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When the Cafeteria Calls

It seems so long ago that it was Mom or Dad cooking all those meals for us, and now dorm-dwellers are lucky enough to have their cooking done for them in campus cafeterias. But there are a lot more factors and options for eating in the caf than choosing between Mom’s meatloaf and Mom’s meatloaf.
[cafe1] Despite their simple purpose, cafeterias are much more than a quick walk-through between classes. Socializing and studying come together with eating to form the function of a cafeteria building. Spartans are willing to travel to a different caf, sometimes even across campus, to meet friends or to sample unique cuisine. With thousands of students on board searching for the right place to eat, the inevitable question must be asked: Which cafeteria rocks the Spartan world?
Voted number one three years running, the West Circle complex serves host to a dietary necessity: its own ICEE machine, usually a privilege only at Totally Takeout locations. In addition, the Landon cafeteria is open until 9 p.m., an incredible advantage to late diners, and has its own Creation Station with special daily treats prepared before one’s eyes. Landon resident Kacie Johnson likes the Landon cafeteria’s small and cozy atmosphere.
“The Landon caf is hardly ever crowded,” Johnson, an education sophomore, said. “It is very rare that there is not something exciting there, such as today, when I was pumped about the hot dog and nacho bar! My friends and I are very loyal to this caf, and we only go elsewhere when it is completely necessary.”
For those who are willing to travel to satisfy their taste buds, online menus at www.eatatstate.com are frequently used. If a pasta dish at Akers is more desirable than the flank steak at Brody, many a Spartan would make the trek. “I definitely utilize the online menus,” journalism sophomore and Bryan Hall resident Ashley Haynes said. “I like knowing what kind of food I am going to get to eat during the week. You have to find the days when the cafe is serving dirt pudding.”
[cafepq] Journalism freshman and Phillips Hall resident Phil Magee bases all his eating choices on the online menus. “The selection in my cafeteria is not very large, so if there is better food in another caf, I will go there,” Magee said.
While many students choose to surf the Web, making the trip to an unfamiliar cafeteria is another matter. As college students, our lives often revolve around convenience. Busy schedules may not allow for the luxury of choosing a caf other than the nearest one, whether or not it’s the top choice. “I choose whatever cafeteria is close to me,” economics senior and Bryan Hall resident Erin Reicher said. “There is really nothing that would make me go out of my way to eat at a caf other than the closest one.”
The best food isn’t always at one’s home cafe, but laziness often beats venturing across campus to find the most delightful dish. Some Spartans simply do not care enough to step out of their dorm circles and become cafeteria connoisseurs. “I just go to my own cafeteria every day because I’m too lazy to bother going anywhere else,” advertising and public relations sophomore Jessica Daly said of the Holden cafeteria. “Holden has really good food and I also like the cook-to-order station.”
Psychology sophomore Laura Sulak also favors her home caf, Akers, above all the others on campus. “Usually, my roommates and I eat in the cafeterias close to us,” Sulak said. “We really enjoy Akers, so we have no reason to venture out and try the others.”
Despite students’ best efforts, sometimes eating in one’s residence hall cafeteria cannot be avoided. We all try to find the good in our own cafs, out of loyalty to our home turf, but cafeteria complaints inevitably seep into our meal enjoyment. The major culprit? A lack of variety.
[cafe2] “Based on other cafeterias I have visited on campus, I would say Shaw is tolerable but rarely spectacular,” environmental sciences and applications junior Jessica Henderson said. “I enjoy the fact that we frequently have a pasta bar as well as fish, which [is] usually pretty good. But I’m usually pretty disgusted with the lettuce for salads in addition to the [lack] of healthy fruits and veggies.”
Reicher is much less forgiving when it comes to what the Brody cafeteria offers. “I like Sophie’s Station in the East Dining Room,” Reicher said. “But on a scale of one to 10, I would rate Brody a four. You wonder how someone can mess up some food that the caf makes.”
Food preparation (or lack thereof) is not the only cause for complaint. Some cafeterias, such as McDonel, are open full-time only certain days of the week. Late nights often make for late dinners, which are not offered in some cafeterias closing in the early evening. With other cafeteria options farther away than one might prefer, this is grounds for grievances. “I have to eat at Wilson on Friday nights, all day Saturday and Sunday mornings because Holden is closed,” Daly said. “It is really annoying that I have to go to Wilson on the weekends. Wilson’s food is fried and gross.”
“I like the fact that Holden is open until 8 p.m., while Brody is only open until 7 p.m.,” Haynes said. “That does not make very much sense to me since Brody serves a larger population than Holden.”
Many Spartans see the cafeterias much more than they would like to, earning their keep and eating their meals in the same place. But just because one has a cafeteria job does not mean the cafeterias are exempt of the criticism fromworkers. Marketing sophomore Katherine Greenup is a cook in the Akers/Hubbard cafeteria complex, lives in Shaw Hall and has confidently determined food service will not be her future career choice.
“I definitely have more respect for food service workers now that I have worked in the business,” Greenup said. “I like the friendliness of the people I work with because it makes working more enjoyable. However, I do not like the fact that so much food is wasted on a daily basis.”
Uneaten food is a problem in and of itself, but perhaps with a spirit to try new things in different cafeterias, the amount of food thrown away will decrease. Lafayette Square, a unique “restaurant” in the Brody complex, cooks pasta in front of hungry patrons and offers a salad bar and a wide selection of fine pastries and breads. This kind of dining has drawn the eyes of many students, despite its distance from the rest of campus. “I would like to experience the ‘pasta bar’ over at Brody,” Sulak said.
Daly, a faithful South Complex diner, said Lafayette Square had drawn her interest as well. “I want to check out that Lafayette place in Brody,” Daly said. “I have never been there, and it seems cool.”
As with each dorm, student center and academic building, every MSU cafeteria has something special to offer. Whether it be a variety of fine cuisine or some type of chickenon the menu every day, meals at the caf are never a simple experience. Thankfully, we only have to endure and/or enjoy it for another month. Until then, take your pick!
Check out MSU dining options at www.eatatstate.com

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