The caf: the social hub of Northwestern’s student activity. Every day, hundreds of students shuffle through the caf line, are warmly greeted by Kathy, swipe their cards, and continue on to grab a plate and enjoy the plethora of foods offered by Sodexho. Every student knows and enjoys the steak nights, the Monday night breakfast food, the pies on Sunday, or the seemingly superior food when prospective students come to visit. But students are not the only ones to enjoy the caf experience.
“I go [to the caf] ,” said professor of history Michael Kugler, “to eat with friends and because the caf has the best salad bar for 50 miles. I love salads.” Occasionally, he also meets with students.
English instructor Kim Van Es agreed that meeting at the caf is a nice place to meet students on their own terms. “At the beginning of my freshman writing course this semester, I told students that they were welcome to invite me to lunch. A couple did invite me to join them. I plan to do this for every class I teach in the future,” she said. She also agreed with Professor Kugler’s praise of the salad bar. “I like the food, especially the international options and the fresh salad bar,” she added.
Math professor Kim Jongerius regularly eats at the caf— about four times per week. “I should probably avoid the caf on preview days, since I’m not a good ‘dress for success’ role model,” she admitted. However, she echoed the idea of the caf’s wonderful food. “I definitely go because of the superior food, not that I’m any reliable judge of superior food. It’s better than I could make myself, anyway.” She summed it up in three short sentences by saying, “I eat in the caf regularly. It’s a good value. It’s wonderful being surrounded by students.”
Other professors, though, choose to avoid the caf. “I guess I usually think the lines will be long, and I then I won’t have time for lunch,” said social work professor Val Stokes. She did add, however, that she enjoys the salad bar when she does go.
“I’m afraid I’ve only eaten there once this year,” said English professor Michael Kensak. He then jokingly added, “I ate enough hamburgers and pizza slices for three lunches, though.”
And while some professors choose not to go to the caf because of time constraints, others have more direct reasons. “I’m afraid I go to the caf only under duress: some event (prospective students, dinner meetings, a meal with someone) has to drag me,” said Joel Westerholm, English and music professor. “The problem is not the food (which certainly could be better). It’s the atmosphere: I never liked being in a caf when I was a student, and I don’t have any desire to go back.”
Eric Elder, business professor added, “I usually do not eat in the cafeteria. I like the food they serve but I walk home at noon to eat there.”
It turns out that not everyone’s complaining about the caf food.