Review No. 146: Hendrix College Cafeteria
1600 Washington Avenue, second floor of Student Life & Technology Center,
67.0 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants
She Said: When we started this everlasting project, several Conwegians told us to be sure to include the Hendrix Cafeteria on our list, and without that entreaty, we certainly would not have thought to eat there. And where else do two academia-loving lovebirds want to go for lunch on Valentine’s Day but a college cafeteria?
He Said: Yes, last year we paid a visit to the Christian Cafeteria on the UCA Campus, and a number of Hendrix students threatened us with unfriendly looks if we did not include the Hendrix Cafeteria on our list. And being the big spender I am, I took my Valentine out to a fine buffet with trays and long tables for a romantic atmosphere.
I jest a bit. The fact is, Hendrix Dining Hall has recently been ranked the No. 1 college dining hall in the entire nation by the Best Colleges Website (It comes in just ahead of Berkeley and the University of Massachusetts). So it was time we checked it out to see why.
She Said: Well, it’s a college cafeteria, so it was pretty loud, and you eat at community tables, which introverts like us don’t love. But the space is attractive, from the food-station area to the dining hall, which has high ceilings and an outdoor option, as well. We were there on Valentine’s Day, as I mentioned, so it was especially festive with heart balloons and extra chocolate.
He Said: Festive, yes. But even on a normal day, there is a kind of nice view of the campus from the large windows out onto the al fresco dining area. Still, it’s a cafeteria. Wuddayagonnado.
She Said: They offer a very wide variety of drinks, including soda from fountains, various nondairy milks, teas, etc. I had a Diet Coke because I had a hankering, and it was nice enough to go back for a refill.
He Said:You sure that wasn’t a Diet Pepsi there, Jones? Because what I saw were Pepsi products coming out of those soda-fountain drink machines, and I had a Mountain Dew. My favorite when I can get it.
She Said: While I was tempted by the burgers and pizza on offer, in keeping with the college vibe, after walking around and looking at all the stations, I ended up choosing what was an entirely plant-based selection for my main course. And I wasn’t trying to, but I chose all these dishes because they looked delicious. I had the coconut-chik’n (made with chickpeas instead of actual bird), the Tuscan vegetable quinoa pilaf, buffalo cauliflower, French fries (because: college!) and a beautiful hot roll with melted butter. I also had a small mixed greens salad with fat free raspberry vinaigrette. I had quite a loaded plate, and I could only eat about half of it (though I ate the roll and the fries, of course), because the food was very filling. The coconut chik’n so mimicked the consistency of very tender chicken cutlets, that I went back to the counter where I’d been given it and double checked that it was indeed something else. It was cooked with a tangy citrus and coconut sauce that made it thoroughly delightful. The vegetable quinoa dish was also a nice mix of tastes and textures, including almonds and perhaps some pickled veggies. The cauliflower was tasty with a spicy kick, and the fries were nicely crisp-tender, and, as I hinted, the roll was delicious plain, though the melted butter was a nice touch. I destroyed the integrity of my plant-based meal with a decadent slice of chocolate cheese cake, which I also couldn’t finish. This is an all-you-can-eat establishment, but I couldn’t even finish what I took much less go back for more, except for the soda, which was probably appropriate.
He Said: There were so many possibilities to choose from in the dining area that I was frozen with choice for at least ten minutes as I wandered around, looking at everything and wondering how much of how many different entrees I could actually eat. Then the practical side of my brain emerged from its coma and slapped my voracious Id silly, and made me make some choices. I started at the salad bar, where I got a small green salad and added some cauliflower, broccoli, and sunflower seeds and a bit of honey-dijon salad dressing. Then I picked up an egg roll and some curried cauliflower at an Asian counter of the room, then grabbed a delicious looking coconut chicken cutlet (mine using real chicken in place of the actual chickpeas used on She Said’s mock version of he dish). This tasted just about the same as She Said’s, and I was really happy with the sweet citrussy tang. I could have eaten another one of these if I hadn’t already eaten the excellent eggroll and the very tasty cauliflower. I also had a number of side vegetables, including some broccoli and black beans as well as green, in fairly small quantities just to see how they were. The green beans were especially nice.
