See what’s in store for a new eatery at the University of Illinois

University of Illinois Dining Hall

The University of Illinois is currently renovating its Illinois Street Residence Hall (ISR), an endeavor includes replacing the building’s old dining hall with an airy, modern one. The new eatery, which is slated to be complete in 2020, will be home to 11 stations and micro-restaurants. Read on for an inside look at those concepts, which have yet to be named.

Renderings courtesy of the University of Illinois

Tea bar

tea bar

Located on the lower garden level, the tea bar will offer a space for students to study and relax with friends while enjoying beverages and grab-and go fare such as pastries and sandwiches. While coffee will still be available, the focus of the bar will be tea to better reflect the universities’ international population.

“Tea is kind of this universal drink that every culture has access to, and there’s so much variety,” says Chris Henning, senior assistant director of dining services. “We have so many students from all over the world and we thought that offering a tea bar was maybe a more universal experience for folks.”

The tea will be brewed using a device called RAIN (Reverse Atmospheric Infusion), which uses vacuum pressure to create highly infused tea. One feature of the device is the brewer-facing screen, which can be programed to show facts about the tea blend. This will give employees the knowledge they need to communicate with customers about the tea they are drinking, such as what the flavor profiles are and where it is grown.

Students will be able to use the tea bar for extended hours. Its placement near the building’s windows was intended to create an inviting space for those who are outside the building looking in, says Alma Sealine, director of university housing. “People will be able to see if from outside because of the glass that we have on the front of the structure, so we’re hoping that will draw individuals into that particular concept.”

Convenience store

c store

Adjacent to the tea bar will be the c-store, which will have extended hours and offer an assortment of fresh produce and grab-and-go fare made fresh in the space’s small kitchen.

“That menu will be heavily sandwich-focused, but we’re really trying to go for that Mariano’s grocery feel,” Henning says. “[It’s] more [like] that upscale market where all the ingredients are fresh.”

Asian micro-restaurant


Instead of creating one micro-restaurant dedicated to cuisine from all over the world, the team decided to create a standalone Asian restaurant to better reflect students’ needs.

“Asia is such a diverse region in and of itself. You have so many different cultures and countries represented that we felt like if we tried to jam international all into one station, it wouldn’t be doing our students justice,” Henning says. “This gives us the ability to have more variety, to do more.”

This station will contain a robata grill to offer a fun visual component for students, and it will serve dishes such as chicken yakitori. One of the goals of this restaurant is to serve meals that many of the school’s international student population will recognize from home, Henning says.

“This is [students’] home away from home. We want them to be comfortable and we want them to be happy,” he says.

Pizza and pasta micro-restaurant

pizza and pasta

The school’s sustainability efforts will be on full display at the pizza and pasta micro-restaurant where students will be able to grab made-to-order pies, Henning says. Each pizza will be made with fresh dough using wheat that was grown at the student farm and milled on campus, and topped with a tomato sauce made with the farm’s own tomatoes. Students on the run will also be able to grab a slice from precooked pizzas.

Demo kitchen

demo Kitchen

Flexibility takes center stage at this micro-restaurant. Depending on the day, the demo kitchen will be home to an array of different events and can be closed off from the rest of the floor. “It can operate as many different things. One day it could have a demo and the next it could have a private event,” Henning says, adding that he’d like to reach out to the performing arts school located next to ISR for a potential collaboration. “I’d love to see us do a package where maybe it’s tickets to a show and dinner.”

This space also lends itself as a testing ground, where chefs can test out different recipes and concepts to get student feedback, Henning says

Allergen-free micro-restaurant


This micro-restaurant will offer students a safe space to grab a meal that’s free from the big eight allergens. When designing the space, special care was taken to make sure there would be no cross-contamination from the other restaurants. “It has its own ventilation system that’s not tied into anything, as well as separate storage,” Henning says. “We really are trying to keep our customers safe through the design.”

International micro-restaurant


International dishes found outside Asia will be the focus here. Mediterranean and Latin cuisines will be spotlighted, as the equipment featured in the station will include a tortilla maker, vertical rotisseries and a vertical gyro broiler, Henning says.

Cafe and dessert micro-restaurant

coffee and dessert

Many of the dishes at this micro-restaurant will be centered around an anti-griddle, which will be used to make Thai rolled ice cream. “We have pastry chefs that have experimented with that piece of equipment and have already come up with some recipes ideas,” Henning says.

One of the ingredients chefs have been playing around with for this station is the Autumn Berry, which is an invasive species located throughout the state.

The deli

salad and deli

The ability for employees to maintain a quick speed of service was the focus when designing this station, which will serve items such as sandwiches, soup, salads and grain bowls. “We want there to be [more] serving of the customer rather than the customer serving themselves,” Henning says. The team designed the space to allow students to serve themselves if things ever get too crowded, he says.

The design also includes some permanent self-serve elements such as a soup section separate from the main line to help avoid congestion. To move orders along, visual cues will be placed where patrons line up to show them how to customize their meals. “By the time they get to the point of service, they’re pretty much ready to go,” Henning says.  


The grill


American comfort food will be served at this station, which will feature equipment such as a grill and a smoker. While plant-based offerings will be worked into the menu at the other micro-restaurants, Henning says they wanted to create a separate vegan section at the grill.

“There are aspects of this station that can potentially be viewed as meat heavy,” he says. “We wanted to make sure that students had options, and it was important for us to pull out and make a dedicated vegan area for this micro-restaurant.”

Those looking for plant-based meals will be able to find dishes that include smoked and grilled vegetables. The grill will also serve breakfast items in the morning.

Breakfast micro-restaurant


This completely self-serve concept will provide ongoing breakfast service for students.“The idea is that we’d have all of our continental breakfast items—our cereals, our juice—available throughout the day,” Henning says.

The micro-restaurant will also contain a landing pad area, a space that allows students to take the time to customize their items. “This gives students a spot to stop and dress their items,” Henning says. “For example, if they want to put peanut butter on their toast, this gives them an area to do that.”

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