REVIEW: Union Kitchen is a new restaurant worth trying

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The newest restauraunt in the Student Union, Union Kitchen, opened Jan. 24 to serve students various healthy meals throughout the school year. (Melanie White | Collegian Media Group)

The Union Kitchen (formerly known as the Salad Spot (formerly known as Just Salad)) is the third restaurant in as many semesters occupying the west end of the Student Union’s second floor — or is it the first floor? I’m never sure with that building.

Either way, the gastronomic center of Kansas State University has a new dog in town, and my first impressions are overall pretty positive.

I’ll start with the best news of all: an all-day breakfast menu. I didn’t sample their breakfast options because I needed a dinner fix, but it looks absolutely delectable.

Egg sandwiches, full breakfast platters, biscuits and gravy, chips and chili, oatmeal and even fruit mixtures for you healthy eaters out there. The next time I’m hungry for eggs at 5 p.m. (which is surprisingly often), I know where I’m going on campus.

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Pictured: people who probably like all-day breakfast menus. (Melanie White | Collegian Media Group)

Moving on, their dinner selection is also fantastic: grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken strip dinners, hummus and pita bread, salads galore and pizza bagels, to name a few. There’s a lot more variety here than most of the Union restaurants.

For sides, they have baked potatoes, eggs, fruit cups and bags of chips, plus some other options if that’s not enough. The chip selection is a lot of what you would find at, say, a Subway.

Drinks are another story: they actually serve flavored water, as well as tea and bottles of soda. As a lifelong flavored water apologist who will die on this delicious, nutritious hill, I was overjoyed at all the options.

They have over a dozen varieties of Crystal Light flavors lined up for customers to pick from. I didn’t see a peach flavor, which is unfortunate, but the selection still has something for everyone.

As far as aesthetics go, the restaurant is very clean and laid out like a Subway (the last time I’ll make that comparison, I promise). The salad ingredients up front all have labels printed directly on the glass cover, making ingredient selection idiot-proof — which is good for me!

Service is friendly, too. You’re given a ticket after you order, which is then given to a person at the register. It’s a little convoluted, but the employees were nice enough to walk me through it, so it didn’t feel like a hassle at all.

The employees were also very conscientious when they explained what menu options were and weren’t available. It’s not surprising that such a new restaurant doesn’t have every menu item in stock, but it’s disappointing nonetheless.

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Gena Blewett, senior in math and secondary education, prepares chili for a customer at the newly opened Union Kitchen. (Melanie White | Collegian Media Group)

For this review, I purchased the tastiest things I saw to give the restaurant a fair shake: two chicken tenders, half a grilled cheese sandwich, barbecue sauce, a bag of Sun Chips and a cup of blueberry-raspberry flavored water, all for only about $8.50 after tax.

I absolutely loved the chicken tenders — they were soft, chewy and delicious, even the breading — but only having two was a bit of a disappointment to my tummy.

It was the same deal with the grilled cheese: perfectly soft bread and cheese of your choice, but only getting half a sandwich as part of my combo was a bit sad. At least my water and chips were good!

Whether or not Union Kitchen is the restaurant for you largely depends on your taste, I think. Owing to its past as a vegetarian restaurant, Union Kitchen’s niche is health food. I have… thoughts about this.

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Healthy deals for healthy meals. (Melanie White | Collegian Media Group)

Healthy food is great, and considering all the fast food restaurants in the Union (read: almost all of them), I’m glad to see some diversity in the selection available to students. The vegetarian/vegan options in particular are easily the best on campus.

However, as someone who usually only takes the time to eat one or two meals a day, the portion sizes are truly disappointing. The food at Union Kitchen is really wonderful for the price, but don’t expect it to fill you up unless you’re 90 percent lean.

Overall, Union Kitchen is showing a promising start for healthy eating at K-State, with fantastic recipes available already. However, the portion sizes can leave you wanting if you need a big meal, and some of their menu options aren’t available yet because they’re so new.

If you’re interested, I’d recommend trying it out, especially for the price. Breakfast food is a gift to humankind, and Union Kitchen is providing a valuable service in that regard. I think this is a restaurant that can only get better.

Final verdict: B-

Kyle Hampel is the copy chief and deputy multimedia editor for the Collegian and a senior in English. The views and opinions expressed in this review are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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Kyle Hampel
Those words you just read were written by me, Kyle Hampel. I am a 2019 graduate in English. I have strong feelings about barbeque pizza and the Oxford comma. I am a former copy chief, community editor, feature editor, designer and deputy multimedia editor. Beloit, Kansas, is proud to call me their own, along with several other towns I've lived in that aren't as special to me.