By Drew Wemple
Freshly made deli sandwiches are back on campus in a new location. This Monday, SUNY Plattsburgh opened Kent Cafe in Kent Hall, the newest on-campus dining venue.
After College Auxiliary Services elected to close Subway and Little Al’s this semester, students flocked to Kent to get a taste of a new, yet nostalgic campus flavor.
The cafe is built alongside the Saranac River Trail that runs behind campus, with seats inside facing the river. But the view isn’t the only thing Kent has to offer.
Smells of baked bread, ground coffee beans and fresh veggies filled the air, a large black “Kent” bicycle stood on the counter as part of a raffle and brightly colored smoothies were blended in rapid suspension. Kent Cafe’s grand opening was filled with surprises and new tastes for students.
The grand opening started at 11 a.m. Upon entry through the side double doors of Kent leading to the cafe, students were stopped before getting in line for their meal. Luis Guevara, a senior fitness and wellness major, was standing just before the start of the line, informing students how the new cafe was set up and how it would work. Guevara was there as a part of his internship for the nutrition department.
“Whoever comes in, I tell them their options that they can choose from on a meal swipe,” Guevara said.
Guevara also directed students toward Kent Cafe’s grand opening raffle. Students dropped a piece of paper with their name and phone number on it into a ballot box for a chance to win a free meal, an Instax mini camera, a bluetooth speaker or a full-sized matte black mountain bicycle.
“Students can either make their own sandwich or choose one of the six trademark sandwiches and can grab two sides and a drink on the meal swipe,” Guevara said.
The signature sandwiches at Kent Cafe offer students a variety of combinations of different breads, meats, vegetables and cheeses. From the AuSable Club with shaved turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion and basil mayonnaise on white bread to the Hawkins Pond Tuna, a tuna melt sandwich with choice of cheese on wheat bread, all of the sandwiches are named after recognizable parts of SUNY Plattsburgh, like the Italian Angell or the Burghy.
The sandwiches themselves are also made with a twist. All of the bread for Kent Cafe is made on-site. The cafe offers a choice of sub roll, white, wheat or artisan bread.
Sophomore Elliot Howard stopped by Kent for the opening after one of his morning classes. Howard ordered a toasted buffalo chicken sandwich with bacon, lettuce, onion and pepper jack cheese on white bread.
“It didn’t taste like a premade sandwich you could find somewhere else on campus,” Howard said. “You could tell the bread was fresh.”
Howard ordered a fruit salad and bag of chips for his side and a tea to drink, all on one meal swipe. The side selection consists of both veggie and fruit salads, yogurt, pudding cups, soup, chips and cookies. For drinks, the cafe is offering a choice of bottled water, canned soda, standard and specialty coffees and smoothies. The smoothies and specialty coffees can only be purchased with Cardinal Cash.
The menu was put together by Mark Brothers, the director of operations for Chartwells, and Chartwells Executive Chef Sam Ramer.
Ramer transferred to SUNY Plattsburgh last year and arrived right at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. He started off at the Sundowner in the Angell College Center and now oversees and works with all campus dining locations.
“I’ve been working with the whole team to get this menu and location ready for today,” Ramer said on the day of the grand opening. “We see this as like a Little Al’s 2.0 but still fresh, clean and new.”
Kent Cafe has more ties than just its menu to the former on-campus deli Little Al’s. Much of the staff that were working at the sandwich counter used to be stationed at Little Al’s.
“We have our veteran team intact doing what they did at Little Al’s,” Ramer said.