SRU students enjoy tasty, creative dining options

Students ordering lunch at Rocky's.
Students take advantage of some the fresh, new offerings on the Rocky's menu during the lunch rush.

Aug. 28, 2017

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - While many people spent their summer break relaxing on the shore, riding rollercoasters or just hanging out with friends, Mark Lisowski was in the kitchen.

As resident director for AVI Foodsystems at Slippery Rock University, Lisowski spent his summer creating, planning and testing new dishes to satisfy students from their mid-morning lattes to their late night munchies.

Oddly enough, the birthplace for many of this year's newest menu offerings, including fresh squeezed orange juice at the Union Café or calamari salads at Weisenfluh Dining Hall, didn't even start in a kitchen, but rather SRU's residence halls.

"We scheduled meetings last year (in the residence halls) to find out what students were interested in and what they are craving," Lisowski said. "We found that more than anything, students are interested in healthy options, as long as they are served attractively with pizzazz."

As a result, AVI will be offering a variety of new and improved options for the academic year in the form of fresh, appealing and low-cost cuisine. "We have always tried to be 95 percent fresh, but this semester, we are trying to increase that and get as close to 100 percent as possible," said Lisowski.

For example, Clarity Station, a growing favorite with students, will now be prominently featured in Boozel Dining Hall with an expanded ingredient list including Teff, an Ethiopian grain naturally high in minerals and protein; Millet, a group of highly variable small-seeded grasses; specialty rice and beans; spun zucchini; spun yellow squash and sweet potatoes.

"At Clarity, we have completely eliminated the top eight allergens: soy, wheat, gluten, eggs, dairy products, fish, shellfish, nuts and tree nuts," said Lisowski. "While the station is not entirely vegetarian, we encourage students with special dietary needs to give their name and number to the chef, and we will make sure they are taken care of."

Boozel will also provide an extended deli that will include a side bar with homemade pickles, peppers, sauces and dips. The dining hall's "Build a Better Salad" bar will also provide students with additional dietary and nutritional information, such as calories per serving.

"We are also looking to add more solid muscle meats, homestyle soups and carbs to give Boozel that hominess ... more of the things that students maybe grew up with," said Lisowski. "And of course, we'll still have the international station where everyone is represented."

At Rocky's, students can enjoy an expanded Ramen bar, grocery to-go and microwaveable items, and egg protein packs along with exciting new features including: spice flavor shots; the recently-installed Pepsi Spires, beverage towers featuring a full line of carbonated and non-carbonated drinks available with various flavor shots; and a new line of pizzas featuring four cheese, sundried tomato, buffalo chicken and General Tso's variations.

But the options don't stop there, said Lisowski.

"Calzones are going to have between 25 to 33 percent more filling and we'll be offering 16-ounce containers of General Tso's, Bibimbap and Bangkok chicken," he said. "Everyone is just absolutely over the moon about these additions."

The international theme will continue through Weisenfluh's Indian Naan, an oven-baked flat bread staple; edamame, a preparation of immature soybeans from East Asia; and a constant supply of Mediterranean and Italian salads. Half portions of all meals will also be available.

Despite on-going construction at Bailey Library, the Union Café remains open with offerings including: sushi, coffee, tea, cold brew lattes, protein powder, fresh squeezed orange juice and power salads and power snacks known as "Bento Boxes."

"The Café is really about offering snacks attractively priced to give you that quick pick-me-up during the day." Lisowski said. "For example, our salads are tossed with as many nutrient-rich foods as possible in order to be especially beneficial for our diners."

On the flipside of the food pyramid, Flatz Express inside Watson Hall, will sweeten the school year with an expanded pastry program including croissants, Danishes, bear claws, honey buns and biscuits. Breakfast smoothies with fresh fruits, yogurt and agave have also been added to provide a taste of sugar without unnatural fructose syrups.

"We've really tried to pay attention to health without making it the stereotypically bland 'health food,'" said Lisowski, "but our chefs wear 'AVI Fresh' on their coats for a reason. We are backing up what we say we are delivering.

"As always, we're here to listen to the students. That's always been our aim and our goal. We feel like we really dialed in to their cravings this year and we couldn't be happier with the results."

Hours of operation for all SRU dining operations are available at: https://www.aviserves.com/sru/index.html.

MEDIA CONTACT: Maizee Zaccone | 724.738.2091 | mxz1016@sru.edu