I had done pretty well here on the fat-o-meter, since the chicken was not fried and wasn’t wearing its fatty skin, and other than that I’d had pretty much all vegetables. Then I went off the deep end and looked at the dessert table. After all, it was Valentine’s Day, and what’s Valentine’s Day without some chocolate? And then I saw it: a giant chocolate cobbler—like a huge, gooey chocolate brownie. The server twisted my arm and forced me to take a large helping, and lord-a-mercy, I will remember the taste of that delicious decadence on many a dark and lonely night. I’m pretty sure I blew my entire day’s allotment of fat grams on that single dish. But may I just say, it was worth it.
She Said: A very friendly woman took our money at the entrance to the food hall, and very friendly people answered my questions at the various stations. I was a little anxious about coming here, not knowing the ins and outs and rites and rituals of Hendrix dining culture, but it was very easy to navigate, and the staff were helpful.
He Said: Yes, everyone was smiling and friendly. Even the students. And the two faculty members who walked by our table, giving us the eye and wondering if we were doing a review.
What We Got and What We Paid: Two all-you-can-eat buffet meals for $19.40.
Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival:11 minutes, though if we were more familiar with the layout, (and if He Said could make up his mind) we’d have been faster from arrival to sitting down with our food.
She Said answers: Is it worth spoiling your Valentine’s dinner out in Little Rock for? Maybe… it was danged delicious and there were so many options for my food-freaky self, I know I’ll be back.
He Said:If you find yourself on the Hendrix campus at mealtime, you really ought to stop here for a mild, or even a heavy, repast. It almost makes me want to go back to college, just so I can eat here every day. My college meals were never like this. But then, in those days we often had to worry about Neanderthals stealing the frozen Mammoth out of our deep freeze.
Is Hendrix Cafeteria Good At What It’s Good For? Yes! For all-you-can-eat buffets in Conway, it offers the most options and serves some delicious plant-based dishes, too.
Jay Ruud’s most recent novel, Lost in the Quagmire: The Quest of the Grail, IS NOW available. You can order your copy direct from the publisher (Encircle Press) at http://encirclepub.com/product/lost-in-the-quagmire/You can also order an electronic version from Smashwords at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/814922
When Sir Galahad arrives in Camelot to fulfill his destiny, the presence of Lancelot’s illegitimate son disturbs Queen Guinevere. But the young knight’s vision of the Holy Grail at Pentecost inspires the entire fellowship of the Round Table to rush off in quest of Christendom’s most holy relic. But as the quest gets under way, Sir Gawain and Sir Ywain are both seriously wounded, and Sir Safer and Sir Ironside are killed by a mysterious White Knight, who claims to impose rules upon the quest. And this is just the beginning. When knight after knight turns up dead or gravely wounded, sometimes at the hands of their fellow knights, Gildas and Merlin begin to suspect some sinister force behind the Grail madness, bent on nothing less than the destruction of Arthur and his table. They begin their own quest: to find the conspirator or conspirators behind the deaths of Arthur’s good knights. Is it the king’s enigmatic sister Morgan la Fay? Could it be Arthur’s own bastard Sir Mordred, hoping to seize the throne for himself? Or is it some darker, older grievance against the king that cries out for vengeance? Before Merlin and Gildas are through, they are destined to lose a number of close comrades, and Gildas finds himself finally forced to prove his worth as a potential knight, facing down an armed and mounted enemy with nothing less than the lives of Merlin and his master Sir Gareth at stake.
Order from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Lost-Quagmire-Quest-Merlin-Mystery/dp/1948338122
Order from Barnes and Noble here: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lost-in-the-quagmire-jay-ruud/1128692499?ean=9781948338127