The University of North Texas has always been a trailblazer when it comes to campus cuisine, and continues that streak for the 2021 fall semester with the opening of a new dining hall inspired by that most trendiest of trends: the food hall.
Called Eagle Landing, it draws its inspiration from Legacy Hall in Plano, featuring seven independent restaurant concepts under one roof serving a variety of fresh, made-from-scratch food and recipes crafted by UNT’s in-house culinary team.
Offerings range from Latin fusion street tacos on house-made tortillas to a plant-based vegan stand to a bakery with fresh-baked cookies, ice cream, and pastries all made on campus.
UNT President Neal Smatresk calls the new hall a "crown jewel" that is only the latest example of the university's trademark innovation.
"Eagle Landing is a crown jewel that exemplifies the innovative spirit of our university," Smatresk says. "It creates a community dining experience where our Mean Green Family breaks bread together and celebrates college life. Fresh, locally sourced and inventive are hallmarks of the UNT Dining Services experience."
The hall comprises seven restaurants under one roof:
- Menu: Traditional favorites like fried chicken, mac & cheese, smoked barbecue and breakfast all day
- Centerpiece: Southern Pride brand smoker
- Good to know: Can serve 960 portions of mac & cheese and 1,700 portions of fried chicken per day. Features fresh-baked biscuits made from Clark Bakery scratch dough. The serving line linear foot measurement at Avenue A is greater than all of the serving lines at Kerr Dining Hall combined.
- Menu: Asian-inspired stir-fried rice and noodle dishes
- Centerpiece: Traditional wok range that can reach temperatures of 1600°F
- Good to know: Features Korean and Cantonese (Southern Chinese) cuisine. Can serve more than 600 portions of rice per hour.
- Menu: Pizza and chef’s pasta toss
- Centerpiece: Rotoflex brand pizza oven featuring four rotating stone decks
- Good to know: Can serve 200 pizzas (3,200 slices) per hour. Features fresh basil grown at Mean Green Acres, UNT’s hydroponic garden located on campus.
Clark Bakery at Eagle Landing
- Menu: Fresh pastries, cookies, warm desserts, Scrappy’s ice cream cones and custom milkshakes
- Centerpiece: Pastry case with an array of Clark Bakery desserts and pastries
- Good to know: All items – including Scrappy’s Ice Cream – are made on campus at Clark Bakery, UNT’s scratch bakery led by professionally trained, certified bakers and pastry chefs. Cookie dough made at the central bakery is transferred to Eagle Landing, where guests can see cookies being baked fresh right behind the counter.
- Menu: Latin fusion street tacos, nachos, fresh toppings and house-made tortillas
- Centerpiece: Spiral conveyor tortilla press and oven
- Good to know: Can serve up to 900 6-inch tortillas per hour made from 100% plant-based (vegan) Clark Bakery scratch dough
- Menu: Contemporary vegetarian concept, featuring fresh veggies, salads and composed salads, four daily soups and plenty of 100% plant-based (vegan) options
- Centerpiece: More than 20-foot long salad bar
- Good to know: Features fresh leafy greens and herbs grown at Mean Green Acres, UNT’s non-GMO hydroponic garden located on campus. Also features fresh produce grown by regional farms, composed salads, build-your-own pho bar and vegan hot entrées. Croutons and salad dressings are made from scratch.
- Menu: House-formed burgers, plant-based burgers and grilled chicken sandwiches served on buns baked fresh at Clark Bakery, plus shoestring fries and house chips
- Centerpiece: Argentinian gaucho grill with hardwood lump charcoal and real wood
- Good to know: Can grill up to 280 in-house blended burgers per hour
To maximize freshness and food safety measures, fresh produce and meats are stored and prepared in separate, designated cold spaces – unlike in a traditional kitchen where items may be comingled throughout the delivery, storage and preparation processes, and prepared at ambient temperatures.
Commissary-style production spaces will allow Dining Services to distribute items produced at Eagle Landing to other campus dining venues in the future, including the retail market located within the Eagle Landing building. Commercial blast chillers will cool food from 145°F to frozen in about 30 minutes.
Eagle Landing represents UNT's first standalone dining hall as well as the largest dining hall on campus with the capacity to seat 700 people. Seating areas provide options for dining, socializing, and studying, including a 24-foot long community table, a quiet zone, seating overlooking the first floor, and a table shaped like the UNT diving eagle symbol.
Design of the 25,990-square-foot building provides greater culinary transparency and guest customization of menu items by showing more preparation in front of the guests. Houston-based Kirksey Architecture served as the architect and Rogers-O'Brien as the general contractor on the project.
Peter Balabuch, director of UNT Dining Services, says in a statement that they wanted to accommodate all tastes and preferences.
"Eagle Landing demonstrates our commitment to doing food service the right way: preparing the highest quality food, utilizing whole ingredients and cooking with sustainable methods," Balabuch says. "Our guests deserve no less, and whether you are a student, faculty, staff or a visitor to our campus, we want you to have the best dining experience possible."
The design reinforces UNT's commitment to sustainability by using 30 percent less water and 10 percent less energy than a standard code-compliant building. Strict procedures during construction helped minimize landfill waste and avoid pollution of local storm sewers and waterways. The project prioritized local materials with high recycled content, fully disclosed environmental and human health impacts and less toxic chemicals.
Eagle Landing is open seven days a week during fall and spring semesters, serving up to 6,000 guests each day. It follows an all-you-can-eat service style, accessible with a single meal plan swipe or $8.45 plus tax at the door without a meal plan.
UNT Dining Services is the largest self-supported food service department in North Texas. With 20+ retail food shops, five dining halls, upscale dining restaurant, in-house bakery and full-service catering department, it serves nearly 5 million meals annually.
It's also the largest employer on campus, providing resume-building job opportunities to nearly 1,100 student employees.
The university is recognized as a leader in vegan dining on college campuses, thanks to the success of Mean Greens Café, the nation's first all-vegan collegiate dining hall. It also is a member of the Menus of Change University Research Collaborative. UNT was named No. 2 in the nation as a college with the best food by Delish.com and also is the recipient of the prestigious Loyal E. Horton Award.