It was a date a year in the making. I’d been wanting to take our friends Mike and Amanda out for a while since it was actually thanks to a suggestion from Mike that I applied for the job of writing restaurant reviews. And I thought it would be fun to actually do a review with them.
Lots of conversations in which we said, “We’ll have to get together soon” were put to rest by finally setting a date. It would have to be lunch to fit their busy work and family schedules. Mike sent home a menu from the Kroc Center Café with my husband, Sean, and it was decided.
I’d heard mixed things about the cafe. It’s based inside the Kroc Center, a community center with a gym, amazing pool, educational classes, Sunday church services and more. When I asked Mike if he liked the Kroc Center, he said, “Well, I like the price.” He quickly added, “But the food’s good!”
Looking at the menu, I had to agree on the prices. A $5 all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, with eggs, biscuits, sausage, bacon, fried potatoes, sausage gravy, oatmeal and grits, is served Monday through Friday.
Lunch seemed very reasonable, too, with sandwiches from $3 to $6.25 (plus an option to add chips, fries, sweet potato fries, onion rings, soup or salad, and a drink for an extra $2 to $2.50) and meat-and-two-veggie meals for $7.50 (including a drink).
The dining room is open and light, with beautiful pale wood floors, but on this day, it was reserved for an event, so tables were placed in the hallway – a bit cramped, but we were game. We trooped to the kitchen to place our orders, a bit reminiscent of my college cafeteria. There was the buffet line with salad fixings and the hot food ready to be dished up, with ladies in aprons taking the orders for sandwiches.
We ordered a variety – Sean went with the pimento cheeseburger; Mike, the reuben sandwich; Amanda, the turkey pot pie soup; and I chose the meatloaf with gravy, collards and mac and cheese. At the last moment, Sean also slid a peanut butter and chocolate cake onto my tray; and Mike and Amanda added a raisin-studded bread pudding.
Sean and Mike had to wait for their sandwiches, but Amanda and I dug right in. Her thick and creamy soup was very pretty, with bright pieces of carrot, corn and celery, and flecked with herbs. With the biscuit and real slivers of turkey meat in the soup, it was a surprisingly hearty and savory meal.
My meatloaf was appropriately crusty, with a very sweet tomato glaze – not my personal preference, but Sean liked it.
The carrots were interesting – I’d never used dill to flavor them before, but thought I might try it at home because the herb made them seem brighter.
The mac and cheese was appropriately creamy and cheesy, but the collards – oh the collards! – way too sweet, although I gave them points for the chunks of real bacon.
The guys’ sandwiches arrived soon. I usually think of a reuben as a greasy gut bomb, and this one looked it, with its grilled marble rye, melted swiss cheese and crisp sauerkraut. But it had a surprisingly light and fresh taste, though a bit sweet.
Sean declared his burger as fine as any in fancier burger joints – with a nicely grilled patty, still moist inside; nice, fat bun; and a topping of melted shredded cheddar cheese studded with bright red pimentos.
It came with a juicy pickle and fairly good, thickly-coated onion rings. Mike’s thick-cut fries, flecked with herbs, also earned a thumbs up.
We all declared the desserts a success, with the peanut butter and chocolate cake getting a slight edge over the slightly more healthy spicy bread pudding.
Over the next couple of months, the Kroc announced tweaks to its menu, losing the hot meals briefly, but then reinstating them. People know what they like – and so did we. We went back recently as a group to check it out. Everything appeared just the same – only this time we were able to sit in the dining room, each table charmingly decorated with an old-fashioned, printed vinyl tablecloth.
We’d had such good luck with the sandwiches that we all went that route this time – Amanda and I ordered the fried green tomato sandwich; Mike got Sean’s favorite, the pimento cheeseburger; and Sean ordered the grilled red pepper and ham sandwich.
This time, however, we weren’t quite as lucky. Amanda and I both thought the fried green tomato sandwich lacked flavor and was a bit floppy and greasy. Sean, though, did enjoy his, piled high with ham and strips of grilled red pepper.
Overall, the Kroc Center Café does offer a good meal for the price and a high convenience factor.
I’m even tempted to get up early to tackle that breakfast bar – another date for sometime this year.