In reviews of six campus restaurants, the BYU Magazine staff offers tips for sampling BYU’s array of culinary choices.
Get BYU’s top two dining experts talking and you’d think they were city planners not culinary artists. “We look at BYU as a community of neighborhoods,” says Dean A. Wright, ’74, director of Dining Services. “Building community is what food is all about.”
Executive chef Robert W. Morgan, ’90, agrees. “Food is very communal,” he opines. “It’s not just eating; it’s an experience between people.”
From this philosophy the Dining Services staff has cooked up a plan to turn the 36,000 meals they serve daily into more than moments of mass consumption. They hope to generate opportunities for people to “gather and break bread together,” according to Wright. Creating “neighborhood” restaurants, developing fresh menu concepts, and cultivating friendly service, Dining Services has tried to live up to its motto: Great Food Is Just the Beginning.
Indeed, as the BYU Magazine staff discovered on a whirlwind tour of campus restaurants, delectable dishes and savory desserts are only the foundation of each restaurant’s distinctive flavor. Equally enticing were the service, attention to detail, and inviting settings. This blend of ingredients led to BYU Dining Services’ receiving the high honor of an Ivy Award from Restaurants and Institutions magazine in 2001.
Amid all our eating, we got a taste for the distinctive cultures of campus neighborhoods. From the nostalgic ambiance of the Creamery on Ninth to the upbeat tempo of the Marketplace Café to the cultured setting of the Skyroom, each restaurant allowed us to ruminate on the variety that characterizes BYU.
Following are our restaurant reviews along with helpful hints for those drawn to retrace our steps. Bon appétit!
—Peter B. Gardner, ’98, Associate Editor
The BYU Magazine staff has gathered eight recipes from campus restaurants that you can try at home.
By Peter B. Gardner, ’98, Associate Editor
A brief elevator ride whisks our party of BYU Magazine staff from the harried second floor of the Wilkinson Student Center into a peaceful haven over campus. Built as part of the original Wilkinson Center and renovated in 1998, the Skyroom Restaurant offers a contemporary fine-dining atmosphere for lunches and Friday-night buffets.
Tall windows line three walls of the spacious, open restaurant and provide views of Provo, BYU, Mount Timpanogos, and Y Mountain. On this hot summer day, billowy white clouds waft by, as if at the tempo of Norah Jones’ soft jazz, which is playing in the background.
The menu offers “Old Favorites,” including the hefty Skyroom burger, as well as “Fresh Menu Offerings,” like the portabella burger, which features a giant marinated and grilled mushroom in place of the beef. The menu is rounded out by a variety of specialty drinks (like High in the Sky, a layered drink with Y Sparkle and fruit juice) and desserts.
I choose the apricot glazed chicken salad. It’s an eclectic mix of flavors and colors—strips of chicken, a sprinkling of tangy diced apricots, sugared almonds, fresh blackberries, and pineapple slices—all topped off with a blackberry glaze. Hardly a connoisseur of salads, I’m nevertheless intrigued by my salad’s exotic zing. Another favorite at the table is the Four Corners chicken and pasta, moist grilled chicken poised atop tri-colored penne pasta with a zesty southwestern sauce, diced tomatoes, and Parmesan. Our attention is especially drawn to the taco salad (below), arranged in an impressive tilted tortilla-shell bowl that showcases its colorful jumble of tomatoes, shredded chicken, avocado slices, olives, cheese, and salsa.
Accompanying the meal is warm bread with regular and raspberry butter, adding subtle color and flavor. Also distinctive are the Skyroom’s hot-out-of-the-fryer potato chips. The crunchy, ridged chips are rimmed with potato skin and surprisingly weighty.
On Friday nights the Skyroom features an up-scale buffet, highlighted by tender prime rib steak, barbecue ribs, pork, creamy chicken, and salmon with a citrus garnish. This is accompanied by a full and fresh salad bar (also available for lunch), complete with fruit, vegetables, cheeses, pasta, bread, and a creamy, bacon-tinged potato salad.
The dessert offerings are impressive. For those who think chocolate is to die for, the choice is simple: Death by Chocolate features copious chocolate chips baked into each seductive cake layer, topped with a light chocolate frosting. The sorbet dessert comes with three flavors served on a huge, wavy, fortune-cookie-type wafer. Another palate pleaser is the peanut butter torte, a smooth but firm peanut butter cream housed between a chocolate roof and a graham-cracker-crust floor.
