Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Los Olivos Dining Commons

No, I am not making it a habit of going to college dining halls. But after a great experience at McConnell Bistro at Pitzer College, which is a private college, I wanted to see how a state school's dining hall would compare. While the cost of tuition is greater at a private college, room and board, are basically in the same ballpark at every college. Most meal plans will cost about $1,500 a semester/quarter. So if the price is the same why does one school serve so much better food?

I went to Cal Poly Pomona's Los Olivos Dining Commons. Dinner price is $8.25. Los Olivos is set up to serve a larger student enrollment. So there are more stations; a salad station with three different islands filled with fresh salads and dressings, a pasta/pizza station; that makes it's own pizza, a Mogolian BBQ, taco bar, and finally a deli. For dessert a freezer of four different ice cream flavor but I didn't take a picture.

I was surprised to see both romaine and iceberg lettuce offered at the salad bar. I got the romaine lettuce, topped with a creamy ceasar dressing, corn, carrots, and kidney beans. This was fresh, cold and tasty. The salad bar is a good option and offers a wide variety of fresh salads. Maybe the best option at Los Olivos.

Next up was the pizza/pasta bar. They offer two pizzas a night, a meat and a veggie option. The night I went they had sausage and a potato garlic. I got the sausage pizza. This pizza was basically crust, cheese, and toppings. There was little sauce at all, making this a very bland pizza. I did like the crispy crust.

Next up for me was the Mongolain BBQ. This is actually two stations. You get your sauces and veggies at one station and the meats and noddles at another. There weren't that many options for at the sauce and veggie station; three sauces and about 8-9 different veggie options. I got spinach and mushrooms with Schezwan sauce. Then I got chicken and noodles from the cook. The chicken is ground chicken. Mongolian BBQ is what you make it. You add your veggies and sauces and as long as the cook knows what he is doing, you're going to fine. I did like the Mongolian BBQ I got but I wasn't impressed that they were using ground chicken.

The next station they have is what is the daily entree menu. There are usually two different entrees; the day I went they had the pork chops with root beer BBQ sauce and something called Oricchiette con Pollo, which is a chicken dish with pasta.

I got the other chicken, an Italian chicken. This chicken is one of those rubbery chicken that was frozen and then reheated. Terrible, bland, flavorles, not good at all.

Also on the plate was chicken tenders, which is at the same station as the burgers and hot dogs. The chicken tender were all white meat, a bit salty, and had a nice crunchy outside. But the tenders were sitting in a freezer this morning and put in the fryer and then served up. In other words, nothing special.

Then I tried two versions of the pork chops. The real pork chops- a bit dry but flavorful, though the BBQ sauce was too sweet. I got the corn and snap peas side, which was nothing but frozen veggies heated up.

Then later on I got the McRib sandwich, oh, wait, I'm not at McDonalds. But that is exactly what this damn "pork chop" is. A mystery meat pork patty drown in BBQ sauce.

Another mystery meat item was the burgers. This is nothing but the mystery meat burgers you got in 3rd grade. No flavor, nothing. I took 2-3 bites and I was down with that burger.

But one thing, maybe the only thing that was great, was the all beef hot dog. They also had turkey dogs but I got the all beef hot dog. I was shocked to taste a nice snap to this hot dog. Good flavor and spice to this hot dog.

The last station is the taco bar. There were two different meats, ground beef and ground turkey for tacos and beef taquitos. The turkey tacos were very good. Nice flavor with lots of spices and the turkey was well cooked. There is another station filled with any kind of topping you want. The lettuce, cheese, and sour cream were all fresh.

The beef taquitos were terrible. There were barely any beef and what beef was there was dry and flavorless. This was basically a tortilla rolled up and fried.

I wish I got to the deli section before it closed-why the deli section closed before the dining hall closes is beyond me. But they had a wide variety of breads and meats.

Service was below average. The people working there were slow to refill items. The pizza station took forever to make another sausage pizza. I mean the station has a ton of potato pizza- crab lovers rejoice, but no sausage pizza. I went to one of the soda dispensers and there was no ice. A worker told me, 'It is out of ice.' Ok, fine. But hello, McFly, Anybody home? isn't it your job to refill the ice? I mean come on man. Later I went to the deli and the guy was in such a hurry to close up, he didn't even acknowledge me. Look it wouldn't be that big of a deal to get two pieces of bread and a few slices of meat. Hell it would have taken much to say 'Sorry we're closed.' But nothing. Terrible. Why are they so slow to refill stations? A way to cut costs?

If I wasn't such an honest guy I could have eaten for free. The dining hall is on the second floor of the building. The first floor is a small store and at the register you're suppose to either slide your student ID or pay for your meal. I didn't know this until I walked up the stairs and didn't see any place to pay. I walked around looking for a place to pay upstairs and then walked back downstairs to pay for my meal. The cashier was nice. But they need a better way to enforce who gets to go upstairs to prevent people from eating for free.

Again eating at any college dining hall means finding parking is going to be tough. Parking at Cal Poly Pomona costs $5 a day. It means not only a long walk from the lot to the dining hall, but also driving around trying to find a parking space.

Cal Poly Pomona isn't filled with the snotty rich kids like Pitzer but if you like having dinner with kids wearing pants that sag so much and kids wearing caps backwards, you're going to love eating at Los Olivos. Our future leaders!!

I will say this, I was glad to see a Christmas tree and Christmas decorations, you can see them in the background in the picture of the salad bar. I hate those stupid idiots who take states to court for having Christmas displays. If you don't like it, just look away.

Cal Poly Pomona does have a restaurant on campus, Kellogg West, that is run by the students of their great hotel and restaurant management program. I have heard very good things about Kellogg West and I will go there for dinner one day. But I will not go back to Los Olivos again. Not only was the overall price more expensive, $13.25- $8.25 and $5 for parking but the food was terrible. If I was a student at Cal Poly Pomona, I would be complaining like crazy about the terrible food. I mean the kid's parents are paying for frozen food that is heated up, bland flavorless food, mystery meat entrees. Why are these students bothering to protest the fee increases at the CSU's but settling for crappy food?