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Taos Restaurant renovation features new look and new food

  • By Emily C. Kelley
  • 575-646-1957
  • ekelley@nmsu.edu
  • Aug 14, 2012
Ducting is stacked on the bare floor on Taos Restaurant in early July.
As New Mexico State University Aggies return to campus in the coming weeks, they will notice that the windows of Taos Restaurant are covered and that there is noise coming from behind its doors. The $3.7 million renovation is nearing completion, with stone going up on the walls and tile on the floors.

Demolition of Taos Restaurant and the kitchen area in Corbett Center Student Union started the day after the spring semester ended. Everything at Taos is being replaced, from the flooring, tables and chairs, to the lighting, grills and décor.

"We had challenges with the building infrastructure we had to overcome during the summer," said Julie Weber, interim director of Corbett Center Student Union and director of Housing and Residential Life at NMSU. "But, we are committed to bringing the highest quality dining facility and food service to the students of NMSU. It will be worth the wait."

The changes and new state-of-the-art features will make Aggies feel right at home.

"We are very, very student focused and want the new atmosphere to help promote a sense of pride in being an Aggie," said Shelly Duran, Sodexo resident district manager. "We bring a sense of community the campus maybe hasn't seen in the past."

The first change that returning customers will likely notice once Taos opens, other than the new Aggie décor, is the large, circular Asian and Mediterranean-inspired chef-run station, near the entrance to the restaurant. Customers will be able to select their fresh meats, veggies and sauces, and the chef will prepare the food in front of them. Seating will be available at this station so patrons may fully enjoy the experience of having their meal prepared before them.

Student food preferences have changed dramatically in the past several years, with a trend toward more vegetarian and vegan preferences. Many students also come to campus with varying levels of gluten intolerance or other specific dietary restrictions. Vegetarian, vegan and diners with gluten intolerances will be at ease knowing that only vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free foods will be prepared at The Wild Mushroom, where all of the foods will be clearly labeled. The vegan and low-glycemic index chocolate pudding should not be missed, nor should the vegan French toast or zucchini pasta, all sampled during a recent behind-the-scenes look at the construction progress and new food.

"It's our attempt to create healthier options for the students - vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free," said Executive Chef for Sodexo at NMSU Clint Kifolo. "It's going to help us help the students to be more health conscious and nutrition aware. The cliché of food service dining is hamburgers, cheeseburgers, pizzas - all of the fattening stuff. We're trying to do it a little bit better."

Duran says that Kifolo has taken the time to meet with students and their families to discuss specific food needs. He is not only happy to accommodate them, but also shows them around the kitchen while they visit.

"We love having those kinds of conversations with students," Duran said.

The new pizza station will feature the theater of hand-tossed crusts, along with calzones and Chicago-style deep-dish pizza.

The hydration station, which has been popular at other Sodexo-served schools, is a new feature that will help keep diners cool. The water can be infused with the flavors of lemons, limes, oranges and cucumbers.

The pasta bar, salad bar, bakery and international stations will all return, but a new feature on the salad bar will have soup lovers rejoicing - a deconstructed soup bar. Components of various soups will be available, from vegetarian and vegan broths, to all of the components of a good chicken noodle soup. You simply assemble your own. No more complaining about not enough noodles or veggies in your bowl because you are the chef.

"When you look at the NMSU campus as a whole - Chamisa II, the new Taos, the bookstore and the Arts Complex, this is really a top-notch institution," Weber said.

For more information about dining at New Mexico State University, visit www.nmsudining.com or www.facebook.com/NMSUDining.