There seems to be a poor reputation for cafeteria food which steers people away from the Student Center across the street, to Town and Country instead. Is it the stigma against school lunch that makes it unpopular, or is it the food itself?
At Palo Alto High School, there is an overwhelming tendency to take advantage of the open campus. Especially during lunch, many students flood over to Town and Country, and find an abundance of lunch options, with 19 different restaurants to choose from. Students can choose from a variety of cuisines: American, Mexican, French, Indian and more. However, what many people tend to overlook are the many options offered by Paly’s very own Student Center, which often end up being more affordable than eating across the street everyday.
Inside the cafeteria, there are a couple round tables that are quickly occupied by early customers. Seating is limited, so many students opt for outside arrangements. Inside, there is one large service window with two friendly ladies who are taking the students’ orders. Generally, lines form before lunch service even begins. Just 15 minutes into lunch, there is almost no food left. Every lunch choice is set at $4.50. Here are a few specific lunch options:
Spicy Chicken Sandwich (4/5)
The Spicy Chicken Sandwich is a pleasant alternative to the typical burger. It comes wrapped in foil with a side of either crisscross fries or tater tots, depending on the day. The sandwich itself is a simple spicy chicken patty in between two whole wheat buns. Although the sandwich is supposed to be the star of the dish, the fries definitely outshine the chicken in terms of flavor and presentation. The flavor of the sandwich holds a mild punch, and while it is slightly bland without any condiments, ketchup adds a savory-sweet component that enhances the patty. In regards to texture, there is no variation and students are not allowed to take vegetables from the salad bar to complement the patty.
Burrito Bowl (3/5)
The day before ordering this menu item, the Student Center was serving Orange Chicken. Students soon realized that the Burrito Bowl was made with the leftover rice from the day before.
Although this unintentional culture fusion looked questionable, the food service staff is being conscientious in conserving resources. The Mexican dish was composed of a bed of fried rice, black beans, ground beef and an avocado-salsa mix.
On the side was sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese. When all of the components were mixed together, the dish was not terrible, but also not outstanding.
Each bite invoked figurative visits to China rather than Mexico. Overall, the highlight of the dish would be the exceptional avocado-salsa mix, which raised the rating from an average two-and-a-half stars to an above-par three.
Similar to the Spicy Chicken Sandwich, the cheeseburger was a foil wrapped burger with a side of crisscross fries or tater tots. The patty had a slice of bright yellow Kraft cheese that clung onto the burger for dear life. Even ketchup could not even soften the cold, hard whole wheat bun. The burger was unsatisfying and lacked flavor, but the fries, on the other hand, were delicious. With this food item, students were again not allowed to access the salad bar vegetables, which deprived the burger of toppings that would have made it less bland.
Salad Bar and Soup (4.5/5)
The Salad Bar is the best value on the menu, as it has the highest amount of food you can get for the set lunch price. Students get a wide range of selections with only one restriction: the food can only be on one side of the plastic container and the lid must be able to close. With the Salad Bar, students can also get a small cup of the soup of the day. Specific selections change from day to day, but general staples include fresh fruit, lettuce with dressing, salad components, tuna salad and pasta salad. On occasion, there is even great-tasting fresh guacamole with tortilla chips. Everything seems to scream fresh and does not only tastes great, but also looks appetizing. The only downside is the hit-or-miss of the daily soups, which can range from too salty or too bland to right on target.
Paly’s on-campus dining option has its standout moments, but the whole experience is overall pretty humble. Like some of the foods, parts of Student Center were unsatisfying. On the other hand, however, the remaining parts were phenomenal to say the least. For a meal that is under five dollars, the Student Center lunches are great options for any student’s lunch.