This fall, the Morris University Center will have something new inside it besides lost freshmen: a new Southwest-style cuisine option for cost-conscious students.
MUC Director Joseph Pearson hopes to have construction on a new restaurant called Mi Cocina, Spanish for “my kitchen,” completed for the start of the fall semester.
“We do not have a date for a grand opening,” Pearson said. “We are still awaiting some of the equipment and can’t even start training. It should be open in the first week or two of school at the very least.”
According to Pearson, the menu has been simplified. The base options will consist of tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, salads and sides.
After choosing a base option, customers will be asked a choice of toppings, including chicken, steak and pork.
“Everything is made fresh,” Pearson said. “Nothing is frozen like before.”
The restaurant was designed to replace the recently vacated Taco Bell. The 11-year contract between SIUE and Taco Bell expired in April, and the two parties could not come to terms on a new contract due to liability issues. Pearson is optimistic that Mi Cocina will not only be an adequate substitute for Taco Bell, but also an improvement.
“We think we have an excellent product and value,” Pearson said. “It will far surpass Taco Bell in quality and price.”
Although simple, the menu was designed to keep costs down and not sacrifice taste. Pearson said customers would still be able to get a taco for less than a dollar.
The low cost and familiar menu items made Taco Bell a popular stop for students worried about their budgets. Sophomore education major Kelsey Bosworth, of Glen Carbon, said she will eat at Mi Cocina if the same formula applies.
“I will go if it’s cheap. I’m a college student. I don’t have a lot of money,” Bosworth said. “I hope they have fresh ingredients and good fajitas.”
The fresh ingredients will also give options to the health conscious customers by offering vegetable substitutes for their meals.
English graduate student Ashlie Steyer, of Edwardsville, feels the healthier menu options are a bonus, especially for vegetarians.
“I’m looking forward to the restaurant and the fresh ingredients, especially if I will be able to substitute veggies or hopefully tofu for the meat,” Steyer said.
Assistant Director of Dining Services Dennis Wobbe likes the flexibility offered by being in control of the restaurant.
“We aren’t limited on selections like we were with Taco Bell,” Wobbe said. “Taco Bell is standardized, but we don’t have to keep the same menu items. We can do a little better job.”
Wobbe said Dining Services has invested a lot into the new business and has had to create the restaurant from scratch, from the logos to the menu.
“We are real excited about it. We have a great menu, and everybody is taking a lot of pride in the whole process,” Wobbe said. “We have a perfect niche.”
Senior English major Dylan Ford, of East Alton, agrees with Wobbe.
“I just like Mexican food. I would be eating at Taco Bell anyway,” Ford said. “I hope it’s not too expensive.”
According to Pearson, the menu items have been tested and well received, and he is pleased with what the restaurant will have to offer in overall value.
“We are really pleased Dining Services has put together a concept that we hope students will embrace and enjoy,” Pearson said. “Our food is not [low quality], it’s good, and it’s a great value.”