The DeBruce Center: a legend and much-anticipated building that even deserved its own 30 for 30 on ESPN. In a place that holds the original rules of basketball (suck it, Duke), it’s only logical that the upscale glass building has the best food on campus.
I reached out to Cynthia Faircloth, the manager of the Courtside Cafe, and she gave me some of her time to sit down with me and talk about the Courtside Cafe. I also got to try some of the amazing food that the Courtside Cafe offers. There are two new unfamiliar restaurants in the lineup, along with Brella’s (what’s KU without the Crunchy Chicken Cheddar wrap?) and Freshens. The Cafe is open for breakfast, lunch, and an early dinner.
I started with the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe sandwich from Sunflower BBQ Co. It’s stuffed with smoked pork, coleslaw, and fried onions, with waffle fries on the side. Sunflower BBQ Co. is a locally focused restaurant, so you know that your meat is Kansas bred. It also uses hormone and antibiotic free chicken, along with free range meats. Faircloth’s decision behind bringing Sunflower BBQ Co. to the lineup was to “bring in a lot of Kansas flavors. BBQ fits the ticket when it comes to Kansas, so it was a no-brainer.” This also adds to the draw of the Courtside Cafe itself–where else can you get stellar barbecue on campus? Nowhere.
Along with the incredible sandwich, I had just one of the several macaroni and mix-ins options from Sunflower BBQ Co. It’s one of the more popular options offered from Sunflower BBQ, along with the Smokey Jay sandwich (read: the best sloppy joe you’ll ever have). I also got to try the smoked chicken wings, which are house smoked for about an hour and a half to really draw out the flavor. The BBQ boasts nine different sauces to complement your meat, ranging from blueberry chipotle to whiskey maple to KC Original. The Courtside Cafe makes two sauces of their own and they source the rest from Kansas City. The blueberry chipotle was my favorite, starting with a sweet taste, then becoming spicy at the end.
I had the fried green beans from Prairie Fire Grill with a garlic aioli as a side. I’ll be honest, I don’t even like green beans, but these were delicious. The Prairie Fire Grill was added to the lineup with healthy in mind. The secret behind the lean meat (which is free range, humane, and local) is the churrasco grill. A churrasco grill is typical in Latin American cuisine and is unique to the Courtside Cafe.
The greens and grains bowl from Prairie Fire Grill is one of the healthier options offered at the Courtside Cafe. Faircloth explained that the Prairie Fire Grill incorporates “a lot of world flavors,” offering combinations with an African influence, like the ginger edamame spread, to a Mediterranean influence, with the tomato and feta spread.
The restaurant is definitely classier than its counterparts, and it’s the small details that stand out. The food is served on reusable plates, so the Cafe tries to take away from the grab-and-go ideal that a lot of other dining halls employ. The Courtside Cafe uses their slogan, “your campus kitchen table,” to the max by instilling the idea that this is a place to sit down and enjoy the environment and your meal. Both times I’ve been here, I’ve seen students studying and I’ve seen people having business meetings. It’s safe to say that the DeBruce Center is the go-to spot for everyone on campus.
The building itself stands out on campus with its huge glass windows, lending itself to fantastic lighting. There’s no reason to waste electricity on lights in the DeBruce Center. The Courtside Cafe is big on sustainability, just like the rest of KU Dining, but they’ve got the latest and greatest technology to make the restaurant more efficient than ever.
This machine pictured above is referred to as the digestor. It takes in all the food waste that would normally go into the compost, like tomato cores or fat trimmings of meat, and processes all of it with enzymes in the machine. The digestor then puts out nothing but gray water, which goes into the plumbing and can easily be filtered into clean drinking water. Any plastics or paper will get shredded and put into a pulper to reduce all the moisture, effectively putting out as little waste as possible.
If you’re looking for a place to get an amazing meal on campus without spending your entire week’s savings, the Courtside Cafe is the place to be. With so many different options, you could easily come here every single day for a year and still not have tried all the possible combinations.