With delectable fare, comfortable environs, and attentive servers, it’s no surprise that the Skyroom recently won the lofty honor of a first-place rating among college specialty restaurants.
Restaurant Type: Fine dining
Prices: $6–$12 (Friday-Night Buffet: $21.97)
Hours: Weekdays, 11 a.m.–1:30 p.m. (closed for devotionals); Fridays, 5:30–8 p.m.
Location: Wilkinson Student Center, sixth floor
Tip: Take-out and delivery service are available.
By Brittany S. Candrian, ’04, Editorial Intern
The Indoor Outdoor Cafe
Amid aspiring accountants and buoyant business students lies a piece of metropolis foreign to BYU’s scene. As you step up to the Marketplace Café, on the top terrace of the Tanner Building atrium, you feel like you’ve entered a bustling outdoor café in New York City. Okay, that may be pushing it, but the point is you don’t feel like you’re in Provo anymore.
The Tanner Building’s contemporary architecture provides a striking home for the café. The walls of the atrium draw your gaze upward through the glass roof to soft white clouds and an alluring blue sky. The umbrellas, trees, and shrubs surrounding the café further add to the sensation of being outdoors.
But instead of city traffic sounds, you hear students chatting and the electronic hum of their laptops as they click away on their keyboards. Ethernet connections at each table allow Wall Street–bound students to do homework and surf the Web while eating lunch.
The café, created in 1998, packs a surprising assortment of food into its stands, including quesadillas, salads, and sandwiches. But the sandwiches aren’t just sandwiches—they’re paninos, sandwiches with an Italian twist.
On my visit to the Marketplace, the aroma of melting pepperjack cheese on toasted white bread makes its way to my table before the food arrives. Although I have eaten enough breakfast to feed half of Helaman Halls, my mouth begins to water and my stomach begs for more. Such is the power of the Marketplace Café’s Montana panino. This tasty Italian sandwich consists of turkey, bacon, guacamole, and pepperjack cheese on white or wheat bread. It is toasted in olive oil and grilled just long enough for the cheese to melt its way out of the sandwich and into your mouth.
A half hour later I stare at the empty plate in front of me. Yes, I really did eat every last morsel, and although I now feel like I could crawl into bed and hibernate for the rest of the year, I don’t regret a single bite.
The panino sandwiches are indeed praiseworthy, but the quesadillas are also worth mentioning. For a vegetarian alternative, the garden quesadilla is ideal: a delicate, crisp, spiced tortilla oozing with cheddar and pepperjack cheese and packed with fresh vegetables. For a meal with a kick, try the triple-pepper quesadilla. Although the three-pepper combination is fiery enough to satisfy devoted seekers of spicy cuisine, it’s nothing that a cool drink won’t fix.
If you’re coming from the west end of the Tanner Building, don’t be daunted by the two flights of stairs you’ll have to climb—it’s well worth the trip. In fact, all that is missing from this out-of-Provo experience are pesky birds scavenging for crumbs under your table.
Restaurant Type: Sidewalk café
Hours: Monday–Thursday, 8 a.m.–2:30 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m.–2 p.m. (closed for devotionals)
Location: Tanner Building atrium, third floor
Tip: Daily specials are listed online.
By Andrea J. Ludwig, ’03, Editorial Intern
Even the Food is Art
Catering to all crowds, from budding Picassos to the artistically impaired, the Museum Café is BYU’s avant-garde restaurant, serving international cuisine under muted gallery lights.
Tucked away on the mezzanine level of the Museum of Art, the café offers a rotating menu that satisfies a world of tastes. You’ll have ample time to consider the options as you wait in line and peer over the café’s half wall into the museum below.
The sleek, curved serving counter displays an array of food that is not only appetizing but also beautiful. Presented on flattened celestial orbs—sun, star, and moon plates—the desserts are complemented by a rainbow of chocolate and fruit sauces. Customers are stunned as they see the café’s slogan, Even Our Food is Art, come to life before them.
In fact, art from the museum’s exhibits has been known to influence the menu, as chefs translate themes from the gallery below into edible artistic experiences on your plate. Chinese side salads sprang up as a result of the Imperial Tombs of China exhibition, and Italian sodas appeared with Etruscans: Legacy of a Lost Civilization. Friendlier than Mount Vesuvius, these drinks are volcanoes of sweetness topped by an eruption of whipped cream.
