Food & Drink

Healthier options at UK's new The 90 dining hall have wide appeal

Diners lined up at the Mongolian style grill during lunch at The Fresh Food Company in The 90 on the University of Kentucky campus. The 90 is UK's newest dining hall, on Hilltop Avenue.
Diners lined up at the Mongolian style grill during lunch at The Fresh Food Company in The 90 on the University of Kentucky campus. The 90 is UK's newest dining hall, on Hilltop Avenue. Herald-Leader

From vegans and vegetarians to those who eat gluten free, The 90, the University of Kentucky's new dining hall, is a one-stop hub for healthy alternatives.

Yes, healthy alternatives. Don't let the Taco Bell fool you, the new dining hall is home to more than just generic fast food.

The 90 was designed with the intention of bringing students together — including those with diets that don't include meat or dairy or gluten, said Charity Bradley, director of marketing for UK Dining.

What's the difference between the approaches? While there is more than one type of vegetarian, in general vegetarians strive to refrain from eating meat. Vegans do not eat food that comes from animals in any way, including milk and eggs. Lastly, gluten-free refers to a diet that excludes a particular component found in wheat.

The Fresh Food Company, part of the $32 million dining complex built by Aramark features meals for many dietary needs, incorporates a menu that changes daily, proving that eating healthy does not mean sacrificing flavor or variety.

"This station has a gluten-free kitchen that serves a gluten-free entree every day," Bradley said, "and the meals are prepared on separate cooking equipment."

UK student Elvys Raposo Pontes eats at The Fresh Food Company, which changes its menu daily, for this very reason. "I think it's really, good, the best place to eat on campus."

"I come for the chicken cause it's always good," Pontes said. "I would like to see the variety include foods and recipes from other countries."

The Fresh Food Company plays an important role in the new dining hall, Bradley said.

"The Fresh Food Company is the heart of the building, offering an open kitchen, marché-style dining environment where chefs prepare made-to-order, fresh food in full view of customers."

UK student Garrett Walton appreciates the many options throughout The 90.

"They have a good variety. You can get a lot of stuff here that you can't get out there," Walton said about the rest of the options in the dining hall.

Eating healthy is the first step to being healthy, UK student Leah Ayau said. She frequents The Fresh Food Company, but not because she is gluten-free.

"I have had it quite a few times," Ayau said. "I eat there not because it's gluten-free, but because they have healthier options."

If none of the dining hall's Fresh Food Company options suit those eating there, other dining venues are nearby. In a row of storefronts along Hilltop Avenue, there's Ovid's Café, which moved from the William T. Young library; Aqua Sushi, from Bluegrass Hospitality Group; Wildcat Pantry, a grab-and-go convenience store; Taco Bell Express; and La Madeleine Country French Café. The dining hall is open to the public.

According to Bradley, "These new choices appear to be a success. We receive good feedback."

  Comments