Operation Success: University of Colorado Boulder

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It is an exciting time in the world of campus dining. Colleges and universities are often at the forefront of the latest culinary trends and known to be strong stewards of the environment; however, the University of Colorado Boulder’s new Village Center Dining and Community Commons truly stands out at the top of the class.

Opening its doors about one year ago, the new facility boasts many sustainable building features in addition to serving a diverse menu of world-class cuisine that keeps students (and local residents) coming back for more.

Paul Houle, director of campus dining services, recently led a tour of the stunning space, which the university proudly welcomes the local community to enjoy. “Anyone from the community can come in and eat here,” said Houle.

What’s on the menu

The all-you-can-eat dining center boasts five micro-restaurants that give customers several options to please their palette. Featuring self-service areas as well as “display cooking” to allow customers to engage with culinary staff, the five stations in the dining center include:

  • Toast, the all-day breakfast restaurant, offers omelets, skillets, breakfast sandwiches made-to-order as well as globally-inspired dishes, a waffle-making station and a smoothie bar where patrons blend their drink by pedaling a bicycle.
  • Colorado Hearth features farm-fresh foods including beef, chicken, vegetables and fruits locally sourced within 250 miles of Boulder.
  • Curry Road prepares curries derived from recipes originating in India and extending into the South Pacific. Customers select bowls with rice, rice noodles or lettuce and then customize their dish with various sauces, vegetables, chutneys and proteins.
  • MiddleTerranean features everything from gyros, shawarma and rotisserie chicken to Middle Eastern flatbreads as well as gluten-free falafel and spanakopita.
  • The Grange features a smoker, open-flame grills, flattop griddles and a charboiler that allow the culinary team to prepare a number of comfort foods: burgers, smoked meat sandwiches and fries in addition to smoked ribs, brisket, chicken wings and more.

More than great food

Beyond its expansive menu and dining options, the Commons is a model for sustainability. For instance, electronchromic glass windows, which act similarly to transition eye glasses, provide just enough light so that electric lights are not necessary during the daytime hours and still allow for breathtaking views of the Flatiron Mountains.

Commons windows

Other unique features include:

  • Local and recycled building materials were used during construction, including several large tables made from Colorado beetle-kill pine and chairs made of recycled Coke bottles.
  • Trays used in the facility are half the size of traditional trays—for good reason. Houle says students are less likely to pile on food they may not eat.
  • The campus is also adding a new 3,000-square-foot greenhouse that will soon produce fresh greens year-round for the salad bar and dining center just a few feet away from its aeroponic growing towers. Houle explains this is a great way to showcase the farm-to-table process since students and visitors can see every step of the process—the produce getting picked, stored in the glass-doored walk-in cooler and finally appearing on the salad bar.

“While the dining hall is absolutely gorgeous and state of the art, Paul and his staff succeed by creating on-trend recipes that keep it fresh and exciting for the students to come back and use their meal cards,” said Brian Cobos, a sales representative for General Mills Foodservice who works with the University of Colorado. “The University of Colorado Boulder’s culinary team makes the dining hall stand out above others through their creative and diverse menu options.”