TU’s on-campus bar would flourish if they gave students a better experience with nutritious food and a better drink selection.
The Hurricane Hut has a decent premise: the only on-campus dining that’s open after 9:30 (another problem for a different article) where students can use dining dollars to procure alcohol and sports bar-style cuisine. However, it has a few issues.
First, a majority of the Hut’s menu is full of caloric catastrophes. If it’s deep fried or can be dipped in ranch, the Hut likely serves it. A quick scan reveals the few healthy options: salad (side, chicken Caesar, chicken club), a cup of fruit or seasonal vegetables. Caesar salad falls out of the running immediately because, as any health-conscious person knows, Caesar dressing is nothing but fat, while Caesar salad is nothing but parmesan cheese and some paltry spinach leaves. Once doused in said Caesar dressing, you’ve lost most of the salad’s nutritional benefit.
Most dressings at the Hut, with the exception of the in-house ranch, are Newman’s Own brand. Newman’s Own balsamic vinaigrette, for example, has 130 fat calories out of a total of 140, 15 grams of fat (including 2 grams of saturated), and 20 percent of your daily value of sodium at 410 mg. This is all in just a 1.5 oz package! The fruit and veggies are a nice touch, but in my four years here, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen someone go to the Hut and order vegetables. And as a presidential scholar, I eat there quite often.
Leaving behind the salads, what’s left on the Hut’s menu? There are sides like onion scoops, french fries, onion rings and tater tots. All of those are deep-fried. There are the appetizers, including: loaded nachos, fried pickles, fried jalapenos, “Frito pie,” cheese tots or fries and mozzarella sticks. For the uninitiated, mozzarella sticks are literally solid chunks of cheese that get breaded, deep-fried and dipped in either ranch or marinara sauce.
For entrees, there’s fried chicken, fried chicken wings, a calorically-dense “philly cheese steak,” burgers (one option is a healthier turkey burger) and sandwiches. The Hut even serves a sandwich called “The Monster.” It’s a burger with two patties and three mozzarella sticks on it. Is this really what TU should be feeding students?
The sandwiches include the pseudo-healthy offerings of that bunch: the BLT and the turkey-avocado club. Even then, the club has enough bacon on it to overshadow the healthy fats of the avocado. All of these come with a student’s choice of side, a majority of which are deep fried. As a side note: after 10 p.m., most of the only menu items a student can get at the Hut are deep fried. The grill closes down entirely
In summary, most of the food the Hut serves is quite unhealthy. The athletic department has nutritionists for its athletes. Would it be so hard to pay one to spend a few weeks rewriting the Hut’s menu to make it something healthy for all students? After all, if we have the money to help athletes eat properly, shouldn’t we also have the money to care about all students eating properly?
The fixes wouldn’t be that hard. Cut out most of the fried sides to favor sides like baked potatoes, steamed vegetables, salads with healthier dressing options, soups and turkey chili along with beef chili. Offer more grilled options, period. Switch dressing brands or commit to serving low fat dressing options. Neither fried cheese sticks nor fried chunks of onion help anybody combat the freshman 15, especially when combined with the lack of sleep and elevated cortisol levels that accompany the stress college students experience.
The second problem is one that the Hut has, reportedly at least, been attempting to solve for approximately two years: a lack of hard liquor. For my first two years at TU, the only alcohol one could buy at the Hut was 3.2 beer and a few bottled options and some imports. Now it has Blue Moon on tap, still imports, higher point beers and still the classic standby 3.2 selections. Since my sophomore year, the answer to “When will you have a full liquor license, since you are the on-campus bar?” has been “Our manager is working on it.” Well, I used to work at Chili’s, and let me tell you, a manager can only work on something for so long in the food industry before it’s simply a pipe dream gone up in smoke.
Hard liquor options at the Hut would help in a variety of ways. First, students could pregame at the Hut instead of at apartments, which helps TU monitor intoxication levels because workers can cut off students. Second, alumni would love liquor options upon their return to campus. Third, it keeps students safer by convenience: walking to the bar and getting drunk cuts out entirely the need for a vehicle. Thus, TU does its part to reduce drunk driving among students. Last, liquor adds incentives for students to spend money on campus, which might entail more cash in TU’s pocket to then reinvest in more liquor options and, oh my God, maybe even a professional bartender.
All told, providing healthier food and hard liquor would do nothing but benefit the Hut and create a more thriving business. As TU is still a wet campus, there would not be a stigma about the university making hard liquor available to students. And of course, think of the talking points for all those spirited University Ambassadors who run around campus preaching the positives of this place. “Welcome to TU, where you can spend scholarship dining dollars on hard alcohol!” Now that’s a message I can get behind.