1. You’ll never get stuck eating lima beans and cabbage, unless you want to. Everything at the Plaza Food Hall by Todd English is fresh, gourmet, and made in front of you, even the sushi. You have a choice of goodies from Murray’s Cheese or Balthazar bakery, the Ocean Grill or the Dumpling Bar. Rectangular cardboard pizza and meatloaf Tuesdays not on the menu.
2. Long gone are the days of awkwardly scanning the cafeteria for a place to dine in social anonymity. You can get your food to go! Recently inducted Chelsea Market vendors Bar Suzette (for crepes) and People’s Pops (for gourmet popsicles) offer completely portable snacks. This also eliminates the possibility of bullies knocking over your lunch tray and you inhaling your inedible fare in a bathroom stall.
3. No more ex-convicts slapping mashed potatoes on your plate. The new Mario Batali/Joe Bastianich (Del Posto, Esca, Babbo) Flatiron food hall complex, Eataly (opening this fall), is looking for professionals with at least 5 years experience in fields other than hospitality (like finance). Let go of the anxiety of wondering whether those lunch ladies pay attention to the ‘Employees Must Wash Hands’ signs before digging in.
4.You can consume alcohol. As much as you want and/or can afford. Hudson Hall at the Hudson Hotel presents a swank rendition of your typical cafeteria. Perhaps because the masterminds here modeled the joint after an Ivy League Mess Hall (How New England of them), they have versions of the same disgusting concoctions you drank in college (Lynchburg Lemonade, Gin-N-Juice, Lemon Drops) and maybe high school (if you’re from Mississippi) but with quality liquor and less hangover-inducing ingredients.
5. There’s more to explore than the mystery meat. At the church-turned-club-turned-bazaar Limelight Marketplace, there’s a green market, yes, but also a slew of shopping options and a J. Sisters salon. And it looks like a mini-Disney, much better than bologna, I think.