Food carts fill the void at Clark College

School's kitchen closed for revamping of culinary arts program

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter

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The lunchtime crowd at the two food carts in the center of the Clark College campus waxed and waned Wednesday, according to the rhythm of class schedules.

In the 10 minutes after classes ended, hungry students and staff lined up on the sidewalk east of Foster Hall and Hanna Hall to grab a quick bite before their next class. Later, when classes resumed, only a handful of diners gathered around the carts.

This fall, three local food carts are scheduled to be on campus feeding hungry students and staff while Clark College's culinary arts program, which has provided the campus' main food service, is being revamped. The college's kitchen closed during the summer and will reopen in fall 2014 with a new culinary arts program.

In the meantime, students and staff are lining up at The Mighty Bowl and Chewy's Burritos and More. Foody Blues BBQ will join them later this month.

"We tend to get the bursts when classes get out," said Mac Alexander, a Clark College student who works part time at the Mighty Bowl. He estimated the cart serves about 75 customers a day.

Kristine Kelley, a returning student, stood on the sidewalk waiting to order a Mighty Bowl. She's on campus five days a week and buys lunch from the food carts once or twice a week.

"I ate in the cafeteria a few times last year," Kelley said. "The food carts have better-tasting food. They're convenient and close to my classes."

From the bright green Mighty Bowl cart, Alexander took orders while other workers mounded brown rice, black beans, cheddar cheese, sour cream, salsa, olives, avocado and cilantro into disposable bowls. It's the sauce poured over the bowl that distinguishes the name of the bowl.

"My personal favorite is a mix of peanut sauce and Sriracha sauce," said Alexander. "It's very spicy. I call it 'Fire on the Mountain.' It's semi-painful, but it's delicious."

The bowls cost $6 for a regular, $6.50 for a large and $7.50 for a rolled bowl offered in a wrap.

"We've been doing this almost 11 years. This is our third week at Clark," said Donny Batchelor, owner of Chewy's Burritos and More as his busy hands expertly folded what the menu calls a Really Big Burrito.

Batchelor estimates his cart has served between 100 and 175 customers per day on campus.

"It's hard to gauge," he said. "I think we've reached as many as 200."

Chewy's menu ranges from $3 for a soft taco to $6 for a Really Big Burrito. The cart also prepares taco salad and breakfast burritos.

Student Cody Walters, who is on campus three days a week, was eating a Really Big Burrito.

"For $4 you get this. If you go to Taco Bell, it would probably be $3," Walters said. "But it's good. Fresh. And it's convenient, right in the middle of campus."

Michael Owenby and Ashley Anderson, who work as buyers in the campus bookstore, stood in the Mighty Bowl line. Both women work on campus five days a week and usually grab food sold in the bookstore. But they are buying lunch at the food carts about twice a week.

"We used to eat some of the vegetarian options in the cafeteria," Owenby said. "For me, it's the quality of Mighty Bowl. We also want to support local businesses."

"It's kind of the whole Portland food cart experience," Anderson said.

Jane Walster, director of international programs at Clark College is on campus five days a week and eats at the cart once a week. When the weather turns rainy, Walster said, she will still buy her lunch from the food carts.

"I've got an umbrella," she said.

"The Mighty Bowl and Chewy's Really Big Burritos are up and running and have experienced a lot of business," said Karen Wynkoop, director of business service at Clark College.

"If we see that we have more demand than the three food carts can handle, we will look to bring more to campus," she said.

Other campus food

In addition to the food carts, other food and beverages are available on campus. Coffee lounges in the lobby of Hanna Hall and Bauer Hall sell coffee, specialty drinks and pastries. Andersen Grill in Joan Stout Hall sells made-to-order sandwiches, salads and soup, Wynkoop said. The campus bookstore sells a variety of snacks, beverages, bagels and pre-made sandwiches.

Clark College's professional baking program still operates the bakery in Gaiser Hall from 7:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 7:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday.

The culinary arts program still operates the dining room in Gaiser Hall, but it's a sit-down meal by reservation only. Reservations can be made at 360-992-2147.