Reviewed by Sam I Am
I admit it: I first found out about Goudy Commons Cafe from The Food Network, when host Rachael Ray visited Salem in 2005. Goudy is one of the cafeterias on the Willamette University campus. It was a hidden secret from me, and if it's also been a mystery to you, I hope you stop by - the food is delicious, and it's not just for students.
Thursday is “Small Plates” day at Goudy, when the chefs whip up an impressive mix of gourmet fare in snack-sized proportions. The day I went, there were five dishes, and I chose four. I was brave enough to try the Sudan Leg of Lamb but passed on the Braised Local Beef Tongue. (Beef tongue? My college cafeteria was nothing like this!)
The Lamb ($2.25) was smoky and moist, with a delicious mint-feta-yogurt sauce on top. The Fried Cheese Raviolis in clarified butter ($1.95) were set off well by the Mesclun Salad ($2.00), a perfect mix of Asian pears, bleu cheese and pine nuts. The NW Cassoulet ($2.50) was a hearty combination of duck, pork, wild mushrooms, white beans and house-made sausage. Although the homemade sausage was impressive, the dish overall was a little bland. I shared dessert with my dining companion: chocolate pudding with homemade whipped cream topped by Oreo crumbles.
An employee puts together each dish as it’s ordered. The preparation was a little slow, and a line began forming. Things can get pretty hectic at Goudy around noon. If you show up a little before noon, or a little after, things calm down.
Bon Apetit, the food-service company at Willamette, prides itself on using fresh, local and organic ingredients when possible.
Even the other dining options in the Goudy cafeteria are high quality: wraps, sandwiches, Mexican food, a salad bar, soups, a grill, pizza, and dessert.
My dining companion chose a couple of the Small Plates that day, and also browsed the rest of the cafeteria's options.
He enjoyed (clockwise from bottom) tomato-basil soup, cornbread, the leg of lamb, the NW Cassoulet, a pear, and wheatberry salad- a delicious mix of grains and fruits.
After you've passed through the turnstiles at the entrance, picked out your meal, and unloaded it from your tray, you'll be hard-pressed to believe that this is "cafeteria food."
Goudy Commons Cafe may seem intimidating at first if you've never stepped onto the Willamette University campus. But the dining room draws a variety of folks from all over Salem, most notably Legislators and other state workers from across the street. I've seen business meetings conducted there; I've seen babies and little kids. The day I visited last week, I noticed more senior citizens (on break from a lifetime-learning class) than 18-year-old students.
This ain't no county fair: At Goudy, entering through turnstiles doesn't mean your food is going to be greasy, fried and unidentifiable. Quite the contrary.
Willamette University's official address is 900 State Street. To get to Goudy from State Street, turn south on Winter Street. About halfway down the street, take the path east into campus. Goudy Commons is a red brick building on your left. (There's no sign). You can find a campus map here.