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Grade School Cafeteria Burgers: Pass or Fail?

By • Nov 30th, 2010 • Category: Burger Blog

Once every school year, I make it a point to go have lunch with my daughter. I show up at the cafeteria with my “Visitor” sticker on and dutifully fall in line, grab a Styrofoam tray, and fill the tiny compartments with whatever’s on the menu that day.  Then it’s off to a long table, where I squeeze into a little plastic seat and enjoy thirty minutes of feeling like a rockstar, because my daughter’s still at an age where the idea of her dad showing up to her school to visit with her and her friends in front of the entire student body is something to get super-excited about.  So I usually choke down the state-subsidized “food” and head home feeling like maybe I’ve earned that “#1 Dad” can coozie for another 12 months.  This year, I picked cheeseburger day.

Cheeseburger day is my daughter’s favorite food day, because she knows what Daddy does for a livingThe Robin to my Batman on many a cheeseburger mission, she’s quick to rate every burger she eats, dissect its pros and cons, and place it for me on her own B.C.O.M.L. spectrum.  And she swears that her school’s cheeseburgers are, to use her favorite word, “awesome.”

That may not have been the first word that came to my mind when I saw the burgers.  Sydney had already gone through the line and loaded up by the time I got there, and I was momentarily distracted by the sides that she herself chose without prompting.  White milk?  Mashed potatoes??  An apple?!? Wow, I thought, maybe the wife and I are doing something right.

On my trip through the line, I selected the burger that had the most rogue cheese caked on the sides.  Really, I decided, not that different-looking from any number of basic fast-food burgs.  A quick check of the nutritional info showed that it’s almost identical in calories, fat, sodium, cholesterol, and carbs to a standard McDonald’s cheeseburger.  Uh-oh. Not a good omen from a tasting perspective.

Peeking under the bun, I was greeted with lots of completely-melted goldenness.  Nice.  I almost suspected a cheese sauce or spread, but later saw kids with actual cheese slices that hadn’t melted at all topping their patties.  Just-assembled off the line, I guess.

So, are our children being served up an A+ burger by the public school systems?  Well, as someone once said, the kids are alright.  This was actually not a bad burger at all.

Obviously a frozen patty that had been heated to a uniform shade of well-done brown, it had that added hint of fake char that’s hard to describe, but you sure know it when you taste it.  But overall, I’d put my elementary-school-cafeteria burger up against anything off the Wendy’s or Mickey D’s menu- or even the outrageously-priced “Angus” burger I had at Cowboys Stadium last year- and feel pretty good about its chances in a blind taste test.  And I feel downright… well, yes, Sydney… “awesome” about the $1.60 price tag that also includes a drink and three sides.  I paid the higher visiting-adult rate of $2.50, but the added bonus of feeling like a rockstar for the afternoon made it the deal of the century by my math. Even still, I may hold out for meat loaf day next school year.

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