The Rat responds to requests, freshens up old menu

Up until last semester, food options in the Rathskeller mostly meant various items topped with mozzarella sticks.

Now the Rat has ditched the sticks, and instead switched to fresh mozzarella cheese and tomato bruschetta atop their Margherita burgers and cheesesteaks.

Why?

Its menu has gotten a makeover.

Though mozzarella sticks still appear among the appetizers, they are joined by 11 new pre-meal options, according to Joanna Brunell, marketing manager of Dining Services. These include popcorn chicken, flatbread bruschetta and mac & cheese bites.

The bright new Rat menu offers some of the same, but might have a fresh twist. (Matthew Mance / Photo Assistant)

Another surprise: Curly fries are no longer a staple at the Rat. Instead, the potatoes are now are served as waffle fries.

This change in spud shape is a direct result of students’ comments regarding what they wanted to see in this dining facility that doubles as a pub.

“We love getting feedback from students and we take survey results and comment cards seriously,” Brunell explained in an email, adding that employees’ opinions are also considered. “Based on student input … we knew that there was a desire for change.”

“After looking at what products sold well at The Rat, we decided that we had some opportunities to remove or rework some of the items,” she said.

Additionally, a new executive chef George Miliaresis joined the College’s dining team and Brunell classified him as “a real catalyst for change.”

“Prior to this hire, we had one executive chef for all dining operations on campus, but now Chef Miliaresis focuses solely on our retail dining operations and is therefore able to dedicate much of his time to the food we offer,” she said.

The menu now includes “standard pub fare,” according to Brunell, such as sausage, peppers and onions, fish & chips and turkey burgers.

There is also a new line of “Naan-inis,” which are flatbread sandwiches grilled in a panini press, including Mediterranean grilled chicken or falafel.

“We have definitely seen a positive jump in customer counts that was not expected,” Brunell said, who noted an 18 percent increase in sales since this time last year.

While the eatery still experiences the madness of meal equiv, this is not its only busy time.

“We have found that students are coming back through the afternoon and bringing life to The Rat in the evening, where in the past, it was a ghost town,” she said.

Though the increase is good for business, not all customers are pleased. Some admitted to waiting for over an hour or more to receive food on busy days.

Nevertheless, students appear to appreciate the new options overall.

“I like the new selections,” said Rosanna Percontino, junior psychology and special education double major. “It’s great we have different choices.”

“Even if you want to eat healthy, there’s the new paninis,” she continued. “And the popcorn shrimp is really good. You want something different — after a while you’re going to get bored if you’re eating in the same place.”

Not only can students grab a bite for lunch or dinner, but the Rat also opens every Saturday and Sunday at 9 a.m., offering new omelets and breakfast sandwiches.

Expanding upon early morning eating, Brunell said, “Every last Sunday of each month, we’ll have a special breakfast called the Last Sunday Jazzy Breakfast that includes an endless stack of specialty pancakes and live jazz music. This event is co-sponsored by (College Union Board).”

Dining Services encourages students to offer input by attending their committee meetings, which are held every other Wednesday in BSC 239 at 2 p.m. The next meeting will be on Feb. 8.