Tuesday, August 19, 2008

El Duke visits the new UOP University Center (It's fancy, and green)

One of the advantages blogging has over print media is we can get our stories to you right away instead of the next morning. So in an effort to scoop the Record (again), I'm getting my review on.

UOP's brand spankin' new University Center opened today and as a way to drum up press test the new facility, they gave away free lunches to pretty much anybody who walked in with a confused look on their face. Yours truly included.

Personally I was hoping that the new campus pub the Tiger's Lair would be giving away free brewskis, but I knew that wasn't the case. I would have tried but as soon as I walked in I knew I was going to be in for a long wait for my free lunch and soda (finally with free refills!), so I picked one of the 37 lines that protruded out of the Marketplace (their fancy name for the cafeteria) and promptly realized I was in the wrong line.

Eventually one of the many Pacific staffers on hand enthusiastically handed me a map and gave me a quick guided tour of the 5 available food stations. Which I will now list if for no other reason than to show of their hilarious names:

On Exhibition
Apparently this means grilled items. Like burgers and and such.

Technically they're two separate station, but one's bread and soup and shit. The other's the sandwich station. Bet you can't guess which is which!

Pacific Rim
Asian food. Allegedly including sushi. And other various Oriental delights.

All that classic food your mom used to make like spaghetti, meatloaf, and chicken.

This is a Stockton based blog, I shouldn't have to explain what a Taqueria is.

There's also a salad bar and a coffee shop on the first floor in the general vicinity of the Marketplace. But those cost money so I didn't even go near them.

I opted for the Oriental section, mostly because in the old Summit (the previous cafeteria-type place) that meant a bowl of rice with stir fry on top. As I approached the station, I realized that was not the case. Instead of a made when you order it rice bowl, the Asian station has turned into pretty much a cafeteria-style experience. You have your tray, you tell the person behind the counter what you want, and they scoop it out of another tray and hand you a plate with your food on it. Maybe the the Summit spoiled me (As a college age resident of Stockton, I've spent my fair share of time at UOP). Granted, this new system isn't a bad thing, I'm just a creature of habit. While disappointed that I didn't have my rice bowl, I was happy that I was able to get my food almost immediately (that "almost" being the line). Before, while waiting for the rice bowl, you had to kind of stand around with a usually huge line behind you while waiting for the stir fry to..well..fry. Time is the price for freshness.

I was also happy that they finally added some variety. Before, the rice bowl was the extent of the Asian cuisine experience at UOP. Well, unless you count the sushi trays. But I make it a general rule to not buy prepackaged sushi sitting in an open air fridge. Just a personal choice, but understandable. But while I was excited to try something new, it also exposed one of my cultural weaknesses. I'm not really up snuff on my Asian foods. I recognized some of the easy ones, there was some chow mein, white and fried rice, and an egg roll. But past that I was at a loss. There was something that was deep fried that tasted kind of sweet and soury, but didn't have any sweet and sour sauce. (Unless they cooked it into the deep fry batter McGriddle style. If so, I want to marry that little sweet and sour ball and have its kids.) There was also some sort of vegetable mix that swam around in what I think was teriyaki sauce. (Oh yeah, I'm no food critic either. But we'll get to what I thought of the foods later.)

After I got my food I needed to find something to wash it all down with. On each side of the Marketplace there's fountain drink stations. Unfortunately while there were 6 or so food stations, there were only 2 drink stations. Depressingly this was twice the amount of drink stations the Summit had. (3 times if you count the Lair) After finding which winding line was the one that ended with me getting a drink, I informed the two empty handed people in front of me that this was the drink line. I then handed them my map and they thanked me as they braved the free food frenzy. The drink line took longer than my food line, but that was more because the jackasses in front of me had an undetermined number of people in their group. Sometimes I was only 3 people away, but then 2 of their friends would come back with cups, because they all forgot cups. And then after all of that, the assholes get water. It's free food fuckos! That means load up on the Mt. Dew while it flows like water!

When it was finally my turn I was disappointed to find out that the ice had run out. It was excusable because roughly half the population of Stockton had descended upon the place in search for a free lunch. Although that still didn't take the sting out of waiting 10 minutes for some warm Dr. Pepper.

I expected finding seating to be a bear, but as with the entire time I spent there, UOP was on the ball and expected it. They had plenty of outside seating to accommodate the penny pinching masses. The food was good considering I wasn't sure what to expect with many bites. Although I guess mystery is what you get when you tell the server "just give me a little bit of everything." What can I say? I'm adventurous.

After cleaning my plate (ok, so maybe it was good regardless of the mystery), I realized one big downfall. My plate was an actual plate, not a paper plate. I have to give this back. Yes, I almost immediately realized that the new UC was a green building. Fucking hippies. At first I thought that I had overlooked the disposable to go plates, but then I remembered my plate was handed to me already full of food. If I then wanted to go back and chow down in the dorm of some broad I had picked up earlier in the Lair, I'd have to come back to return the plate. (Because I would never just throw the plate away anyways in that situation.) Also, I remember drinks coming in different sizes so I could enjoy my Dr. Pepper throughout the day. Now I have a small plastic cup. But hey, free refills!

All in all it was a pretty decent experience. I was expecting mass chaos and was pleasantly surprised that I was in and out within a half hour. During free food day no less. The new UC is a sight to behold. Althought hat new water "fountain" is a drunken death waiting to happen. It's basically a rock slate with a half-inch lip, and the water pours over the lip into a grate that recycles the water. Considering it's in front of the building that houses the only legal public drinking place on campus, I'm predicting a "UOP Student's half inch of death" headline sometime in the future.

I hope you enjoyed this semi-review. I'm used to reviewing movies so being a food critic was kind of new to me. But I guarantee this will be better than the inevitable Fitzy column on the place. But we had it here first, so suck it Record.

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