After being shuttered for some 16 months to complete renovations costing around $47 million, the Purdue Memorial Union basement reopened on Jan. 10 to resume its traditional role on the Purdue University campus as a spot for socializing, studying or grabbing something to eat or drink. Appropriately, the opening also coincides with the Union’s 100th anniversary, as it originally debuted in 1922.
In the basement dining area, the eating and drinking options have expanded from the seven or eight restaurants the space hosted previously to a dozen now, while the ambiance now is enhanced by plenty of natural light.
The new array of dining choices is managed and overseen by contract firm Aramark and includes five from Cornerstone Restaurant Group, an acclaimed restaurant collective based in Chicago that is known for Michael Jordan’s Steak Houses and its partnership with Chef Bill Kim, who developed two of the five Cornerstone concepts coming to the Union: Chef Bill Kim’s Ramen Bar and Chef Bill Kim’s Pizza & Parm Shop. The other three Cornerstone concepts in the mix are Sol Toro, Fresh Fare and J Manion-Latin Inspired.
Cornerstone first arrived at Purdue with an experiential learning course four years ago in which Purdue students were tasked with implementing a pop-up of Cornerstone concept Urbanbelly as a course project. The students ran and marketed the pop-up and it served as a test run for the partnership that has now arrived on campus. Meanwhile, Chef Kim’s Ramen Bar and Pizza/Parm concepts debuted as pop-up concepts last year.
Chef Bill Kim’s Ramen Bar offers Kim’s creative ramen offerings as well as dumplings available with each order, and Chef Bill Kim’s Pizza & Parm Shop spotlights creative takes on Detroit-style pizza and sandwiches with menu items like Korean BBQ Ground Beef and Kimchi, Double Smoke Pork and Pineapple and classic Chicken Parm Sandwiches.
Among the other Cornerstone concepts, Fresh Fare menus salads and bowls with clean flavors and an emphasis on dairy-free and gluten-free options while J. Manion-Latin Inspired offers Chef John Manion’s creative take on Brazilian street food and Sol Toro is a taco concept.
The other concepts in the renovated Union are…
• Aatish, a halal food concept developed by Athenian Grill creator Ilias Pappas serving build-your-own bowls and sandwiches on naan bread, along with handmade baklava;
• Barbecue District, featuring slow-cooked meats, regional sauces and sides;
• Zen, serving build-your-own poké bowls and boba teas;
• Sushi Boss, offering fresh custom sushi;
• Walk On’s Sports Bistreaux, which menus Louisiana-themed fare;
In addition, the Union includes a Boilermaker Market c-store selling food and beverages.
The renovation was designed by Workshop Architects with foodservice design provided by Tipton Associates, in partnership with Purdue Dining/Aramark.
Here’s a closer look at the new Purdue Memorial Union…