(Photo courtesy of Eggroll Cafe website) “A popular drink at Eggroll Cafe is their boba tea.”
Many students on and off campus at UMass Lowell take advantage of food services at the dining commons. However, there are many who prefer a wider variety of diverse food options and instead opt out and prefer local cheap eateries located around UML’s campuses.
UMass Lowell’s dining commons at Fox Hall and the McGauvran Center provide all-you-care-to-eat meals and snacks for students (and faculty/staff) according to the hours of operation of the academic year. These dining halls are set up buffet style with their regular menus ranging from baked goods, burgers, roasted and grilled chicken, deli, fries, pizzas, toasts, salads, soups, fruits and cereals.
Tien Phan, a UMass Lowell freshman off-campus student, eats at South Campus’s McGauvran Center about once a week and regularly dines at Eggroll Café (near North Campus) two or three times a week where she currently works part-time. Although eating at the café is most convenient for her, she said, “[T]he McGauvran Center has less Asian culture food [and] more of sandwiches, pizza [and] some type[s] of rice, which isn’t very Asian.” When she does go to the university’s dining or marketplace, she said, “A lot of the things I do eat are fast foods.”
While many students eat the fast food available at the dining halls, the Riverside Food Trailer (also known as Egyptian Grill) also involves students waiting in lines to get food. Joseph Wassa, the owner, describes his truck as regularly being busy with a majority of the customers being North Campus students who stop by to buy food in between their classes. Wassa said, “[During] school time … most of them are students. But [during] summertime, we have customers from everywhere.” Wassa said that the majority of his customers were from the Middle East during the first few years after the food truck was opened, but now, there’s a large population of students from all different backgrounds who stop by to get food. “We have different kind[s] of food, and it turns out that everybody like[s] it … I get feedback from a lot of customers, we are very close to students and we have a very fast service,” he said.
Wassa is a Muslim and an alumnus of UMass Lowell who recounts not being able to find any nearby halal food when he was a student. “When I was a student, I used to look for halal food and I didn’t find much here so this [pointing to the food truck] is something I wanted to do and I ended up doing,” he said. “I don’t think [students will] find food like this; they [will] find other foods like pizzas and things like that, [but they] can’t find [this food] anywhere else [near campus].”
Damilola Amule, a UMass Lowell commuter and a junior transfer student, usually meal-preps at home, but when she is on campus for the majority of her day, she goes to Subway or Starbucks. Ideally, she would prefer to dine here without being enrolled in a River Hawk meal plan. “I think it’s easier for me to eat here instead of me going [home] and then coming …because I’m already here for [the] majority of my day,” she said.
Although Amule finds it more convenient to dine on campus and Phan prefers dining at her work restaurant, both would appreciate the variety of culturally diverse foods that could be offered at the campus’s dining services. “I feel like the school should offer a variety of foods,” said Amule. “I transferred from a different university and …we had a bunch of different kinds of food,” she said. “I feel like having one specific restaurant isn’t, like, good for everyone … having different kinds of food options is good.” Phan would like to see diversity in Asian food options on campus, such as “more rice options [such as] protein rice … [because] they don’t have [many foods with] proteins. It’s mainly fried or baked food,” she said.
Although there are many cheap eateries around campus that students like to dine at, for students like Amule who spend their day on campus, like Phan who would like to eat more protein-rich food or like Wassa who looked for halal food when he was a student, it would be more convenient for students to have a variety of different culturally diverse food options at the university’s dining commons.
Aramark is the food vendor for the university and has been providing service for some time. More information on UMass Lowell’s dining services can be found on the official UMass Lowell website as well as the dining services website.