Mount Royal College - Herb ’n Market

This may be a food-court mecca, but a discerning eater can still do well


Mount Royal College is a food-court mecca. The school where former Alberta premier Ralph Klein sometimes teaches journalism, it is a place of Subways, Tim Hortons and Edo Japans—a fast-food chain that has as much business claiming its noodles bare a resemblance to the cuisine of the Chrysanthemum Throne as Klein probably has lecturing impressionable youth. But both Klein and the fast-food providers enjoy hostage audiences on this out-of-the-way campus. Still, the discerning eater can do well at the Herb n Market food court, a nicely varied selection of inexpensive meals cooked, for the most part, sur place, courtesy of food-services giant Sodexho (whose appearance in Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me we’ll leave unmentioned).

Find real ham on the bone, carved to order, at Stacks, a sandwich station that also offers grilled paninis lathered in a beguiling, if salty, red pepper-infused butter (we had ours with ham and asparagus). The crusts wilt quickly at Pandini’s, a pasta and pizza stop (learn from my errors and do not settle for what’s languished too long on the counter), though the marinara sauce is sufficiently zippy and the cheese provides a wholesome mouth sensation. We fared less well with the lasagna, a dish whose layers ought never to feel like cadaver skin.

At the unfortunately named Mein Bowl, the requisite experiment in Chinese food, real broccoli is available. The Kung Pao chicken boasted processed meat as tender as tofu—a turn-off, in our view—but earned points with its generous heaping of red peppers. Note to the kitchen staff: fried rice must be fried. For no discernible reason, the egg rolls were delicious, though freed of its fried skin the filling tasted not unlike Earl Grey tea.

Best of all, in that it did not leave us in an MSG-induced psychosis, was the Cyclone Salad station, a bar of fresh greens, proteins, bacon bits and dressings slapped together by a server according to taste. Ours, on a foundation of hardy romaine and sprinkled with sunflower seeds and a refreshing wasabi dressing, was the best part of our day.