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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    How to get beyond your meal plan

    Alex Kulpinski
    Alex Kulpinski / Arizona Daily Wildcat Suzette Rodriguez, a Media Arts Freshman, takes orders during the lunch rush at the Cellar Bistro. Rodriguez has worked in the Cellar since August.

    Be warned: Your meal plan, as limitless as it may seem, will go stale much quicker than your tour guides would like you to think.
    Swiping your CatCard for every meal (and snack) starts out feeling like spending a pile of Monopoly money at an all-you-can-eat buffet, but by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, you’ll be craving a home-cooked meal more than a token beverage on Thirsty Thursday. The UA Dining Services website proclaims that its “quality, variety, convenience and healthy food options are unsurpassed,” and while it’s true that it offers up plenty to choose from for undergrads largely confined to campus, you may need to get creative if you want anything you eat to truly surpass your stocked fridge back home.

    Here are a few tips on building your own menu of favorites at the UA to keep your tastebuds out of a rut.

    Tip #1: Skip the lines and take a chance

    When caffeine-deprived freshmen brace themselves for their very first college exam, Starbucks seems like the natural option. Unfortunately, the UA’s edition of the famous coffee staple isn’t famous for its impeccably brewed drinks, but rather its notoriously long lines. To beat the crowds, walk about 50 paces south to Canyon Cafe in the Student Union Memorial Center, which has an extensive offering of flavorful lattes, teas and coffee blends with half the wait time.

    Tip #2: It says “Express” for a reason

    With its limited menu and service often lacking in the restaurant chain’s famous Southern hospitality, the Chick-fil-A in the Student Union is hardly worth visiting, except for the occasional large sweet tea on a 100-degree day. While it may still be the best fast food option on campus, con a friend with a car into driving you to the Tucson Mall or El Con Mall locations to explore beyond the generic chicken sandwich combo with standouts like banana pudding milkshakes, a toasted chicken salad sandwich and yogurt parfaits for breakfast. If your mouth is starting to water, you’ve clearly been deprived.

    Tip #3: Happy Hour is your new best friend

    Core is constantly proclaimed by campus recruiters as being the healthiest choice at the UA, while their website touts that you’ll find “the food your body loves” in its organic, vegan and gluten-free options. For $6.75 you get to fill a bowl with your chosen mix-ins, but once you add meat and tax, you’ve got a $9, moderately-sized salad on your hands. Enter Happy Hour, where Monday through Thursday you get the same salad half off from 5 to 7 p.m. Get there early to avoid the line out the door and relish in getting a dinner your body ­— and wallet — can love.

    Tip #4: Authenticity is worth the walk (and the extra cash)

    When the highly-underrated Mexican food tent behind the Modern Languages building mysteriously disappeared last fall, the new eatery Sabor in the Student Union seemed like a poor substitute. The options are numerous and not half bad, but if you really want to experience the food Tucson is famous for, take a short walk to Jett’s Wildcat gas station just south of the Arizona Sonora Residence Hall on Sixth Street and Park Avenue. Inside is Mr. Antojo’s, a tiny stand that’s been recognized for the “Best Sonoran Hot Dog” in the city. It may look modest, but this operation is the real deal, cranking out delicious caramelos, tacos and carne asada recipes straight out of Hermosillo, Sonora. You can’t swipe your CatCard, but you’ll get 10 percent off for flashing it when you check out.

    Tip #5: Park Student Union

    Unless you live at Arizona Sonora or Árbol de la Vida, PSU may seem inconvenient, but it has several unique options that make it well worth the trip. Its spacious market beats Highland Market both in layout and class, as you won’t have to fight a drunk pledge for the last Powerade. And Bagel Talk dominates On Deck Deli across the board with hangover cures sent from heaven in the form of inventive pizza-style and breakfast bagels sanwiches.

    Tip #6: It’s all worth trying once

    Every year brings some welcomed additions to the UA food court family. This fall, Einstein Bros. Bagels will be among the changes. The jury’s still out on whether these two eateries will introduce any welcomed variety for students pressed to squeeze in a halfway-decent meal between classes, but breaking up your meal monotony is crucial to staying focused on other more important problems … like where to get dessert.

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