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The ultimate campus food guide for the hungry student

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Daniyal Arshad | The Daily Wildcat

The food court in the Student Union Memorial Center is a popular food source for many University of Arizona students, especially those living on-campus. As of the 2021-22 school year, UA students are not required to purchase a meal plan while living on-campus. 

It’s a familiar story: You get out of class with your stomach grumbling. You need to grab some grub before your next class, but where do you go?

Tucson is a city beloved by self-proclaimed foodies, but what about the area in and surrounding the University of Arizona campus? In this guide, we map out the most accessible food options for the hungry student.

Student Union Memorial Center

How do you get there? Walkable.

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Meal plan friendly? Yes.

Hours: See union.arizona.edu/infodesk/hours/index.php?cat=sumc.

Located centrally on-campus just past Old Main, and easily walkable from just about any campus building, the Student Union Memorial Center houses several quick-serve restaurants and grocery stores.

On the ground level (Level 2) are many of the traditional fast food options, including Panda Express, Papa John’s Pizza, Chick-Fil-A, Einstein Bros Bagels and Steak 'n Shake.

In addition, there are plenty of health-conscious options available to students. Sandwiches, shakes and salads are available at IQ Fresh. Nrich Urban Market (located near Einstein’s Bagels) sells fresh produce, pressed juices and some grab-and-go meal options. Finally, Sally the Salad Maker is the Student Union’s newest addition: a vending machine that dispenses customizable salads.

On Deck Deli is another favorite on the ground floor where students can customize sandwiches or bagels. Just outside the bottom level of the food court are Sabor and Core. Sabor serves Mexican food including burritos, tacos, nachos and quesadillas. At Core, students can build their own salad or rice bowl. Venturing across the plaza will lead students to Pangea: a buffet-style restaurant with emphasis on international cuisine. Pangea also serves a special brunch buffet on Fridays.

The Cactus Grill and the Arizona Room are found on the upper level of the student union (Level 3). The Cactus Grill functions as a large and versatile cafeteria with a menu including soup, sandwiches and even sushi. The nearby Arizona Room offers buffet-style table service with a rotating menu.

Also in the SUMC, students can enjoy ice cream from the Scoop, grab a coffee from Starbucks in the bookstore or pick-up groceries from Arizona Market.

UA Campus Pantry

How do you get there? Walkable (located in the SUMC).

Meal plan friendly? No cost to student, but CatCard is required.

Hours: See campuspantry.arizona.edu.

UA Campus Pantry is also located in the SUMC. On the floor below ground level (Level 1) campus pantry services are set up in the Sonora Room near Wells Fargo Bank. Students can stop by to pick up canned goods, peanut butter and other snacks and important ingredients free of cost. UA Campus Pantry serves as an important resource for students with the mission of aiding those experiencing food insecurity.

The Global Center

How do you get there? Walk or bike.

Meal plan friendly? Yes.

Hours: See union.arizona.edu/infodesk/hours/index.php?cat=dining.

The Global Center is conveniently located near the Coronado Residence Hall. On its ground floor, it houses Core+ and the Park Avenue Market. Similar to Core in the SUMC, Core+ allows students to customize their own stir-fry, omelet, fajitas, quesadilla, rice bowl or salad. The Park Avenue Market sells groceries and some grab-and-go meals for student convenience. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, new self-serve options were installed at the market. These options include a Ramen Express vending machine from Yo-kai Express and a Costa Coffee Robot.

There is a food court on the upper level of the Global Center, which is home of The Den, Mas Tacos and Nrich Market Express. At The Den, students can get all-day breakfast as well as traditional American fare and shakes. Mas Tacos serves a variety of tacos and Nrich offers quick and healthy grab-and-go options.

Highland Market

How do you get there? Walkable.

Meal Plan Friendly? Yes.

Hours: See union.arizona.edu/infodesk/hours/index.php?cat=dining.

