Charting a new course for PSU dining options

As reported in March, Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services will take over Aramark’s contract with Portland State in the fall. Chartwells has branded the partnership “PSU Eats” and plans to overhaul the Viking Food Court in Smith Memorial Student Union over the summer.

PSU Eats also hopes to follow in the footsteps of Aramark and PSU’s sustainability initiatives.

PSU Eats, according to Marketing Manager Kim Dinardo, envisions transforming SMSU’s dining experience into a PSU version of Pine Street Market in southwest Portland. The Market, which hosts a fairy-light draped, natural wood intersection between a beer garden, food court, and 5-star restaurant, sells everything from soft-serve Salt & Straw to Korean barbecue and southern-inspired hamburgers.

PSU Eats aims to follow suit. Offering packaged and prepared foods from local vendors like Cha Cha Cha!, Salt & Straw, and Stumptown Coffee, Dinardo said, Smith will receive a Portland-specific face-lift while bringing more “ethnic flavors to campus.”

Subway, next to Little Vikings Childcare, will become Smith’s Place. Made-to-order cold sandwiches and wraps will still be offered in the form of PSU Eats-conceptualized Butcher+Baker. The sandwich station will offer “premium hand-carved meats on La Brea breads baked fresh in-house,” Dinardo read from a statement.

SMSU’s new era will also include prepackaged ice cream products from Salt & Straw, as well as pints and scoops, baked goods from southeast Portland-based Roman Candle Baking Company, and drinks from Steven Smith Tea Company, a local sister company to Starbucks-owned Tazo Tea.

Stumptown Coffee, representing Portland’s obsession with small-batch, locally-roasted beans, will replace Starbucks in SMSU. Stumptown was founded in Portland, but is now owned by Peet’s Coffee and Tea, and operates cafes in New York and Los Angeles. Stumptown will continue to offer pastries, sandwiches, and parfaits.

Einstein Bagels will be replaced with a new station that will serve “offerings of whole grains, serving largely plant-based meals full of fresh, seasonal and local ingredients, and using meat as a supporting role,” Dinardo said in an email.

The interior food court, soon to be branded Smith’s Kitchen, will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner, an upgrade from the Viking Food Court’s current 3 p.m. closing time. Smith’s Kitchen will offer cuisine from Portland-based Mexican restaurant Cha Cha Cha!, which uses beef raised on a corn-free diet, as well as non-GMO ingredients, local produce, and breads from Grand Central Bakery.

503 Burger Co., serving “signature” burgers, sides, and milkshakes, will take over the grill. PDX Local, a “rotating culinary exhibition station” according to a statement, will offer students the chance to periodically vote on the next menu. Students will be able to vote for a variety of global foods, from bao buns to ramen, with a to-be-determined frequency.

Under its current contract with Aramark, PSU has an AASHE Stars sustainability ranking. AASHE Stars is an independent service that rates universities on their sustainability practices, and, PSU must submit data every year to maintain their membership in the program. Aramark has worked with a PSU sustainability intern to report back to the university periodically.

According to Dinardo, PSU Eats recently partnered with AASHE Stars this year, but Dinardo did not offer any further information about PSU’s involvement in the coming school year. PSU Eats has hired Mark Harris as its new sustainability director, and Harris has a meeting with PSU Sustainability in the near future.

When Aramark began its food service contract with PSU in 2007, it restructured the Viking Food Court to operate with less congestion.

Since then, the Vanguard has reported on transparency between Aramark and PSU on sustainability issues, less-than-desired work conditions, and its recent commitment to sourcing meat from cruelty-free companies.

This year, Aramark has displayed posters highlighting its sustainability efforts around the large shopping-mall style seating area, away from the actual food customers purchased.

PSU sophomore Teresa Brink, who does not often eat food from the Viking Food Court, said she believes PSU students are concerned about the source of their food and prevalence of their waste. “PSU is known for [its] commitment to sustainability, and I think that the [SMSU] Food Court would be a great opportunity to implement and display those values.”

If the face-lift goes as planned, and it becomes “more inviting and comfortable,” Brink said, “I would consider spending more time there.”

Before PSU Eats’ fall grand opening, it plans to host an event for students, and Salt & Straw will be hosting a special event on July 5 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Park Blocks. More details will be made public as available.