PETE EATS | Turning the critic’s eye on Atherton Marketplace

Photo by Maria Porter

Somewhere in the world there is a book gathering dust with a list of rules regarding the writing of food reviews. I violated two of them before I walked in the door of Atherton Union.

Rule No. 1—approach the table with an open mind and an empty stomach. Rule No. 2—use that open mind and empty stomach to come to an unbiased conclusion.


Upon walking into this mysterious den of dining that is the Marketplace at Atherton, the hunger you had is suddenly gone. You wonder, “Why, stomach, did you stop growling?” And then you realize that somewhere between the HRC and the steps of the Union, your hunger and nearly $7  for dinner just trotted away along with part of your taste buds’ dignity. You’re in A-Town, now.

But let’s be honest. Most of the time, jokes about school cafeteria food make me want to vomit whatever mediocre meal I just ingested.

So then, that’s the test. Does “A-Town” bring the yum factor?

On Friday, Sept. 9, during lunch, the verdict is that Atherton brought not one, but several yum factors. With four plates full of food, plus one bowl of Lucky Charms, you’d hope to find something tolerable.

For starters, the meatball sandwich was good. Surprisingly good. The meatballs were flavorful in a comforting sort of way— not in a you’re-gonna-regret-this-later way. As an optional extra, you could top your balls of meat with Parmesan cheese. It was a nice touch.

On the same plate, keeping the meatball sub company, were a smattering of french fries, which were a bit off-the-Aramarky. Like any fries should be, they were greasy, but they lacked the wonderful flavor that grease should bring with it.

Then came the gasp-worthy black bean burger. Vegan or no vegan, this was really good. And although the cow was spared, it still had a meaty flavor and texture. It was like a burger— but not.

The next plate in question had just one thing plopped in its center—a lonely piece of cheese pizza, bathed in grease. As the pizza stared into my whimsical eyes, I was reminded of Eeyore. And I was reminded why Eeyore lacks friends. Why? Because he’s a downer. And that’s what this pizza was—a loser, the last picked for kickball, the zit on an otherwise lovely lunch. It wasn’t rush-to-the-bathroom bad, but we should also show our digestive system some respect.

Every dessert was scrumptious, although there was one flavorless cookie in the bunch, speckled with mysterious brown dots. It wasn’t quite up to par.

The best thing in “A-Town” that afternoon was hidden in a corner near the deli area. It was in a plastic cup and was topped with whipped cream and chocolate syrup. It likely came from the brilliant mind of some creative Atherton employee who thought of crumbling up leftover brownies. It was wonderful.

And, in all seriousness, we should give our respect to Atherton’s workers. Remember last year’s encounter with “Snowpacalypse”? Remember when the Atherton staff stuck around to make us food?

Thank you employees of the Marketplace. You’ll always make us either very happy or very confused.


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