Known for unusual specialty salads and sandwiches, the café offers many fine choices for a lunchtime sabbatical. If you opt for a leafy alternative, select the entrée salad, with a choice of flaky croissants, soft rolls, or Italian focaccia bread. A favorite of the BYU Magazine staff is the teriyaki chicken salad. Served in a bowl Mondrian would have been proud of, a generous bed of mixed greens is tossed with twisty noodles, mandarin oranges, water chestnuts, and strips of tangy teriyaki chicken.
Resisting the urge to eat dessert first is accomplished by relatively few at the Museum Café. The restaurant celebrates the nuances of chocolate with its sinful Black Forest cake masterpiece. As dense as the Black Forest in Bavaria, the dark chocolate cake and its devilishly red, tart cherry topping leave only a scene of chocolate carnage on your plate when you’re done. If you’re not a chocolate connoisseur, fear not. An array of fruit pies, ranging from apple pie (better than Mom can make) to a strawberry amaretto cheesecake, will leave you licking your plate.
The intimate setting lends itself well to casual lunches, but don’t be in a hurry. Stina Van Cott, ’03, the café’s supervisor, calls the bistro “a wonderful oasis, a break from your day.” With a picturesque view of the sculpture gardens to the south, Carl Bloch’s emotional Christ Healing the Sick at Bethesda to the west, and international culinary pleasures before you, you may never want to leave.
Restaurant Type: International bistro
Hours: Weekdays, 11 a.m.–2 p.m. (closed for devotionals)
Location: Museum of Art mezzanine
Tip: The menu changes daily; check online for the day’s offerings.
Creamery on Ninth
By Michael R. Walker, ’90, Associate Editor
Creme de la Creamery
You step inside and it hits you right in the nose, the enticing aroma of deep-fried comfort food mixed with—there’s no mistaking it—a wisp of laundry detergent. But while the Creamery on Ninth is a convenient grocery store, the operation also lives up to its milk-fat-inspired name, offering hand-dipped cones and thick shakes in more than 150 flavors (30–40 at a time).
If you want the full Creamery on Ninth experience, don’t shop hungry. Instead, take a few minutes and treat yourself to the dining delights of the ’50s. After entering through the glass doors facing Y Mountain, look to the right for a large cow with a wobbling mechanical nose, and place your order at the Ninth Street Grill.
Soups, salads, and sandwiches are available if you want a quick, light lunch. But this is a hamburger joint, so avoid confusion and get a double cheeseburger with bacon. Don’t worry—the burgers are of a modest size, leaving plenty of room for a raspberry shake or a two-scoop waffle cone.
And you have to get flavored fries. They’re even worth skipping the burger or the shake, if necessary (but not the waffle cone). Depending on the day, you can choose from regular (if you’re feeling bland), garlic gusto, cracked pepper, salt and vinegar, or jalapeño mild. You can also choose your dipping sauces: regular fry sauce, ranch, pesto, ketchup, or ranchero. Get two—they’re free! After sizzling for a few minutes, a half-pound of fries is handed over in a festive paper cone nestled in a black metal stand. Order the salt and vinegar fries with ranch or the cracked pepper with pesto. You will not be disappointed.
In the end, the Creamery on Ninth is all about the ice cream. From the cool honey explosion in Brigham’s Beehive Crunch to the pale perfection of LaVell’s Vanilla to the most chocolaty ice cream ever, Ernestly Chocolate (marbled with marshmallow, swirled with caramel fudge, and strewn with chocolate caramel cups), it’s all perfectly smooth, cold, and delicious. If you are adventurous, opt for Fire and Ice, a blend of apples and cinnamon with a surprising Tabasco kick. “You think, Oh, this is like apple pie,” says Dining Services chef Robert W. Morgan, ’90, “and then all of a sudden it rips your head off.”
If you want more than one flavor, get the waffle cone. The cones are cooked right there and shaped fresh to accommodate two generous scoops, diminishing the chances of someone else having a flavor more enticing than yours.
For a fun location to hang out with family or friends, the Creamery on Ninth is a delicious choice for burgers from the grill and ultra-creamy treats.
Restaurant Type: ’50s-style hamburger joint
Prices: $3–$7; flavored fries, $1.79
Grill Hours: 11 a.m.–9 p.m.
Fountain Hours: 11 a.m.–11 p.m. (open until midnight on weekends)
Location: 1209 N. 900 East (near Heritage Halls)
Tip: If you order a combo meal, a scoop of ice cream is only 99 cents.
