The fall semester surprised students with two new on-campus eateries that are making strides to implement culture into SUNY Plattburgh’s dining facilities.
The Halal Shack, located in the Sundowner, is a halal franchise preparing American Halal cuisine, combining Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors. According to The Halal Shack’s website, foods served follow Islamic dietary guidelines to produce humanely treated proteins. The menu, which offers rice bowls, gyros and salad bowls, among other options, promotes healthier eating and offers vegan and vegetarian options.
SONO serves Latin American inspired cuisine using ingredients and cooking practices representative of North, Central and South America and the Caribbean, as reported by the Press-Republican. The menu offers quesadillas, burritos, burrito bowls and tacos that can be flavored to one’s preference. SONO operates next to Subway in the Griddles location after 4 p.m.
“They were added to add variety to the program. We’re always looking to expand our services,” SUNY Plattsburgh campus dietitian Jeff Vallee said of the two new options.
Vallee said that by replacing the Sundower’s sandwich station, [Pia Dori], with The Halal Shack, campus dining was able to provide students with a new concept, while still being able to offer a variety of ready-made sandwich options.
“We want people to experience Plattsburgh, so we’ll have some genuine Plattsburgh options—say the michigan and stuff like that—and you’ll have some more Americanized foods, but we also want to get the taste of the regions and the taste of different countries as well,” Vallee said.
This way, both locals and newcomers get to experience classic Plattsburgh foods as well as foods that represent the diversity among the student body.
The new eateries have been met with mixed reviews from SUNY Plattsburgh students.
“I really like the new options. That’s not food that I would usually eat at home, so it was really nice to be able to try something new and not have to cook it myself,” junior digital media production major Abby Daniels said.
“I think everybody’s really curious to try everything out. That’s the place [The Halal Shack] with the longest line during lunch hour. I think everybody’s probably really happy to see a change because if you are here, living on campus for a couple years, after a while it’s the same stuff over and over, so it’s nice to see some new options,” Daniels said.
Senior accounting and business administration double major and community advocate for Adirondack Residence Hall Mariam Barghash was a bit more critical.
“They [The Halal Shack and SONO] are definitely different from what we usually have. They’re trying to get a wider range I think. I don’t know if people from that particular culture would agree that they are being properly portrayed, but it’s definitely a wider range,” Barghash said.
Barghash mentioned that The Halal Shack was good despite the lack of Middle Eastern taste.
“The Halal Shack was pretty nice. It doesn’t taste like the food back home. I’m from Egypt, so it’s supposed to be Middle Eastern sort of,” Barghash said. “I haven’t tried everything though. I want to give them that, so they are doing a pretty good job, it’s just really hard to make it taste like other places when they don’t have the same spices and cooks and whatnot.”
Vallee urges students who wish to represent their peers and give feedback on the new dining options to join the Dining Advisory Committee, which meets on Wednesdays from 12:30-1:30 p.m. in meeting room five in the ACC.
“So far, [the feedback has been] overly positive from what I’ve addressed with the students. We have our first DAC meeting next week. I’ll know more from that as well, but I would say I’ve interacted with over 50 students and it was overwhelmingly very popular,” Vallee said.
Vallee added that The Halal Shack was considered after a visit to University at Albany.
“We also went down to Albany and saw them [The Halal Shack] in service and talked to the students at Albany,” Vallee said. From there, they took the feedback they received back to Plattsburgh.
“What we did is we had a tasting, where we had them [The Halal Shack] come in, talk about their program, do a set up and we had different groups come in to go ahead and represent their peers,” Vallee said.
These groups had to decide whether The Halal Shack would be a good fit for SUNY Plattsburgh. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
“It was a no-brainer to add in The Halal Shack, and we did the same thing with SONO as well,” Vallee said.
The lines for The Halal Shack and SONO at their opening support the “no-brainer” notion to add culture to campus dining.
“Our campus is very diverse, so we’re trying to have a good mix in all our concepts, have a little taste of different things around the world,” Vallee said.