What’s new: Food options continue to multiply on and off campus in Oakland

Purple plates at the Simple Servings station


As the fall semester begins, what’s for lunch just got a bit more difficult, with new food offerings on and off campus in Oakland.

Joe Beaman, director of the University’s dining services, said his department is focused on creating innovating concepts, offering healthy meal options and partnering with more local businesses.

There are changes to many of Pitt’s major dining hubs with some restaurants rebranding and some relocating. There also are some additions to your dining options off campus.

Market Central

Market Central in the basement of Litchfield Towers has been updated with new paint and new lighting in an effort to “brighten it up as much as possible,” Beaman said.

There are two new restaurant concepts by Sodexo. Mindful, a “health-forward” food concept, offers an array of health foods. Meals are 600 calories with strict sodium and saturate fat requirements and other restrictions.

Simple Servings is a concept designed to offer customers an experience free of food allergens, so no eggs, dairy, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, shellfish and wheat etc.

Everything about the concept’s design is purple, the international color for allergy awareness, including walls, cutting boards, serving utensils and chef’s clothing.

Beaman said this concept came from the work of a committee on allergy-based dining seeking to make a more accessible concept for students dealing with food allergies. It also lowers the risk of cross contamination.

“What we're seeing is an increase in allergy-based diets,” Beaman said, adding that dining services was proud of these changes. “And so, we really looked last year to say, ‘How can we address this?’ And, ‘How can we make any allergy-based dining integrated into our program, as opposed to an addendum to?’ ”

Faculty and staff can get lunches for $6.95 at Market Central and The Perch at Sutherland Hall through the Lunch Money program.

Lunch Money

Panther Central is encouraging faculty and staff to sign up for its Lunch Money program to purchase food from the campus’ restaurants.

Lunch Money works just like a debit card, with money loaded onto your University ID. It can be used at 24 campus locations, including the University Club and Einstein Bros. Bagels. The money is transferred through automatic payroll deduction and each plan offers bonus money. For instance, if you have $25 deducted monthly, you’ll have $27 available to spend

Petersen Events Center

Chick-fil-A has left the Cathedral Cafe and will reopen in a larger space at the Petersen Events Center in January 2020, Beaman said. It will take the place of Burger King and Pizza Hut.

The move will allow the restaurant to go from an express store to full-service, offering Chick-fil-a’s full menu options.

Roc & Roll’d Sushi Bar has replaced Salad Sensations. It offers grab-and-go sushi and made-to-order sushi at different times during the day.

University Club

Café 1923 has replaced Brioche Dorée in the University Club. The name pays homage to the year the University Club building was built, Beaman said. Coffee at Café 1923 will be locally brewed and food will be made with “local, fresh ingredients,” Beaman said.

Cathedral Café

Tres Habaneros has replaced Chick-fil-a. This concept offers build-your-own burritos, taco’s, quesadillas and more to fit the growing demand for fast-casual Mexican-style restaurants similar to Chipotle or Qdoba, Beaman said.

Schenley Café

A new concept called Auditions will offer rotating menu options, two concepts at a time, every six or seven months. The first two featured concepts are an Asian-fusion concept called Peking Plate and the other will be a build-your-own hotdog concept called District Dogs.

Afterward, Kalamata will offer Greek food options while Melts will specialize in all things “ooey gooey,” Beaman said, such as ruebens, paninis and quesadillas.

The last two will be M&C, a mac and cheese bar where customers can add toppings to their bowls, and Ramen, offering Asian-inspired noodle soups.

Customers will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the rotating options, which could decide whether or not a concept returns to the rotation, Beaman said.

Forbes Street Market

Pitt is partnering up with Giant Eagle to offer more wholesale products at lower prices. The market also will offer products from several other local companies, including Paragon, the Pittsburgh Pickle Company and Wholey’s Market. Pitt community members will be surveyed to potentially have products from their hometowns featured for a period of time at the market.

University Store

Local ice cream chain Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream, which is located where the snack bar was, is the only concept on campus not managed by Sodexo. Pitt is partnering separately with the chain’s owners.

Beaman said Millie’s was chosen as a part of Pitt’s goals to engage with local businesses and to offer the Pitt community gourmet ice cream options. There’s even an after-hours ice cream window facing Schenley Quad.

Off campus

Dunkin’ — It’s not Dunkin’ Donuts anymore, but don’t worry there’s still plenty of doughnuts. The store on Forbes Avenue, owned by franchiser Heartland Restaurant Group, was closed for the past few weeks to renovate it with the company’s “next gen” look. It’s the second store in Western Pennsylvania to get the makeover. There will be a tap system serving cold beverages such as coffees, iced teas, cold brew coffee and nitro-infused cold brew coffee. Eventually, you’ll be able to order through the Dunkin’ app and just walk in and pick up your order. There also will be in-store kiosks.

T-Swirl Crepe — Find these Japanese-style crepes, which are crispy and more chewy than French crepes, at the former Wafflelonia kiosk on Schenley Plaza. It’s the second location for T-Swirl — the first is in Squirrel Hill. The crepes can be sweet or savory and are folded into a hand-held cone. Read more about them at the Pitt News.

JJ Poke Bowl and Taiwanese Bubble Tea — This small takeout-only restaurant opened just a couple weeks ago on Atwood between Fifth and Forbes avenues. The build-your-own bowls feature a base, protein (raw or cooked), mix-ins, sauce, toppings and crunch extras.

Starship Deliveries — Have you seen robotic coolers rolling around Oakland this summer? They’re the latest in getting food to you without having to trudge through the cold and rain. They’re set to start delivering food from local restaurants to your doorstep sometime this fall. The Pitt News reported on Thursday that David Catania, the head of government affairs for Starship Technologies, told the  Oakland Planning and Development Corporation at a Wednesday meeting that the company plans to start a pilot with 25 robots in late September, charging a flat $1.99 fee per delivery. A news release earlier in the week said the company plans to expand to 100 university campuses in the next 24 months. You need to sign up for the app, Starship Deliveries, and order through that. Education Dive has more about the planned expansion. 

Bar 3 Oakland Craft House — The second location for Bar 3 — the first is in Millvale — now has a Coming Soon sign out front, although activity inside has been spotty over the summer. The craft beer and pub food restaurant is on Oakland Street, two doors down from the new Mario’s Oakland Saloon, a sister to the South Side mainstay, which opened in May.

Arby’s — The fast-food roast beef shop is returning to the 3000 block of Forbes Avenue. It will open on the bottom floor of the new Bridge on Forbes apartments.

Taiwan Night Market Gourmet — Going in where Top Shabu-Shabu & Lounge was on Atwood Street. It is reportedly scheduled to open in late September.

Donovan Harrell is a reporter for the University Times. Reach him at dharrell@pitt.edu or 412-383-9905. Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at suejones@pitt.edu or 412-648-4294.


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