Alison Matas taste-tests honey sriracha-glazed salmon, grilled chicken with mango and goat cheese, Yukon Gold O’Brien potatoes, Sonoma Valley blend vegetables, salad and desserts.

The conference center at Kent State University at Stark features a dining room where a high-end buffet lunch—complete with a salad bar and dessert table—is served during the week.

For less than $16, you’re able to dine in with a reservation. The executive lunch also is available to groups holding meetings on-site at the conference center.

About magazine photographer Julie Botos and I visited the campus for lunch on a weekday this summer to learn about the restaurant. We had the spacious dining room to ourselves and were able to try much of what the chef had prepared for the day. There isn’t a consistent menu, though the offerings usually include two entrees, a vegetable and a starch. On our menu: honey sriracha-glazed salmon, grilled chicken with mango and goat cheese, Yukon Gold O’Brien potatoes, Sonoma Valley blend vegetables, a salad bar and lots of dessert.

The dining room on the Stark campus is similar in concept to the Schwebel Room on the university’s main campus—a place I remember eating at when I was a kid. It’s not overly formal, but it’s also not a college cafeteria. Waiters and waitresses serve soft drinks and coffee, but you make your own plates at the buffet.

The salad bar has a wide variety of toppings—artichokes and cottage cheese are included among the choices—and has a tureen of soup, which on the day we visited held butternut squash.

The chef prepared each of us a decorated plate with manageable portions of both chicken and salmon.

For dessert, we had our choice of two cakes and two other treats. There was a cheesecake with a raspberry glaze and a layered cake with a chocolate cake base, a peanut butter ganache filling and a fudge chocolate topping. Also served were ganache truffles dipped in chocolate and served on small wooden sticks and cups of fruit with granola and a caramel sauce.

We sat inside, but I peeked out one of the many windows near our table to look at the adjacent outdoor patio with tables for dining.

Beyond the lunchtime restaurant, the conference center offers custom buffet or sit-down menus for special events.

What are your kids eating when you send them to college?

Not every college campus has an on-site dining room open to the public, but there are a lot of food options for students. Here’s what’s available at Stark County’s colleges:

Malone University has Hoover Dining Commons and locations where students can pop in to grab coffee or a quick bite. Froggy’s Cafe offers an espresso bar, smoothies, quesadillas, sandwiches and burgers, and Cafe Regula has a similar menu.

Stark State College has a cafeteria on its main campus in Jackson Township with breakfast, entrees, deli and grill options and pizza.

Kent State University at Stark has Emporium Grille in the campus center, which offers a breakfast menu and then a lunch menu that includes healthy options, deli sandwiches, hamburgers, pizza and calzones and wings.

Walsh University has a dining hall; a grille with Mexican food, pizza, traditional grill options and to-go food; a coffee bar and cafe; and a store that sells snacks, groceries, ice cream and frozen foods.

The University of Mount Union has a dining hall with made-to-order stations that include salads, deli sandwiches, pizza and pasta. There’s also a cafe with sandwiches, smoothies, pizza, soups, wraps and burgers.

About The Author

Alison Matas writes for The Repository, covering Canton City Hall. She grew up in Kent and has worked for newspapers in New York, Missouri, West Virginia and Maryland—and she’s happy to call Stark County her new home. When she’s not writing, she’s usually rehearsing for an upcoming musical or choir concert, going for a run or attempting to cook.

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