UHCL The Signal
Student Publications Office
University of Houston-Clear Lake
2700 Bay Area Blvd., Box 456
Houston, TX 77058
The Patio Café has gone through a transformation this past summer with the new dining service, Chartwells, adding to both the menu and atmosphere of the café.
Chartwells was brought in by the patio Café in July to replace Aramark. This fall, Chartwells replaced the grill and deli station with Grill Nation and Houston Street Subs. They also re-introduced a Starbucks to the campus.
The subs have larger sliced meats, fresh vegetables and a wider variety of bread choices. There are several types of sandwiches to choose from, all of which are fully customizable, and the grill burgers are larger than before. The weekly specials, which run on a four-week rotation, have also changed, except for the baked potatoes on Wednesdays. Also, new to the café, is a free style coke machine that allows customers to choose from a large variety of drinks and flavors.
I have been to the café, before but only to meet with study groups; I never ordered food. This was my first time eating in the cafeteria. There were many types of food to choose from, almost too many, and I did not know if I should start with the grill or the deli.
The one thing that has not changed in the café is the layout. This is the main reason why it was hard for me to decide where to start. When I entered, I could not see the grill until I stepped into the line for the deli section and walked around to look at the different choices. The Director of Dining Services Michaelangelo Quiballo said the café is planning on putting up bigger signs to show where people can order and pay to decrease the confusion.
It took me only a minute to figure out the layout of the café, and then I was ready to get some food. Quiballo and, Dayris Cardoza, psychology major, helped me figure out what I should eat. Quiballo said that the baked potatoes and the nachos were the most popular food choices. Cardoza recommended the crispy chicken sandwich from the grill.
I ended up picking my first choice of chicken strips and fries combo ($7.78) after reading the menu above the grill. I got in the cash register line, ordered and was given a cup for a drink and a small buzzer to notify me when my food would be ready. The buzzer not only helps keep the food orders organized, it reduces the overall noise level. Otherwise, the workers would be shouting out order numbers over the crowd of students.
For the sake of my review, and since I had never eaten in the café, I decided that it would be a good idea to select food from each station. So, while I waited for my chicken strips and fries, I decided to also get a sub from the deli and a container of strawberries and cream ($4.29) from the grab and go shelf. I chose the turkey bacon avocado sub ($6.39) on white bread from the menu. The bread was toasted and I added my own touch of lettuce and avocado.
By the time I got through the sandwich line, my food from the grill was ready. This all took about five minutes total. The food from the grill was made to order and was nice and warm.
I then found a place to sit and started with the chicken strips and fries. The four chicken strips were lightly breaded with just the right amount of crunch and were very delicious. The fries were enjoyable as well with some added salt.
I then went on to the sub. The bread was soft, unlike the hard bread that normally comes from deli sandwiches. I was especially glad to notice that the lettuce and meat tasted fresh.
Then, to finish my meal, I ended with the strawberries. This was just a simple container that held the fruit layered with whipped cream, and it was a wonderful way to end my meal. I soon washed it all down with my Pibb Xtra with added vanilla from the freestyle coke machine.
The atmosphere has changed with the use of new decorations, but other than that, everything else remains the same. Many students, faculty and staff go to the café not only to eat but to hang out with friends, do homework and study.
As I was leaving, I decided to grab a medium roast coffee ($3.25) from the Starbucks in the café. Quiballo stated that the university is hoping to install a full-scale Starbucks on campus sometime in the future. However, he also acknowledged that this news might be a rumor.
Quiballo also said that with on-campus living coming in 2018, Chartwells is considering the possibility of building another café in the dorm buildings that would be open for students during the weekend. There is also the potential for a smoothie restaurant in the new STEM building.
Overall, I thought that the café was a nice place to go and have lunch. Even with the confusing layout, it does not take much to figure out how everything works. The only thing that I would say needs changing is to bring back the combos at the deli. Without a combo selection, adding sides and a drink is more expensive. Other than that, I was satisfied by the experience that I had at the Patio Café and thought that the food was worth its price. I will definitely be going back for more and maybe even try out different foods from the vast menu.
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