The start of a new school year sent numerous renovations underway at the Russell House University Union, University of South Carolina's main hub for student dining. USC students who returned to campus in August were met with a brand new residential dining hall, "Gamecock Park," a Panda Express, and an updated Gamecock General store. But the most exciting new addition is arguably "Local Restaurant Row."

Previously occupied by Italian kitchen Tavolino, the new dining location brings restaurants of Columbia, SC straight to campus. Each day of the week features a different local business and a new menu for lunch, giving students a taste of the rich Columbia culinary scene just minutes from their dorms.

Corporate Meets Community

While the location is new to USC, it is not the first of its kind. Local Restaurant Row is a program developed by Aramark Hospitality, the company which handles the University of South Carolina's dining services. Aramark's website outlines the setup and function of the restaurant chain. "Local restaurants—and the people who make them possible are the cornerstone of our communities. So we partner with restaurants, food trucks and area chefs to bring you authentic, local favorites and global flavors," their website writes.

This Aramark service challenges what defines a "chain." While the facilities and infrastructure are provided by the company, the food comes straight from the local source. Businesses simply occupy the space temporarily, cooking up the same delicious food in the university's provided kitchen. Its goal is to provide variety and area-specific foods to customers of various cities and campuses.

Cola Classics Come to Campus

Local Restaurant Row is not the first time students have had access to Columbia restaurants on campus. The Belgian Waffle Truck and Mary's Arepas became Greene Street staples as of last school year. The veterans of Soda City Market now appear on campus weekly, offering students global cuisine for a meal swipe. Mary's Arepas now occupies the space in Local Restaurant Row every Friday during lunch. Students can also find local coffee from Indah Coffee Co. being served fresh daily at Horseshoe Deli, located on the first floor of the Humanities office building. USC is making strides towards easier access to local food for students.

Gabrielle McCormick

Taste it For Yourself

The freshly renovated storefront on the first floor of the Russell House aims to expand the presence of local restaurants on the USC campus. Students can taste it for themselves every weekday during lunch using meal plan dollars, Carolina Cash, or a meal swipe for a value of up to $10.50. Not on a meal plan? No problem. Easily pay with a credit or debit card using the GrubHub kiosks located throughout the Russell House. The location currently operates on the following rotating schedule:

Monday: A Peace of Soul Vegan Kitchen (Vegan takes on some Southern classics. Try the fried "chicken" sandwich!)

Tuesday: Size Matters BBQ Bus (Get the most bang for your buck with hefty portions of pulled pork, ribs, and mac & cheese)

Wednesday: Cafe Strudel (A West Columbia staple brings brunch to campus with hashbrown bowls and the local favorite duck fat fries)

Thursday: Paella South (Traditional Spanish paella meets Southern fusion in the "Southern Paella")

Friday: Mary's Arepas (Classic Colombian arepas featuring both meat and vegetarian options 

Gabrielle McCormick

Aramark's Local Restaurant Row features locations at many other university dining halls including: University of South Florida, University of Kentucky, University of Florida, Drexel University, University of Delaware, and more. Check your university dining website for more information on local cuisines being brought to your campus!

Gabrielle McCormick