm Shop. The other two Cornerstone concepts in the mix are Fresh Fare and J Manion-Latin Inspired.

Cornerstone first came to Purdue with an experiential learning course four years ago in which Purdue students were tasked with implementing an Urbanbelly pop-up as a course project. The students managed and marketed the pop-up and it served as a test for the partnership that has now arrived on campus. Meanwhile, Chef Kim’s Ramen Bar and Pizza/Parm concepts debuted as pop-up concepts last year.

Established in 2008, Urbanbelly is Kim’s adaptation of Korean cuisine from Seoul to Chicago that includes dumplings and bowls while chef Bill Kim’s ramen bar features Kim’s creative ramen offerings as well as dumplings available with every order, and chef Bill Kim’s pizza and parm shop spotlights creativity offers Detroit-style pizzas and sandwiches with menu items like ground beef and Korean barbecue kimchi, pork and double-smoked pineapple and the classic chicken and parmesan sandwiches.

Of the other two Cornerstone concepts, Fresh Fare offers salads and bowls with pure flavors and an emphasis on dairy and gluten-free options, while J. Manion-Latin Inspired features Chef John Manion’s creative take on Brazilian street food.

The other seven concepts of the Renewed Union are…

• Aatish, a halal cuisine concept developed by the creator of Athenian Grill, Ilias Pappas, serving bowls and build-your-own sandwiches on naan bread, as well as handmade baklava;

• Barbecue District, offering slow-cooked meats, regional sauces and side dishes;

• Zen, serving poke bowls and build-your-own boba teas;

• Sol Toro, serving modern Mexican dishes;

• Sushi Boss, offering personalized fresh sushi;

• Walk On’s Sports Bistreaux, which offers Louisiana-themed dishes;

• Starbucks.

Additionally, the Union includes a Boilermaker Market convenience store selling food and beverages.

The design for the renovation was carried out by food service design firm Tipton Associates, while the renovation was a partnership between Tipton, Purdue Dining/Aramark and Workshop Architects.

Here’s a look at the new Purdue Memorial Union…

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