Located centrally for residents of dorms on Highland Avenue, Highland Market offers a variety of snacks, groceries and grab-and-go meals. The market also serves hot meals that include breakfast burritos and burgers.

’85 North

How do you get there? Walkable from the area surrounding the Honors Village, bike recommended otherwise.

Meal Plan Friendly? Yes*

*more affordable using Swipe Meal Plans than Debit Meal Plans. According to the Q&A page on Honors Village Meal Plans, the cost for Debit meal plans is 20-30% higher than the cost of using a swipe.

Hours: See union.arizona.edu/infodesk/hours/index.php?cat=dining.

’85 North is a buffet-style restaurant in the Honors Residence Hall including international cuisine as well as pizza, pasta and salads. ’85 North is designed to be compatible with swipe-based meal plans, with one swipe corresponding to one all-you-can eat meal.

Ike’s Coffee and Marketplace

How do you get there? Walkable from the area surrounding the Honors Village, bike recommended otherwise.

Meal Plan Friendly? Yes.

Hours: See union.arizona.edu/infodesk/hours/index.php?cat=dining.

Ike’s Coffee is located in McClelland Hall in the Eller College of Management building. It serves coffee, shakes, snacks, salads and sandwiches.

Slot Canyon Cafe

How do you get there? Walkable from the area surrounding Environmental and Natural Resources 2 building, bike recommended otherwise.

Meal Plan Friendly? Yes.

Hours: See union.arizona.edu/infodesk/hours/index.php?cat=dining.

Slot Canyon Cafe can be found within ENR2, right next to several classrooms and offices. Whether students are waiting for class to start or just finishing up, the cafe is easily accessible to grab a coffee and a quick bite to eat.

Catalyst Cafe

How do you get there? Walkable from the area surrounding the Bioscience Research Lab.

Meal Plan Friendly? Yes.

Hours: See union.arizona.edu/infodesk/hours/index.php?cat=dining.

Catalyst Cafe is found inside the BSRL Building near the medical campus, Health Sciences Innovation Building and BIO5 research center. Students in the area can stop by for a sandwich or panini accompanied by a variety of teas, coffees and even Italian soda.

Shake Smart

How do you get there? Go to the North or South Student Recreation Centers.

Meal Plan Friendly? Yes.

Hours: See union.arizona.edu/infodesk/hours/index.php?cat=dining.

For refueling after a long workout at the gym, students may be compelled to visit Shake Smart. Shake Smart locations are found at both of the Student Recreation Centers on campus (North and South Rec) serving up açai bowls, shakes, oatmeal and more.

Off-campus grocery stores

How do you get there? CatTran or personal vehicle.

Meal Plan Friendly? No.

Hours: Safeway – 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Time Market – 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

CatTran – Monday through Friday 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

For students looking to go off-campus for groceries, the CatTran provides transportation free of charge. The red route goes to Safeway at Broadway and Campbell and the blue route goes to Time Market. Students can view CatTran routes using the Arizona Mobile app.

University Boulevard

How do you get there? Walk or bike.

Meal plan friendly? Depends: some restaurants accept CatCash.

Hours: Variable.

University is home to many student favorites. After a long day of classes, students can relax with a coffee or tea at Cafe Luce or Scented Leaf, which also happen to be beloved study spots. Near the boulevard, there are a number of popular chain options including Chipotle, Panera Bread, Pei Wei, Jimmy John’s and the Buffalo Spot.

Other notable spots to eat include Gentle Ben’s Brewery and Frog and Firkin as popular sports bars. Illegal Pete’s serves burritos and bowls and No Anchovies serves pizza.

Students can customize a poke bowl of fish, rice and other fix-ins at Jimmy’s Pita and Poke. Kababeque’s Indian Grill serves Indian food and Saigon Pho serves Vietnamese.

There are many other dining options available in the area, a full list of which can be found at the Main Gate Square website.


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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (9/21)
993 29 2.9%
Total (8/2)
23,557 463 2.0%
Includes tests since August 2, 2021
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated September 21, 2021