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Reporter's Notebook: Dining on Campus (One of Twin Falls' Best Deals on Quality Lunch)
[March 25, 2013]

Reporter's Notebook: Dining on Campus (One of Twin Falls' Best Deals on Quality Lunch)

TWIN FALLS, Mar 25, 2013 (The Times-News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- If you have never eaten at the College of Southern Idaho's Desert Cafe, you are missing out.

I visited Desert Cafe on March 20 for my story that will be in the Times-News' Food section. (Watch for it Wednesday on It was a windy and rainy day, so I was excited to hear that comfort foods were on the menu. The entree of the day was homestyle, hand-breaded chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and country-style gravy.

But before I had a chance to sample the cuisine, I had a job to do, talking with a mixture of students, professors and diners.

One thing I learned about the Desert Cafe's diners: A lot of them are regulars. There are some who never miss a day.

So it was not a surprise that by the time noon rolled around, the main dining room was bustling as servers emerged from the kitchen with plates of hot food and drink re-fills. I stood near the cash register, eavesdropping, as servers kept track of several bills.

"I think I messed up my bill," said one student, as another came up to him and said, "Do you have table two They are waiting for their check." Then I stood near the soda machine, where servers were picking up their plates of food to bring to tables.

Here are some snippets of conversations I overheard.

"Did you guys get my add-on " a student asked.

"I need one dessert," said another.

"Do they want sugar and cream " "I don't know, I didn't ask," the student said, walking back into the dining room to find out.

After I gathered my interviews and video footage for my story, I sat down to a meal inside one of the CSI classrooms that was converted into a dining area.

My waiter was Pedro Jimenez, a second-year culinary student, who was spending a rotation working as a server. This is a common practice for the hospitality and culinary students to swap roles to not only learn new skills, but have an appreciation for their counterparts.

Jimenez was very attentive, and after taking my drink order he stopped by every table in the room, checking on his guests.

"Do you want your bill " "Do you want a refill " "Yes, your to-go order is ready. I'll bring it out when I bring your check," Jimenez said.

I ordered the chicken fried steak and it was delicious. I also enjoyed the green beans that accompanied the steak; they had a slight buttery saltiness to them that I liked. But my favorite part of the meal was the dessert: classic chocolate mousse with cookie and fresh raspberries.

If you dine here I would suggest getting the day's featured entrees because it includes your choice of soup or salad bar, beverage and dessert. The cost: $10.07.

And if you tip, the money doesn't go directly to the server, but into a pot of money collected over the semester. Eventually all the tips are added up and all the students go out and dine together.

___ (c)2013 The Times-News (Twin Falls, Idaho) Visit The Times-News (Twin Falls, Idaho) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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