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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, April 17, 2014

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In Dining

UWM restaurants director Scott Hoffland stays on top of a busy operation.

In Dining

The Atrium food court is UWM's "main street."

In Dining

Grant Rogers is a lead worker at the student union Grind coffee shop.

In Dining

The Flour Shop has coffee, pre-made sandwiches, salads and fresh fruit.

In Dining

Affordable prices and food options keep diners coming to these two popular UWM spots.

UW-Milwaukee restaurants offer green, local alternatives


For the fifth straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com, presented by Concordia University. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2011."

The University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee restaurant operations are likely the busiest spots for food and drink in the city, serving 20,000 people a day everything from eggs, muffins, scones and coffee to lasagna, vegetable wraps, stir fry and ice cream.

The university's operations include restaurants, cafes, coffee shops and convenience stores in 24 different locations across the many UWM buildings. Increasingly green and publicly owned, UWM restaurant operations also tries to keep things local.

The university has five Grind coffee shops, in the UWM student union, 2200 E. Kenwood Blvd., on the ground floors of the Gold Meir library and the engineering building and in two of the residence halls, Sandburg and Cambridge Commons.

Scott Hoffland, director of restaurant operations, says the university started development of the Grind in 2004 and it has become their most successful venture.

Grant Rogers, lead worker in the student union Grind, likes working for the university food operations and believes they do a good job serving their high volume of customers, which he says stays fairly constant from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

"I'll have worked here four years in January. It suits my school schedule very well," says Rogers, who is in charge of inventory, stocking and ordering for the union Grind. UWM restaurant operations has 642 student employees. They also employ 26 people full time.

The Kenwood Inn, on the third floor of the student union, is an old favorite, serving gourmet deli sandwiches and soups. It was a popular on-campus destination in the 1980s, attracting people who weren't otherwise heading to the university for its food and city views before the East Side's dining options exploded.

"The Kenwood Inn in its heyday was a great place," says Hoffland.

Other union restaurants are located in the Atrium food court, which people in UWM restaurant operations refer to as "main street," because it is the most heavily traveled part of campus. These consist of a Burger King, Taco Bell, the Flour Shop, Pacific Wraps, Palermo's Pizza, Cedar Crest Ice Cream, City Subs and the Stir Fry. On the street level floor of the student union is the Union Station (formerly known as the Terrace Cafe), which is also a convenience store and a recently added sushi bar.

Housed in the original student union building, the Union Station is the longest running cafe at UWM, but many UWM alumni of a certain age will remember the Alamo Cantina, which was once located on the campus level floor of the student union where office spaces are now.

The customizable stir fry menu item in Union Station was so popular they could only offer it on Fridays, otherwise Hoffland says it would shut down their operations. Now "the Stir Fry" has its own identity and location on "main street."

Another hot spot in the student union is the Gast Haus, a basement bar also serving sandwiches and lots of fried foods. It's popular because of its large screen TVs, pool tables, video games and close proximity to the union's bowling alley.

There are cafes in Enderis Hall, Cunningham Hall and in the residence halls, Sandburg, Riverview and Cambridge Commons. Riverview has a convenience store. The Grind coffee shop in Cambridge Commons is right along North Avenue. There is also a late night cafe called the Palm Garden and a convenience store called the Emporium located in Sandburg.

The three dormitory cafes are for resident dining and are the most successful based solely on sales, offering a variety of meal plans for student residents.

But in terms of visibility, according to Hoffland, the Grind locations are the most successful operations. Serving Alterra coffees and baked goods, Grind coffee shops are intended to provide "as wide a selection of products as possible," appealing to greater numbers of people. At the end of January 2012, UWM restaurant operations plans to open a new Grind and a convenience store in the old Columbia hospital, which was recently acquired by the university.

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