By Liliana Cifuentes | September 19, 2022
Photo Credit: Henry Fisher
The University at Albany made it clear that expanding student dining options was number one on their menu.
In the university’s Campus Center, home to more than a dozen eateries, students will have access to brand new cuisine spots, including but not limited to: a “sweet” shop that sells cookies, açai bowls, and ice cream; a fresh fruit bar; and the return of Al Dente, a pasta restaurant that allows visitors to assemble their own pasta dishes.
“As we continue to inch further out of the pandemic, we feel it is imperative to return to a student retail dining experience that is more robust, offers a wide variety, and drives a value for the UAlbany students, faculty, and staff,” said Michael Eggert, the general manager of retail dining. “Emerging from the pandemic has much to do with our reopening and expanding the retail dining offerings.”
The most notable of the changes, however, is the expansion of Umai’s Sushi Bar, which now operates both Umai Ramen and Umai Fusion in the Campus Center’s West Wing. According to UAlbany’s retail dining site, the new places will be “serving innovative and flavorful fusions using traditional Asian-style ingredients.” The expansion comes after the permanent closing of Star Ginger, a restaurant that wasn’t well received by students in years past.
“Star Ginger became one of our less successful outlets in recent years,” said Eggert. “We saw an opportunity to further our partnership by expanding into their hot offerings, which more directly target the student demographic and provide a more diverse and authentic experience.”
The university also announced the openings of other retail dining in academic buildings: Argo Tea in the Lecture Center; ETEC Café in the ETEC Building; Morris’s Café in the Massry Center for Business; and a Downtown Café in the Downtown Campus.
Many students with meal plans were excited to return to a variety of selections to choose from.
“Last year, the Campus Center did not have a lot of new spots open and the spots that were open began to become repetitive and revolting at some points,” said Shivam Barot, a sophomore at the university. “Adding more diverse options to the Campus Center attracts more students to come and eat.”
A few upperclassmen, however, questioned why these renovations weren’t made years ago.
“I’m just annoyed that I have to pay full price for an açai bowl when I could’ve gotten one for a discount two years ago,” said Madeline Denehy, a senior enrolled in her last semester. “I wish I had the privilege of experiencing these dining options when I was living on campus and had a meal plan.”
Other students couldn’t agree more.
“It’s unfortunate that my Discount Dollars from last semester didn’t roll over this year,” said Stacey Germosen, a junior at the university and fellow açai bowl fan. “I had, like, 500 dollars left and would’ve definitely put them to use at the Sweet Shop.”
When asked what effects he hoped the additions the new dining options would have on the community, Eggert mentioned the enhancement role the food plays at UAlbany as being a top priority.
“We hope that the refresh of retail enriches the student dining and social experience by providing enhanced quality, value, and variety,” Eggert said. “Our goal is to deliver great food in a positive environment.”
These new spots are all open and accessible to the public now.