Students will soon get to enjoy some of Durham's most popular restaurants inside the West Union, including Geer Street Garden, Enzo's Pizza and Sitar Indian Palace.
Director of Dining Services Robert Coffey officially announced the full list of vendors for the West Union Friday—Three Seasoning Catering, Sushinara, Saladelia, Au Bon Pain, Campus Coffee of Durham, Enzo’s Pizza, Sitar Indian Palace, Geer Street Garden and The Boot. These vendors will be holding tastings on the plaza once a month on Tuesdays throughout the year as a part of a “Taste of West Union” series.
Geer Street Garden was previously announced as the first vendor and will be the first vendor to begin service in the West Union as the operators of Devil’s Krafthouse pub on the first floor, which opens in February 2016. The other vendors will begin operation when the West Union fully opens for Fall 2016.
Some of the vendors in the new facility are already familiar to students.
Enzo’s—currently one of the most popular merchants-on-points vendors—will operate Il Forno, and is known by students for its specialty pizzas. Sitar Indian Palace is currently serving students in Penn Pavilion and will continue to operate on campus in the West Union in Tandoor. Saladelia, already serving sandwiches, drinks and pastries at The Perk, will add a location in the West Union called Café. The new location will offer a different and more expansive menu than The Perk, wrote Robert Coffey, director of dining services, in an email.
Au Bon Pain, which currently operates in the Bryan Center, will move to the West Union. The space in the Bryan Center currently belonging to ABP will be converted to a soft seating area for studying or watching television, Coffey wrote.
Some students have expressed dissatisfaction with Duke Dining's decision because it does not do enough to promote new variety on campus.
"I don't think it's that big of an improvement," sophomore Jonathan Osei said. "We already have Sitar, we have ABP and we already have two burger places."
Others noted that the vendors are a source of excitement as they prepare for the opening of the new facility.
"I'm really excited about an actual sushi place being in West Union. I have high expectations and hopefully they'll be met," sophomore Jasmine Pringle said.
In addition to excitement, some students are wondering why previously popular vendors such as Chick-fil-A will not be making a return.
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"I'm really excited about the Indian cuisine. It's always a reliable source of food," sophomore Casey MacDermod said. "It's interesting that they're bringing a lot of Durham based places into the union. I don't understand why they don't put Chick-fil-A in there."
Although some vendors will be making a new move to on-campus locations, other vendors in the West Union will have similar leadership as eateries that students already frequent.
Sam Clowney and Chris Holloway, the same partnership that runs Café de Novo in the Law School, Bella Union and Café Edens, will operate Campus Coffee of Durham, which will occupy four locations in the West Union—Skillet Southern Cookery, JB’s Roast & Chops, The Chef’s Kitchen and The Commons. The owner of Twinnies and Blue Express, Fares Hanna will operate Three Seasoning Catering, which will operate in The Farmstead and Sprout.
The list of vendors for the West Union has been in development for three years, Coffey wrote. With the help of Duke Student Government, Duke Dining organized a number of student focus groups to "provide direction" on prospective vendors. Duke University Student Dining Advisory Council then met with owners and sampled menu items last semester.
The "Taste of West Union" series will begin Sept. 29 with the owners of Geer Street Garden and The Boot.
"This will be an opportunity for the whole student body to meet these talented local Triangle restaurant owners and chefs and sample some menu options that will be part of the menu mix for their West Union venue," Coffey wrote.
The dates for the "Taste of West Union" series are as follows, with West Union locations in parentheses:
Sept. 29—Geer Street Garden & The Boot (Devil's KraftHouse)
Oct. 27—Sitar Indian Cuisine (Tandoor)
Nov. 17—Sushinara (Gyotaku)
Dec. 8—Enzo's Pizza (Il Forno)
Jan. 26—Three Seasoning Catering (The Farmstead and Sprout)
Feb. 23—Saladelia (Café)
March 29—Campus Coffee of Durham (Skillet Southern Cookery, JB’s Roast & Chops, The Chef’s Kitchen and The Commons)
TBD—Au Bon Pain
Sarah Kerman and Neelesh Moorthy contributed reporting. This story was updated Sunday evening to include student reactions and Sunday night to include Coffey's comments.