La Mexicana opens in UA Student Center

Emilee Boster | @emileeboster, Contributing Writer

La Mexicana, a local restaurant-turned-food truck, is this semester’s Bama Dining Flip Kitchen occupant.

Located inside the UA Student Center beside Blenz Bowl, La Mexicana serves a variety of menu options including authentic tacos with add-on toppings, stuffed burritos and tortilla chips with white queso. 

Bama Dining’s Flip Kitchen gives restaurants a chance to temporarily occupy a space in the UA Student Center’s food court. Last semester, Cheese Louise occupied the space.

“We found there to be value in switching more often because there are different types of food that were not being offered in the food court,” said Bruce McVeagh, the resident district manager for Aramark, the contracted food service provider for Bama Dining. “This gives a small business owner a chance to test out what it would be like to do a higher volume.”

Kristina Patridge, the director of UA dining services, referenced the success of Blenz Bowls, a company founded by two UA alumni, as the reason why she believes Flip Kitchen will help small businesses. 

Blenz Bowls started as a food truck on campus and now has a permanent space in the UA Student Center. The company currently has both food trucks and permanent locations at Ole Miss, the University of Tennessee and the University of South Florida in addition to The University of Alabama.

McVeagh said a local small business owner wanted to turn his restaurant La Mexicana into a food truck, so he asked to join the Bama Dining food truck program. After a tedious process to be accepted into the program, La Mexicana drove its new food truck on campus in 2017.  

The Bama Dining food truck program started in 2016 due to requests from students to have food trucks on campus. To be approved for the program, business owners must submit health scores, appropriate insurance and various other paperwork to UA Risk Management. 

Food trucks in the program pay a semesterly rent and commision on dining dollar sales. They have 24-hour access to campus and over 14 different on-campus locations to choose to park the vehicles. 

The businesses submit a location schedule by Friday for the next week. This schedule is posted at the beginning of the week on the Bama Dining website and its social media accounts. 

UA Student Center Director Darrien Simmons said he often walks through the UA Student Center food court and eats at the different restaurants. He speaks with students and listens to their opinions on the service.

After La Mexicana’s opening, Simmons stood in line at the restaurant, listened to students’ orders, and ordered the most popular items. 

Simmons said the Flip Kitchen program gives students a variety of options. 

“It gives students something to look forward to,” Simmons said. “It’s a surprise. The students don’t know what’s going in there.”

McVeagh, Patridge and Simmons ask for students to share their opinions of on-campus food services with Bama Dining through their website or through their student forum

“We listen intently on what is being said,” McVeagh said. “We ask a lot of questions to try to find out what everyone would really like to have. Whenever flavors, menus and palettes change, so do we.”

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