UNION — If you’re a student or professor or other staff member at USC Union and it’s lunchtime, what do you do for lunch, especially if you want something to eat that doesn’t come out of the snack machine in the student lounge?
Well, you could drive over to the Duncan Bypass which has a number of restaurants and there’s nothing wrong with that as they’re all good places to eat.
But what do you do if you don’t want to drive over to the Duncan Bypass?
Well, a couple of local businesswomen are providing the students, faculty, and staff — and anyone else who happens be in downtown Union at lunchtime — with an option that enables them to get a hot meal on campus.
Libby Oliver is the owner of “GR8 Plates Cafe′” which four days a week serves lunch from a kitchen truck she parks behind the USC Union Book Store at 311 East Main Street, Union. Oliver and her business partner, Lisa Ashby, began serving up lunch from the GR8 Plates kitchen truck on Tuesday, Jan. 16. She said the opening of their lunch business on the campus grew out of a conversation with USC Union Dean John Catalano.
“It was a few months ago and Lisa and I went and talked to the dean,” Oliver said Wednesday afternoon. “He was interested in getting food on campus for the students so they wouldn’t have to drive to the loop.”
Oliver and Ashby were able to get that food on the campus, food that she say is not only fresh and hot, but also for the most part from local suppliers, including her and her husband’s ranch.
“We have a mobile kitchen and we prepare fresh food from mostly local sources,” Oliver said. “In fact, the beef and the pork we raise at our ranch here in Union. It’s Hereford Hills Ranch and my husband, Lewis, raises grass fed beef and pastured pork. We buy all the produce from local farmers in season when we can.”
Those local sources include Jackson Farm (vegetables), Joneville Farmers Market (vegetables), Union Farmers Market (vegetables), and Cross Keys Farm (eggs).
Oliver herself prepares much of the food that’s served, but it’s her son-in-law who prepares some of the GR8 Plates’ tastiest treats.
“My son-in-law, Skeeter Roberson, is a competition barbecuer, his team is called ‘Squeals on Wheels,’” Oliver said. “He does all our barbecue pork from what we raise. He also makes our homemade bourbon barbecue sauce which is great.”
The menu at GR8 Plates Cafe′ includes the following:
• All Beef Hot Dog — $2
• All Beef Hot Dog w/slaw or chili — $2.75
• Sausage Dog w/grilled peppers and onions — $4
• Hamburger (grass fed beef) — $5
• Cheeseburger (grass fed beef) — $5.50
• Bacon Cheeseburger (grass fed beef/pastured pork) — $6
• BLT Club (pastured pork) — $6
• Grilled Ham and Cheese (Black Forest ham) — $6.50
• Chicken Salad — $4.50
• BBQ (pastured pork) — $6
(All sandwiches come with chips unless the customer order fries.)
• Fries — $1.50
• Chips — $1
• Chili — $2
• Garden Salad — $2.25
• Slaw — $1.50
(Salad Dressing offered includes Ranch, Thousand Island, and Italian.)
• Sweet Tea w/lemon — $1.25
• Unsweetened Tea w/lemon — $1.25
• Coke (regular and diet) — $1.25
• Pepsi (regular and diet) — $1.25
• Water (bottled) — $1
A Daily Special is also served. It is posted on the window of the mobile kitchen and on the GR8 Plates Cafe′ Facebook page. The Daily Special costs $8.
The GR8 menu states that “for faster service text your order to 864-426-8962. Be sure to include your name in the text.”
It also recommends visiting its Facebook page (Facebook.com/GR8-Plates-Catering-LLC) to check out the menu online.
GR8 Plates serves lunch from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Thursday and Oliver says it will continue doing so at least for the remainder of the current semester. It is also possible, however, that it will continue operations during the summer at a nearby location depending on the amount of customer traffic it gets.
“We’re going to be set up here until spring break and then we’ll be back afterwards,” Oliver said. “Then we’ll potentially shut down when the semester ends. This will depend on our customer base.”
That “customer base” includes non-student or, as Oliver calls them, “local customers” from the surrounding area who have also been enjoying the lunches GR8 serves up. She said there’ve already been a number of local customers, including the staff from the nearby Family Dollar, who have patronized GR8 since it opened. If that number grows, Oliver said GR8 could remain in operation during the summer and beyond.
“If there’s enough local interest we’ll move and continue to serve the downtown area,” Oliver said. “We’ll move to a place about a block from here and when school starts again we’ll stay there and serve the students and the local customers.”
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.