The west side of campus has a vibrant new food spot: Crave Food Hall.
The food hall is located in the Aspire apartment complex and serves a variety of cuisines curated by industry-leading chefs. It differs from a food court in that instead of having large food chains dominate the stalls, the stalls are up-scale, chef-driven concepts.
“Kevin Sbraga, who owns Sonny and Sons, is actually the season seven winner of Top Chef,” said Todd Morrow, the general manager of Crave. “He’s been here since two weeks before we’ve opened, training the staff, getting them into position where they’re actually cooking food as a chef would, not as a $7 an hour McDonald’s fry cook.”
Crave has provided a much needed food option for those working and living on the west side of campus.
“I live in Aspire, so it is literally right there,” said Pieter Jackson, a freshman in the College of Engineering.
It is also becoming a popular destination among faculty and will likely see more business with the new Convergence Center for Collaboration and Innovation building opening next door in 2020.
“Earlier, there was not much food like this in our (area); it’s refreshing,” said Vidhya Selvamani, a researcher at Birck Nanotechnology Center in Purdue Research Park.
Food halls are a hot dining trend, with the number of food halls in the U.S. projected to nearly quadruple between 2016 and 2020, according to a report from real estate consulting company Cushman and Wakefield.
According to Morrow, people are tending more towards going to dining spots with entertainment elements rather than a traditional restaurant. Crave has open table tops that promote social dining as well as live music on weekends.
Like food trucks, part of the advantage of food halls is vendors do not need to invest in an independent, brick and mortar location, according to an article from Eater.com.
Another advantage is the flexibility in menu options.
“We’re very nimble. We can change on a dime. We can change an entire stall in the span of about 16 hours if we want to send in that equipment,” Morrow said. “You can come back in two weeks and there could be something different.”
Late Tuesday afternoon, there was a power outage that prevented some stalls from fully operating. There were some creative solutions though.
“I actually ordered (an) Americano. They ran out of hot water, so they just replaced water with milk, and I actually liked it,” said Amy Jing, a graduate student in the College of Engineering. “I just drink coffee in dining hall(s), and their coffee does not taste good. This coffee is better.”
Most entrées are around $10. The food hall accepts meal swipes Monday through Thursday from 5-7:30 p.m. and Dining Dollars anytime. There are a total of eight different stalls in addition to a bar.
Upcoming additions to look out for include a take-out menu and a four-season temperature controlled enclosure that will add 100 seats to the current 250 seat capacity.
Morrow encourages all members of the University and the Greater Lafayette community to stop by and check out this new dining experience.
“It really does solve the age old problem: You got a group of friends getting together for dinner and everybody wants something different. How hard is it to decide where to go? Well, now we fixed it,” Morrow said. “If you come to Crave, you have eight different cuisines to choose from.”