Cooked in the back, served in the front
RDH was the quintessential college cafeteria, where, except for the grill station, food was cooked in the back and self-served from a long line of steam tables out front.
Enter the food court
As campus grew, so did our dining program. National brands started popping up on colleges and universities and UNC Charlotte welcomed several. Today, with Bojangles’, Chick-fil-A, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Salsarita’s, Subway, Starbucks and Wendy’s, UNCC has more popular fast dining choices than most small towns!
The cafeteria model becomes, well, toast
Then in 2009, Crown Commons in the Student Union opened and meal plan/dining hall service changed in a big way. Crown Commons has a lot less kitchen equipment placed “back-of-the-house.” Much of the food is cooked in full view at ‘action’ stations. This allows for lots of customization and a far more personal dining experience. You see what you’re getting to eat and you watch someone make it for you.
Now, South Village Crossing’s dining hall, SoVi, embraces culinary trends that have emerged since Crown Commons was built. This is not about keeping up with food-fashion but:
- Is in response to consumer demand for healthier dining options;
- An adaptation to the cultural shift of more frequent, smaller meals throughout the day;
- Provides portion size awareness;
- Is sustainable and conserves ecological balance in food production, preparation and reduction of waste;
- Maximizes value for “unlimited” meal plans by allowing more frequent dining and snacking throughout the day and evening;
- Adopts restaurant trends of “plating” food for enhanced visual appeal.
SoVi is new and unexpected
SoVi dining hall at South Village Crossing incorporates all this and more in its model. There’s very little “back-of-the-house” food preparation. In fact, all that’s really behind walls is refrigeration, prep tables and sinks — no cooking equipment. Cooking is done at modern action stations like the Teppanyaki griddle, Evo cooktops and in gas-fired hearth ovens. This equipment is designed for small-batch and healthy cooking methods and offers chefs the flexibility to interact with patrons and customize dishes according to diner preferences.
Big taste on little plates
What’s really different is that meals are made in smaller batches and served tapas-style on small plates. Benefits of this are:
- Conscious eating - Large servings on nine-inch dinner plates often leads to overeating because people tend to eat the food that’s in front of them, even after they feel full.
- Portion awareness – realistic, single portions provide a consistent reference point. It’s easier to shape a balanced meal with individually portioned plates as units, opposed to a plate piled with randomly measured food.
- Bright flavor – achieved through small-batch cooking. Taking a cue from the artisanal foods movement, dishes are made with craftsman-like care; freshness and quality are the watchwords, not bulk or quantity.
- Appealing presentation – small plates of food look appetizing and composed, elevating the dining experience to something nicer and more personal.
- Waste reduction - smaller portions lead diners to throw away less.
It’s odd at first to see little plates in a dining hall, but then you realize how easy it is to gather a nice variety of flavors. The result is a meal that looks and tastes like it was prepared just for you. And small plate presentation is not at all restrictive. You can go back for more of anything you want, as many times as you’d like.
But wait! There’s more! SoVi2Go, SoVi Market + Bakery and The Den by Denny’s
On weekdays, SoVi dining closes from 2:00 pm – 5:00 pm to reset and get ready for dinner, while SoVi2Go, located upstairs, offers meals to go and meal swipes are accepted (as are DB and ODA). Here’s how SoVi2Go works:
- Fill a reusable container with featured entrees that are currently being served at SoVi Dining (including beverage and dessert); or get
- hot soups-of-the-day, fresh salads and fruit.
- SoVi2Go provides a meal plan dining option during the weekday reset down periods at SoVi, and also extends dinner serving time until 9:00 pm Mondays – Thursdays
SoVi Market + Bakery offers a large daily assortment of pastries, tarts, cupcakes, macaroons, cakes (whole or sliced), individual trifles, muffins, and cookies, along with convenience items, beverages, snacks, candies, grab-and-go sandwiches and salads, and a variety of specialty meals and snacks. *
The Den brings Denny’s favorite tastes to UNC Charlotte, from breakfast-all-day favorites like the Original Grand Slam and Slamwich, to hand-smashed burgers (including the "MecklenBurger," created just for UNC Charlotte) and a mouthwatering selection of sandwiches, signature salads, burritos and munchies. Menu
The Den is a true late-night dining option, with hours until 2:00 am. *
If you haven’t yet gone over to see South Village Crossing you should make a point to do so, soon. The building is beautiful and it’s got lovely views from expansive terraces, cozy lounge areas warmed by fireplaces, and a great vibe that feels like nowhere else but UNC Charlotte.
We hope you come to eat and enjoy all the facility has to offer. While the differences may take some getting used to, we think you’ll walk away saying, “I could get used to this!”
Additional info, contacts for questions and helpful links:
- Both the Green Line (Rt. 49) and Yellow Line (Rt. 47) serve the South Village area. Here’s where you can find a list of shuttle stops and don’t forget, the UNCCNextRide app and website (nextride.uncc.edu) show where the buses are so you’ll know when to walk out to the nearest stop.
- For questions/comments/suggestions regarding South Village Crossing and UNC Charlotte campus dining:
For nutritional information about UNC Charlotte’s dining program:
- Chartwells Dining Services Dietician, Beth Mack, MPH, RD firstname.lastname@example.org
- Beth’s nutrition blog: http://keepitfreshkeepitgreen.blogspot.com
For questions about meal plans:
10 Tips for healthy eating in a dining hall PDF (a USDA publication)
* SoVi Market + Bakery and The Den accept DB, ODA, 49er Account, cash, debit or charge cards. SoVi dining hall and SoVi2Go accept meal plan swipes, DB, ODA, 49er Account, cash and debit/charge cards.