The Daily Den offers a taste of diversity for the UAA community.
The Daily Den is a student-run restaurant located on the ground floor of the Student Union, next to the Union Burger and Subway. Unlike the other places to eat in the Student Union, food at the Den is already covered by student fees. The only requirement to eat there is to walk in, type in your student ID number and grab some food.
Commuter student programs coordinator Kojin Tranberg oversees the staff at the Daily Den. Tranberg’s goal for the Den is to provide a space for students who do not live on campus to feel like a part of the UAA community.
“The Den will always be free because we’re not trying to make money off of students,” Tranberg said. “[It] provides that space to give students a chance to hang out between classes and create a sense of community.”
The Daily Den serves 3,000 meals a semester on average, many of which are served to regular customers. Chemistry student and staff member at the Den, Isabel Azpilcueta, is familiar enough with her customer base to remember their allergies and food preferences.
“I really like how connected we get with the rest of the student body,” Azpilcueta said. “It’s cool getting to know [customers] to the point that you can say hi to them in the hallway, see them and recognize them.”
The staff of the Daily Den create the menu and cook the food. The weekly menus often have a theme based on cultural heritage or personal interests. The menu is constantly changing, and the staff is open to suggestions.
Azpilcueta was born and raised in Mexico and uses those experiences in her cooking. She recently began serving a dish of her own creation: a breakfast sushi bowl with imitation crab, scrambled eggs, seaweed, cream cheese and rice.
“Meals that I remember from when I was a child that my mom made [in Mexico] that I really liked, I can make them here,” Azpilcueta said.
Another Daily Den employee, professional piloting sophomore Santiago Cedano, is motivated to stay in school by his job with the eatery.
“Before [working at the Den], I would just go to class and go home,” Cedano said. “Being here, interacting with the students and learning people’s names and integrating myself into the community more is super helpful to me staying in school.”
The Daily Den is more than a celebration of culture, a sense of community or free food. Tranberg speculates some students rely on the Den to eat.
“Our staff is highly sensitive to the fact of food insecurity,” Tranberg said. “There is a high likelihood we have students really counting on the Daily Den to have their meal for the day. [It] has become a part of a larger working group on the campus of providers to better understand the emergent needs of students.”
The Daily Den normally operates from 10-11 a.m. and 2-3 p.m. Monday through Thursday. For finals week, the Den is temporarily changing its schedule. From April 22-25, they are hosting a themed video game week, with catering from restaurants including Moose’s Tooth. It will resume normal service times in the fall semester.
For more information or employment opportunities with the Daily Den, contact Kojin Tranberg at [email protected]