Health food has many homes on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus, but organic, natural and locally sourced foods are taking over the dining choices in the university’s Northwest Quadrant. Restor opened on the quadrant’s first floor on Monday.
From gluten-free shelves in UWM convenience stores to cafeteria salad bars and campus gardens that first bloomed on the lawn of the EMS Building in 2011 – healthy dining has been on the rise at UWM.
Locally sourced foods began making their way into campus kitchens and convenience stores in 2005, when Restaurant Services purchased $1,200 in local foods. Last year Restaurant Services bought $600,000 of local food for campus consumption.
Located next to a new, blender-equipped Grind Coffee shop (smoothies and blended coffee drinks are on this menu), Restor is UWM’s newest restaurant operation, and sells only natural, minimally processed or nonprocessed food and beverages.
“We really scrutinized every product,” says Brian Vetter of UWM Restaurant Operations. “We took things that are processed out of the equation to focus on food choices that are all natural, and local where possible.”
Vetter says some minimally processed foods and beverages may have made it into the inventory. For example, energy drinks and soft drinks line the store’s beverage coolers.
“People need them during finals week,” says Vetter.
But if you’re looking for an ultra-caffeinated soda or an aggressively fortified sugar-saturated energy beverage, you won’t find it at Restor. Instead, Vetter selected the Zevia All Natural soft drink line. Energy drinkers can try Steaz, a line of organic and fair-trade tea-based energy beverages – an alternative to the sugar and B-vitamin-laden brews available in most convenience stores.
“There are at least 26 restaurants on campus where you can get a Pepsi,” Vetter says. “We’re really focused on bringing new vendors and hard-to-find items to Restor.
“We’re trying to take the element of searching and finding healthy foods out of the food-buying process. By bringing hard-to-find items into this one location, we’re hoping to open the door for other restaurant units on campus to offer these choices.”
Among those new vendors is Milwaukee’s own Rishi Tea and Vern’s Cheese of Chilton, Wis. If fresh produce is what customers crave, they can try fresh salads (cherry tomatoes!) and sandwiches in the deli case. Previously available only in campus residence halls, chef and caprese salads and assorted sandwiches are made with as much local produce as UWM kitchens can access. Salads are complemented with campus kitchens’ homemade vinaigrette dressings, rather than prepackaged, processed, high-calorie dressings.
Organic and all-natural frozen entrées are available in Restor’s small freezer aisle, and Vetter says a few of the brands, like Michael Angelo’s, can be hard to find at more conventional grocers.
The vision of a health-food store has been in the making for a long time. Vetter said student surveys over the past three years have indicated a growing demand for leaner and greener food choices.
“Feedback tells us the inventory we’ve put together here is being demanded by a core group of people.”
The price tag on most Restor items is comparable to health-food prices at other retail units near UWM. Restor is open from 7:30 a.m. – 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and is open to UWM faculty, staff and students.