By Jamie Montague Callister, ’03, Editorial Intern
I can hardly wait to sink my teeth into my gargantuan calzone. The crust is flaky and golden; the spinach-and-ricotta-cheese filling is creamy and piping hot. But out of the corner of my eye, I notice an Allosaurus poised for the kill and staring straight at me—the way I was just looking at my calzone. I hope he’s not hungry.
Welcome to the Pendulum Court, the only restaurant on campus where fossils come to life and 10,000 ohms of electricity surge through a Foucault pendulum.
The sleek, modern restaurant is the offspring of the Elizabethan Dining Room in the Smith Family Living Center. In 1998 it reopened in the remodeled Eyring Science Center, and a campus-wide survey chose its name; among the finalists were Newton’s Apple, Rock Hard Café, and Fossil Diner.
Today the Pendulum Court has all the sights and sounds of a little café at a science museum. The kitchen is camouflaged behind lush, verdant ferns and beautiful pinewood paneling. At 11:30 a.m. the unmistakable scent of savory food wafts into the atrium, and the doors to the serving area open. The chairs and tables that furnish a study area convert into restaurant seating.
The only campus restaurant not run by Dining Services, the Pendulum Court doubles as a required class—Food Production Management Lab—for dietetics majors, who rotate through shifts as cook, baker, and salad preparer. “The lab gives students the opportunity to learn managerial functions and skills,” says Nora K. Nyland, ’74, director of the dietetics program. Each meal at the Pendulum Court is nutritionally balanced and requires students to learn a new skill, such as creating the silky ganache that delicately lacquers the top of my chocolate raspberry crème torte.
The menu changes every semester to incorporate fresh recipes into the lab. One recommendation from the student staff is the Moroccan chicken, chicken breast marinated in a spicy yogurt sauce, baked to golden perfection, and served with toasted-almond couscous. Asian lettuce wraps are new this fall, as is the taco soup, a zingy fiesta of tomatoes, beef, beans, and corn (with sour cream, cheese, and chips on the side). The restaurant also serves longtime favorites, such as the tasty chicken enchiladas—made with sour cream, cheese, and green chiles—which have been on the menu for 15 years.
While the Pendulum Court is known for its hot plates, don’t miss out on the exquisite desserts, made from scratch. I recommend the luscious lemon cream pie, and nowhere else on campus can you find glazed cranberry-orange scones— a pleasingly light, moist, and crumbly creation.
Each day the restaurant offers tantalizing fare: a feature attraction, soup of the day, cold plate, dessert, bread, and cookie. Just watch out for the dinosaur.
Restaurant Type: Cafeteria-style luncheonette
Prices: Nothing over $4.25
Hours: Monday–Thursday, 11:30 a.m.– 1:10 p.m. (closed for devotionals)>
Location: Eyring Science Center atrium
Tip: Online reservations are required.
By Jeffrey S. McClellan, ’94, Editor
If you have been away from campus for a decade or more, you may be taken aback by the redesigned Cougareat. But once you sample the abundant fast-food offerings, you’ll likely be pleased.
In the late 1990s the Cougareat traded its intimate diner, buffet cafeteria, and booth seating for a mall food court with seven restaurants, a bakery and creamery, and a convenience store. In addition to the traditional Cougareat fare of hamburgers, salads, and ice cream, you can now get food from Subway, Teriyaki Stix, Freschetta, Tomassito’s, and Taco Bell. Two restaurants—Scoreboard Grill and L&T Produce—are BYU creations.
This busy noon hour I’m drawn to the fresh and healthy L&T Produce. Waiting my turn, I watch the servers execute an NBA play with the food: a snappy stuff, tuck, and roll folds together lettuce greens, cooked chicken, creamy sauces, and fresh vegetables in green (spinach), orange (spice), or red (tomato) tortillas. Any of L&T’s six salads can be made as wraps, and the menu boards also advertise a BYU staple: the Navajo taco.
I remember eating my first Navajo taco in the Cougareat more than a decade ago—sitting near the juke box, biting into the unfamiliar combination of chewy, warm scone-like bread and crunchy, cool lettuce.
Anticipating my return to the culinary border between Navajo tribal lands and Mexican rancheros, I place my order, pay for my prize, and find a table. The course-catalog-thick Navajo fry bread, with its brown hills and yellow valleys, supports warm beef chili and melted cheddar covered by a mound of crispy green lettuce topped with the zesty-smooth blend of salsa and ranch dressing. The juxtaposition of contrasting textures, temperatures, and flavors makes me smile and take another bite.
