"Comfort food" cafeteria leaves veggies, this critic cold.

Let me be perfectly honest – I don’t understand Mama’s food shop.  Just flat out don’t understand it.  And I suppose that’s fine, because they’ve been around forever and probably will stay around as long as they keep slinging ten buck plates of veggies.  It will elude me just as long, though, as to why it’s popular.

Mama’s, in the number 52 spot on Sietsema’s list, leaves me wanting for reasons culinary and otherwise.  Let’s start with the convoluted ordering system – you walk into the door, trying not to trip over the tables and those standing at the cash register, and move to the counter or the rear of the line approaching said counter.  Don’t forget to grab a menu on the way in (wedged between the cash register and the front door), though, otherwise you’ll never figure out in advance that you get one meat dish and one side or three sides for ten bucks.  Also, if you don’t choose your veggies in advance, you may be reduced to pointing like you’re at a Chinese steam table, except with far less sympathetic counter help.

After the lunchlady-apparatchik is done slopping your food from the steam/refrigerator table (more on that in a second), you pay and attempt to find a place to sit.  Main dining area seems full, you say?  Well, you could try and navigate through the kitchen to the other room, but it’s not very big, either, and you’ll be making trips back to the pitcher of ice water.  It’s time to snuggle up to some strangers, just like in those cafeteria days of yore.  Maybe you’ll make a new friend, though that sort of connecting was easier to deal with before your table-mate was converted to misanthropy by years of eating at places like Mama’s.

So I sat down with my enormous plate of food and started to eat.  The macaroni and cheese is, indeed, quite tasty – I’ll give them that much.  But the veggies and starch really leave something to be desired.  They’re served cold!  I realize that the afore-mentioned menu explains that they’re served that way because “Mama” said to do so, but I have a feeling that this “Mama” isn’t the sort I’d want making my holiday dinners.  The egregious laziness of cold vegetables is made particularly obvious by the presence of a microwave (WTF?) near the cash register (and, for what it’s worth, I don’t care that they’re crispy as hell because they’re made in a convection oven if you’ve still got to nuke them like they’re week-old leftovers).  I tried the bok choy, the green beans, the turnips, the broccoli, and the sweet potatoes, and none made an impression large enough to overcome their lack of internal energy.

But, hey – “Mama” says to shut up and eat it (it’s right there on the menu!).  So I did, mostly, except for the bok choy, which I’m not as much of a fan of in its larger version (and particularly not cold).  Besides, the last time I finished something green just because mama said so, I was threatened with the confiscation of my Oreos.  This time I just skipped dessert of my own volition – I’m tired of paying four bucks for a single serving, I guess (particularly not after I scarfed Ben and Jerry’s factory seconds as fast as I could this past weekend, at $2.69 a pint).

The indignity of the end of the meal only serves to reinforce why Mama’s won’t attract my return business: scraping my leftovers into the trash bin and putting my dishes and silverware into the metal sink just reminded me a bit too much of a dining hall my friends and I fondly used to call the “dirty D.”  Don’t think that I’m just against busing my own place, either – at the Easy Street Café this weekend, near Waitsfield, Vermont, I did so twice with nary a complaint.  The difference: the food was much better, and at no time did I gaze into a sink full of dirty plates and have a flashback to my kitchen during senior year of college.

I surmise that “Mama” (or the actual proprietors, whoever they might be) would crow about Mama’s lack of affectation.  Much like the hipster who spent an hour making his or her hair look disheveled, however, Mama’s “lack of affectation” is a front for its extreme peculiarity, and not in the good sense of that word.  For nearly ten bucks a plate, with service bordering on zero and veggies that could charitably be described as half-prepared, Mama’s is a real motherfucker.

1 Comment

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One response to “"Comfort food" cafeteria leaves veggies, this critic cold.

  1. Oooh, Mama rubbed you the wrong way. Funny post. 🙂 Sorry you had such a bad experience though. I liked the food but have only gone once and am not really itching to go back because…it’s not convenient. However, when I went it was right when it opened at lunchtime and my friend and I ate in a peaceful environment by ourselves. Everyone told me that the portions were huge, but I didn’t think they were that big. That’s probably a bad sign. My friend and I shared < HREF="http://foodzine.diskobox.net/cheapeats/mamas-food.jpg" REL="nofollow">this plate<> along with glazed sweet potatoes.Anyhoo…yeah, cold green beans weren’t my cup of tea. They were really good though, aside from the coldness. 😛 Reheating them in a microwave seems kind of stupid.

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