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bush beans
Comfort Food.

maple leaf
..."MCL won me years ago..."

street sweet
"...motherly tableside attention"
Geezer Gourmet - MCL

MCL Cafeterias are for geezers. Good. Statistics tell me geezers today are in the ranking majority. My geezer peers have reached the stage in life when they do not want one more day of frou frou al dente food such as those terrible, tough, plastic-green French imports haricot verts.

I've started going to MCL for a number of reasons: Cooked food, a 100-count food bar, and yep, price. After a few visits an MCL diner realizes he is eating in a clean restaurant. The food in trays just looks clean. While I have spent decades reviewing some of the finest restaurants in the free world, I've decided that my basic sustence needs start with beans and bread. Everything beyond is just fluff.

In the recent 20 years my comfort food search has been for a simple dish of green beans. Snap beans they were called in my youth, Today's crop of chefs (not fry cooks) caters to all sorts of outside influences when it comes to green beans. They season with salt and pepper and end there. Lowcountry cooks do green beans with ham hock, smoked bacon, fat back, some really do it right with Smithfield ham, the salt-cured shoulders.

MCL won me years ago with the mushy green beans and roasted bacon slivers. A small dish is $1.21. If MCL ever displays green beans almandine, I walk. From there we move on.

I think all culinary students today should start their practical work studies by visiting MCL They should pay close attention to the meats and fish. Fried chicken, deep-fried, seems to be there daily. There's always a fried fish, a cod or tilapia. If ever they offer me that previously frozen fraud, Orange Roughy, I walk again. (Orange Roughy is known in the fish trade as "slime fish,"a catch-limited-by-international-law dredged up from bottom waters off New Zealand legally during a 45-day period in August and September. It is flash frozen on Japanese trawlersand pawned off on the American market. Buyers could buy Orange Roughy in June or July and not realize it had been caught nine months before.) MCL does not serve Roughy. For all the inside jokes about Geezer Gourmet, no one questions the value and quality of MCL Cafeterias.

My initial test meal consisted of the $3.59 platter of beef tips over noodles. I pulled away the beef. Weighed apart the well done cuts equaled what you would get in a 6-ounce filet mignon. While the medium rare steak taste may not be there, the tips had a pleasing tender quality. The thick gravy was studded with fresh mushrooms, which I found reassuring in judging overall freshness of other items.

MCL's beef tips are cuts from slow-roasted inside round that spend night time seasoning hours prior to service in an Alto Shaam.

MCL lays out all sorts of potatoes sides. I selected the so-called "twice baked" because the cheese topping looked appetizing. Served in a small aluminum oval-shaped tray, it is billed as a "potato boat," $1.19. It is not twice baked. Rather it consists of mashed spuds topped with cheese anda sprinkle of paprika. That was my only first time out disappointment. Still the mashed do have infused flavor from an excellent cheese - American made for MCL by Deutsch Kase Haus in northern Indiana.

About MCL service: Cousin, it is basic cafeteria, steam table fare with one strong plus above most such operations - constant attention to refresh trays. Line cooks load and unload trays. Line servers generally appear to be there or nearing Senior Citizen status - which is a good sign that patrons do not have to put up with pierced lips or noses or tattoos. Call me picky, but I appreciated the motherly tableside attention.

          - Doral Chenoweth

menu board


From the extensive menu board:

Patron favorite based on repeat sales: Baked salmon seasoned with Canola oil, Kosher salt and dry mustard.

Corporate chef Ronald Harris's favorite: Carnegie Deli cheesecake.

MCL's signature item: Liver and onions, considered the top destination dish.

Reviewer Doral Chenoweth's favorite item: Totally cooked green beans seasoned with thick-cut and diced roasted bacon that has been slow-simmered together.

Why MCL? It is an eatery destination for all who dislike frou frou food at econo prices in a clean setting.

© 2006