It is eat cheap week for many food places on campus, but that’s not the only exciting thing going on in the emporium this week. Next Wednesday, Feb.18 , Mia Rao will be opening the doors to her first restaurant Mia’s Kitchen. Her plan is simple: “Take the paper off the windows, open the doors and see what happens,” said Rao.
After searching for a new job, Rao found herself wanting something different. She purchased the former UMelt and Burger Shack locations to follow a new path. “The two things I love more than anything in the world is cooking and kids … It was something I always wanted to do and I came across this opportunity … it was meant to be, i knew right away,” she said.
For two months she has been working to put together and remodel both spaces into one as her own. As she prepared for opening, Rao did some research.
“I did speak with a lot of the females on campus, I checked out some of the places, it seemed to me that they’re all the same type of theme, fast food, not comfortable, I didn’t see anything that was really healthy,” said Rao. “ A lot of the feedback I received was that they wanted a healthier alternative and a place where they can have study groups or a place to just go and relax; Â In order to do that they had to travel to Brewed Awakenings or Panera, not everyone can do that … I will bring it to them.”.
The former Burger Shack space will feature the main counter, two tables, a coffee and a double sided salad bar. The coffee bar will include four or five different types of coffee, hot chocolate, chai/bigelow tea and iced tea. The entirety of Mia’s Kitchen is freshly painted with coral walls.
At the counter, customers can choose from a variety of breakfast sandwiches on grilled Portuguese English muffins, or lunch sandwiches/wraps and burgers, all served with chips. Her options Â include a hot reuben or turkey burger. Rao will offer vegetarian options like the veggie breakfast wrap and a black bean and chipotle veggie burger. Soup and sides will also be available, and two coolers filled with prepared salads, wraps, parfaits and beverages will be served.
“The other thing I was trying to build it around was the kind of food that you can make at home…with my daughter going to college next year, I want someone to be able to offer her something like this…’homeyness,’” she said.
On the other side of Mia’s Kitchen dividing door is the old UMelt, now completely remodeled with wooden floors, tables and couch chairs. It is the dining room and what she calls the “quiet zone”. She also plans to add a fireplace.
“My long term goal is to, on the weekends, offer a full sit down breakfast menu…I want to provide the services that are important to the students: quick and convenient,” said Rao.
Mia hopes to expand by renting and catering the dining room for functions, University of Rhode Island affiliated or not. “I want to offer to more than just one specific target audience. I really want to draw the neighborhood. If we could start bringing out the neighborhood people then we all do well.”
It is a multidimensional space where study groups and clubs can meet. “This was designed for them and I want them to bring it to life,” said Rao about the students of URI.
Rao is eager to open and optimistic about its success. “You have this vision and you hope that it all merges the way you anticipate and to see that starting to come together, it’s a really great feeling,” said Rao. “I want to convey no matter where you come from or who you are, you can come here and feel as though you’re home.”