| On Thursday, Italian dishes such as spaghetti and meatballs are available at Café Navarro. (Photos by Laura McKenzie) |
Café Navarro proves hospital cafeteria food can be good
Hospital food and healing have never seemed to go hand in hand; how much sustenance is there in Jell-O? Jell-O does appear in the line at Café Navarro, Nix Hospital's open-to-all cafeteria, but it is the only obvious vestige of sorry-you're-sick food. Surprisingly, Café Navarro has gourmet aspirations, and they aren't altogether misplaced.
The sixth floor at the Nix looks much like any other; there are no obvious clues to anything out of the ordinary. The floor, polished to a mirror shine, seems perfectly at home, and the clientele, from maintenance men in jeans to medicos in suits and scrubs, is just what you'd expect. But a quick glance at the menu board reveals that there's more at work here than Salisbury steak with creamed corn. Though I began cautiously with a turkey chipotle wrap and a bowl of potato-leek soup, other options that day included flounder with peppers and onions and beef fajitas with "fixings."
| Rhula Mitcheltree, director of Food Services, is credited for envisioning the changes which have recently taken place at Café Navarro. In August 2004, the cafeteria received a face-lift not only to its menu, but to the decor as well.|
Determined to try some of the more ambitious entrées, I returned on a Friday for the scallops in a tomato-basil sauce. (Had I gone on Thursday instead, Hunan Chicken with fried rice or Sesame Pork Tenderloin would have been contenders.) Branches of fresh basil adorned the steam-table container, a positive sign, and available vegetable sides included asparagus in lemon butter and roasted red potatoes. Okra and tomatoes, Lyonnaise potatoes, cornbread, refrieds, and cut green beans - with Spanish rice, the major throwback to classic cafeteria - have been options in the past. Seafood always strikes me as something to be wary of in a cafeteria line; it turns to mush so easily, which was the main reason I ruled out the
| After grabbing a tray, customers who came in on Thursday could choose between several Italian entrées, including Chicken Parmesan.|
The asparagus wasn't as crisp as it might have been at a $20-entrée joint, but it was still within tolerable limits, and the potatoes were right on target. Feeling end-of-the-week indulgent, I also snagged a piece of coconut cream pie. Ignoring the difficulty of eating pie from a wedge-shaped container, I'd have to hand it to the pie person: The flavors were fine, the textures good, the total experience, if not platonically pie, at least far from plastic. Apple was another option, and it looked equally real.
| Café Navarro |
Breakfast: 6:30-10am Mon-Fri, 7-10am Sat-Sun.
Lunch: 11am-2pm, Mon. to Fri; 11am-1:30pm Sat; 11am-1pm Sun.
Snack: 2:30-4pm Mon-Fri.
Dinner: 4:30-6pm Mon-Fri
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