As a Tech student, I am glad our campus hosted Taste of Atlanta this past weekend. Every year, I enjoy the experience of sampling food from around Atlanta, and am continually surprised at the variety and quality I have right at my fingertips. That, however, is dependent on the fact I am fortunate enough to have a car on campus; take transportation out of the picture, and the options shrink considerably.
Why, then, don’t we foster a richer food culture on campus?
When constraining restaurants to those on campus, students can pick from GT Dining and chain brands. The former definitely has its place as a mainstay for many students. The latter, while functional, does not take advantage of Tech’s unique location in Atlanta. I have no problem with either of these options and, let’s be honest, there are times when a dorita-chruncha-cheesy-beef tacuritto hits the spot. It‘s a shame, though, we don’t bring more of Atlanta’s food on campus.
There are exceptions, though. Highland Bakery is a perfect example of including Atlanta’s food culture on campus. Though we lost a tradition in the transition, Highland provides the good food they are known for right on campus and at prices that work well with students’ budgets. On a more transitory note, the weekly farmers’ market on Tech Walkway also provides students with the opportunity to sample some of the local, and often gourmet, food offerings of Atlanta. On a much nicer level, we also have the Spence. However, as far as accessibility to students goes, the Spence doesn’t hit a “student-level” price point.
These examples are a great start to a transition to a more “metropolitan” food experience, but we can do much better.
The food truck concept has been implemented poorly in Atlanta, but the platform has interesting implications for our campus. Want barbecue on Thursdays in front of the stadium? Done. Gourmet cupcakes behind the Clough? You betcha. The flexibility and spontaneity, of having food trucks on campus is an exciting shakeup to the status quo.
“It’s a shame, though, we don’t bring more of Atlanta’s food to campus.”
Most importantly, though, it is important to re-evaluate how the student body sees food. There will always be times when students need food for the pure utility of it. But, with our location in the center of Atlanta’s burgeoning foodie culture, students will demand more from on-campus options. I challenge our on-campus providers to rise to this demand. More variety, and especially higher quality, will be hard to muster while still hitting a desirable price point, but the added value to the student experience would be huge.
Do I expect to enjoy my sous vide rare beef jus with a side of carbonated cranberries and starch-infused fries? No. We do not need a five-star, iron-chef-inspired bourgeois dining experience. I think, however, with a few relatively minor revisions and additions to campus, we may just live a little more to eat, and eat a little less to live.