Evanston eateries offer new meal plan

Jeff Stone

Students who are tired of eating in dining halls will have a new meal-plan option next year involving Evanston restaurants — though it’s not officially recognized by the university.

The Wildcat Meal Plan, which is not coordinated through Northwestern and is not offered as part of the university’s regular meal-plan system, provides students with an innovative way to spend money at downtown Evanston eateries, organizers said.

Students who want to join the program receive a card that enables them to go to participating restaurants and use the card like cash, according to a spokesman for Off Campus Access, Inc., which is organizing the program. Students create an account with any amount of money on it, and there is no minimum balance or fees.

Pete Miller’s Steakhouse, 1557 Sherman Ave.; Merle’s Barbecue, 1727 Benson Ave.; Quiznos Subs, 812 Davis St.; Subway, 1551 Sherman; Dunkin’ Donuts, 1728 Sherman; Le Peep, 827 Church St.; Trattoria Demi, 1571 Sherman; and Chicago Style Carryouts, 1633 Orrington Ave., already have signed up to participate in the meal plan.

Papa John’s Pizza, 1745 Benson, was originally set to be part of the Wildcat Meal Plan but has since decided not to participate.

“It’s a great deal,” said Robert Castle, owner of Quiznos. “There are many food providers in the area, maybe this will give us an edge.”

Dana Levit, NU’s assistant director of University Housing and Food Services, said Off Campus Access has not made an effort to contact NU officials.

“I think that it is trying to use Northwestern,” she said. “The Evanston business community wants to participate in a program that utilizes Northwestern’s mascot as their logo. This doesn’t have much integrity.”

But Communication freshman Rana Good said the plan sounds appealing.

“A lot of people get fed up with the cafeteria food, as do I,” Good said. “It would create some more variety in what I eat.”

The university requires that students living in NU residence halls must be on a meal plan with a minimum of 13 meals per week. There is no required meal plan for students not in university housing.

Students participating in the Wildcat Meal Plan can open their account starting with any amount of money. Unlike NU’s meal plan, the money in a participant’s account rolls over from quarter to quarter.

“Your points never expire,” said Brandon Lloyd, vice president of Off Campus Access. “When you graduate you can request a refund for the remaining balance.”

The company also offers programs that range from a $1,200