Spartan Village: Good Food and Good Vibes at UNCG

Posted on October 18, 2023

A cook tosses a pizza crust into the air at Don Gala at UNCG's Spartan Villlage.

A short trip down the street will lead to UNC Greensboro’s own village. Like all villages, it’s a place to live, study, meet with friends, and shop. The Shops at Spartan Village give UNCG students, faculty, and staff a place to grab a bite, get their hair done, open a bank account, or invite a change of scenery to relax or study.

Spartan Village stands on the southern side of Gate City Boulevard next to the Kaplan Recreation and Wellness Center. Many of the village’s merchants accept Spartan Cash and Flex and have access to UNCG’s Wi-Fi networks for those who would like to get away from the main campus while they work on a school project. Spartan Village is a part of campus managed by the Campus Enterprises Department, but the businesses are all independently owned and operated by local or regional merchants.

Here’s a peek inside the restaurants that make up Spartan Village:

Happy Bowl 

Spartans can try dishes inspired by various Asian cultures. This Asian Fusion restaurant has been part of Spartan Village since its inception in 2017. It offers popular tastes while mixing in unique styles, thanks to owners and general managers Ling Zhuo and her husband Ken Huang. Using the digital ordering screen, diners can customize the toppings and sauces and choose from a long list of specialty drinks, including boba teas.

Zhuo and Huang are originally from Taiwan. “My husband went to cooking school,” says Zhuo. “If you say there’s something you want to eat, he’ll make exactly what you want. If he sees something he likes when we go out to eat or go to a store, in a couple of days he’ll turn out something like it.”

If a special becomes popular enough, they add it to the regular menu. They provide pick-up and delivery, and they’re a popular place for students coming back from the Kaplan Center and looking for a healthy, filling meal. “They feel the food is healthier than anywhere else,” says Zhuo.

The restaurant has long tables for a group of friends as well as booths for anyone who prefers a little privacy, while still having enough room to spread out their schoolwork and study. Each table has outlets for charging laptops, so you don’t have to be in a rush. The tall windows bring in plenty of natural lighting, and customers who look up will see “Spartan” spelled out in lights on their ceiling.

Happy Bowl is open Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and on Sunday from noon to 9:00 p.m., which makes it a good place for students to visit if they’ve traveling back to campus on a weekend. Online orders can be found here.

Don Gala Pizzeria 

The pizzeria opened its doors in August of 2023 and is busy serving up hot pizza pies, subs, and wings to hungry Spartans. Owner Jonathan Dedios has familiar flavors, but he’s also added a twist inspired by his childhood in Peru and Miami.

“There are incredible sauces and spices in Peru and in Latin America in general,” says Dedios. “Our pesto sauce is based on a Peruvian dish.”

Dedios is all about making his restaurant a place for students to meet up and have fun, and it’s reflected in the decor. “I wanted a touch of Miami, the colors of Miami Vice – the LEDs, the neon.”

The uplifting environment comes not just with the look, but through service. Employees use customers’ names. Dedios is launching a non-profit called “Chambea (Work Hard) for Your Dreams” to help fund student scholarships as well as projects benefiting the Glenwood community. “I’ll measure the success of the pizzeria by how much we give of our time, and our support of organizations, student groups, and clubs that are uplifting,” says Dedios.

Don Gala is still adding more foods to its menu, so Spartans should check back for more mouth-watering entrees. You can keep up with all their activities with their Instagram page @dongalapizzeria and TikTok @yodongala.

Don Gala is currently open Mondays through Thursdays from 1:00-10:30 p.m., on Fridays from 1:00-11:30 p.m., and on Saturdays from 5:00-11:30 p.m. Customers can also order online, where they will find coupons for regular specials. They’re in the process of implementing a curbside pickup service along Glenwood.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe 

This popular spot established itself as a staple since Spartan Village first opened in 2017. It’s got all the popular regional chain’s wraps, flatbreads, and salads, and of course, their famous smoothies.

General Manager LaShaunda King says, “We see students all day long. At 8:00 at night when the gym is closing, they come here.”

Some of their most popular smoothies are the Sunrise Sunset, the Bahama Mama, and the Mango Magic. Some students order their food and then pick out a table or a countertop to do school work. King says it’s a fun environment in no small part because of her employees. “We’re all like family,” she says. “We make it fun. We laugh, we joke.”

There’s also 15-minute parking along McCormick Street for people who want to take food to go, but food can also be delivered via the popular services Grubhub, Uber Eats, and DoorDash.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe is currently open every day, Monday to Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Online orders can be made here.

The Godmother of Soul Food

A "coming soon" sign for a restaurant has pictures of the food on their menu.
Godmother’s logo of her throwing out a can lets customers know all their meals will be made from scratch.

It’s the newest eatery at Spartan Village. Retha “Godmother” Spates promises you won’t be eating anything out of a can. Everything is made from scratch. While she’s in the middle of a soft opening, students who have tried her food are already stopping by for more.

“I grew up in a home where we cook, cook, cook,” she says. “Everybody in the house was cooking. Everything was from scratch. No cans in the kitchen.”

The menu is packed with hearty comfort foods such as fried pork chops, meat loaf, catfish, and jerk chicken. Godmother says soul food cannot be limited to a single menu or culture; it’s found all over the world. She is always experimenting with seasonings and herbs to create a mouth-watering delicacy. “I create my own recipes,” she says. “If I look it up in a cookbook, and I think, ‘That doesn’t taste right together,’ then I will put this and that together, and it will come out better.”

The restaurant on Gate City Boulevard has two rooms. One is for casual sit-downs and pick-ups. The second room has more formal décor and is good for a Sunday brunch or a party with friends. She’ll also host themed days, such as Thanksgiving Thursday with turkey, dressing, and all the traditional fixings.

The Godmother of Soul Food is still hiring workers in anticipation for the official grand opening. She’s looking for students who will be eager to join her cooking in the kitchen.

She will announce the grand opening with the regular hours on social media.

Story by Janet Imrick, University Communications
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications

A UNCG student worker gives a piece of cake to a customer.

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