I’ve eaten this before, and I come prepared with a knife from the serving counter. Brittle plastic forks just won’t cut it in this case, and you’ll need your jaw muscles. This is chewy stuff meant for molar-bearing mammals.
If this filling Frisbee-sized meal isn’t for you, the Cougareat offers bounteous alternatives. After lunch, stop at Sugar n’ Spice to sample fresh-baked warm bread (in mini loaves) with a side of delightful honey butter. Moist, sweet, and mouth-pleasing, the old-fashioned doughnuts were also a hit with our staff. If you happen by at breakfast time, the Scoreboard Grill’s Potatoes O’Brien give the Irish a good name.
The variety, prices, and convenience of the eatery resonate with students, and you’ll always find yourself surrounded by friendly, studious, or famished 20-somethings. And because it is the gravitational center of BYU’s universe, the Cougareat is a great place to meet new people or run into old friends. In that fundamental way, the Cougareat has really not changed at all.
Restaurant Type: mall food court
Prices: Nothing over $6
Hours: Weekdays, breakfast–dinner, Saturdays, lunch (times vary by restaurant)
Location: Wilkinson Student Center, near the BYU Bookstore
Tip: Avoid the first 30 minutes of every hour near midday.
An All-You-Care-To-Eat Tradition
By Brittany S. Candrian, ’04, and Andrea J. Ludwig, ’03
As the on-site cafeterias for Helaman Halls and Deseret Towers, the Cannon and Morris Centers have been an integral part of the experience for generations of students. Built in 1958 and 1964, respectively, these all-you-can-eat buffet-style cafeterias have fed an endless stream of dorm-dwelling Cougars with everything from chicken cordon bleu to waffles covered in warm peanut butter.
Students and alumni alike keep coming back because of the unbelievable variety of food. Fruit and salad bars are open every day, every meal. Multiple hot entrées are available, as are cold cereals, a sandwich-making bar, and a soft-serve ice cream machine.
At least once a month the cafeterias have a special food event, such as chocolate day or a Hawaiian luau. And when parents bring their student to college for the first time, they are treated to a free meal at either of the dining centers. Nonstudents are welcome on other days, too.
Students who tire of the four-week rotating menu often find variety and nourishment in the Cougar Cove, in the Morris Center, or Cosmo’s Connection, in the Cannon Center. Both offer an old-style diner feel, complete with grills and ice cream.
With so much “all-you-can-eating” going on, it’s no wonder some freshman experience weight gain. But the management doesn’t recommend eating ice cream for every meal, says Geraldine Banfield Bastian, ’64, who has worked in the Morris Center for more than 20 years. “All-you-can-eat also includes salad,” she says.
By Jamie Montague Callister, ’03
This winter athletes, coaches, and fans who revel in spectacular moments of BYU athletics will have a place to fill up on fresh food and Cougar pride.
Located in the student athletic complex (currently under construction), the Legends Grille will seat 200 and will include two stories beside the Legacy Hall of Fame, which will honor BYU’s athletic greats of the past. The sporty restaurant will offer all the personality, taste, and sports television of Red Robin or Champs, but with healthful alternatives.
Legends will promote its toasted sandwiches, grilled vegetables, and specialties such as Thai chicken pizza (above right, made with grilled chicken, peanut sauce, chopped cilantro, water chestnuts, and cheese). At the “wall of lettuce,” servers will pull fresh, crisp greens from three shelves of a vast and verdant wall to make personalized salads.
Not to be outdone by its competitors, Legends will also offer traditional grill favorites such as half-pound cheeseburgers, steak fries, and shakes. The open kitchen will invite patrons to watch as chefs prepare food in the brick oven and shiny copper broiler, featuring a slow-roasting rotisserie.
Cougar fans may have trouble turning their gaze from the flavorful selections, but perhaps watching BYU athletes on the seven plasma televisions will entice them. The hanging TVs will complement an 84-inch screen and a 17-foot-long ticker tape flashing the latest game scores.
Legends will provide voracious sports fans with a place to enjoy great food and sports just about any time they like. The grill will be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, six days a week.
In other food and sports news, the bowling alley in the Wilkinson Student Center has been remodeled and now features an Orville & Wilbur’s franchise, serving wings, chicken sandwiches, nachos, hot dogs, and other bowling favorites. And the food service at LaVell Edwards Stadium has been enhanced with outside vendors like Ruby River Steakhouse, McGrath’s Fish House, Teriyaki Stix, Durango’s Grill, Wallaby’s Fresh Grill, and Nuts Galore.