Looking for something cheap to eat within a few blocks of the university? Of the three nearby cafeterias, UAA's cafeteria doesn't wow and is expensive, Providence Hospital sometimes has good food, but it's unpredictable. Alaska Pacific University's cafeteria, however, seems worth the trip.
How does sweet and sour pork sound? How about a tofu pasta dish, three types of soup and a salad bar? This was only part of APU's menu on Thursday, when I stopped by for a peek. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to eat at the Atwood Center, but the food looked wonderful, so I returned on Friday.
Robert “Andy” Schoroeder-Einwiller, APU's chef, said he was UAA's cook before Aramark took over at UAA and has been working the APU cafeteria ever since.
On Friday, for the price of a lunch, the staff gave me samples of all the food served that day.
The Halibut Olympia, topped with a piped mixture of mayonnaise, sour cream, garlic and panko (bread crumbs) was fabulous. There was also a fluffy mix of jasmine and brown rice. The halibut was moist and I ate until it was gone from my plate. It is sad that UAA let this talent go.
The steak tasted rich and cut like butter. In case you're concerned that steak is not a usual menu item, rest assured that this isn't the first time this month that Andy has served steak. The cafeteria serves it a few times a month, and Andy soaks it in a marinade until it is tender.
I considered having seconds, which the cooks said would have been fine. They don't mind if you get seconds on drinks, either, which cost only $1—a great bargain for students.
The vegetarian dish for the day—there always is one—was a saucy bean and tomato dish spiced just right.
The only complaint I have about the meal is the soups. Homemade soup is not easy to make. I've tried and had a mix of success and failure, so I can sympathize. The salmon chowder was pink, pureed and a bit fishy. I like chunks with a creamy broth, so it was a bit of a disappointment. The clam chowder could have been creamier. Overall, on a scale of one to five, I'd give the soups a two.
If a good, old American hamburger is what you crave, no problem. The grill is ready to go. You can also graze at the salad bar, which was fresh and colorful, and offered a variety of vegetables, lettuce types, red tomatoes, and spiced apples.
The best part of the meal is the price: $5.50 includes a drink. Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and dinner, which costs $6.50 to $7.50 (on steak night), is served from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Overall, the food was so good that I wondered about tomorrow's menu. From the diversity of Friday's menu, I knew that I could probably find something I'd like.