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REVIEW: Foodies Finally Find Ultimate Comfort Food In ‘School Cafeteria’

After the health food craze of the ’80s gave way to the comfort food trend of the ’90s, niche eateries began focusing on specific childhood throwbacks such as mac and cheese, grilled cheese, and just plain cheese. Still, gourmands may have suspected that one type of nostalgic restaurant was missing – until now.

In time for the new school year, there’s a themed eatery that guards against “butting” in line and nails the essence of adolescence: the realization that your freedom from grown-up responsibilities is a tradeoff for having your fate in the hands of barely-functioning adults.

School Cafeteria opens this September, featuring classic lunchroom fare served up at long tables with Styrofoam trays. The signature dish is cooked to perfection: the crunchy, crispy skin of the fried chicken, no light or dark meat to distract, since kids only ate the skin anyway. It’s just what the doctor didn’t order, and as you hoist your spork to savor the wiggly, de-haired delicacy, you’ll remember the warm feeling of filling your gullet and getting hit there with a dodgeball moments later.

Thankfully, the executive chef resisted temptation to complicate matters with a pesky fruit or vegetable, but he does provide chocolate milk to wash it down (2 percent for nutrition nuts). The dish is presented in three varieties: crispy, extra crispy, and extra crispy with extra fat.



For those who worry the dish may prove greasy, the chef has taken care of in throwback style, too; you get small, square dispenser napkins from a company in Indiana that submitted the lowest bid.

Since not everyone craves epidermis, the eatery provides an alternative on Wednesdays: classic Salisbury steak. But going to School Cafeteria for Salisbury steak is like going to Peter Luger’s for Salisbury steak.

For vegetarians, the chef plans to offer an alternative dish of fried fish sticks on a bun. When we pointed out that fish is not a vegetable, he responded that he’d “called it” and “no backsies.”

One exciting feature of the nostalgic eatery will be its seasonal specials. Fall will bring “Halloween leftovers,” a plastic bag with two Dum Dums pops, apples with pennies in them, and the piece d’resistance: a dented B-B-Bat. Winter will serve up Swiss Miss cocoa with hard, microscopic marshmallows. Summer will feature a shore favorite – a half-eaten plum that fell into the sand, and a juice box whose straw was left in the car.

It’s suggested you make reservations before visiting School Cafeteria, since once there, “saving seats” is forbidden as part of the ostracism section of the antibullying policy. We also recommend spending 43 minutes in the gym after dining, because while your tastes may not have changed since elementary school, your metabolism has.

School Cafeteria is open Monday through Friday from 10:37 to 11:02.

by Caren Lissner

Caren Lissner

Caren Lissner’s humorous first novel, Carrie Pilby,was just made into a feature film starring Nathan Lane and Bel Powley, available on the internet and on cable. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times and various other publications. Follow her on Twitter at @carenlissner.