As one of the contributors to a previous year’s Guide to Sustainable Deliciousness, I had looked somewhat forward to checking out the Munger Housing complex‘s new cafe, the Russo Cafe, since I have had good experiences with the Munger Market, which I highly recommend you check out ASAP.
On the other hand, I do *not* recommend you eat at the Russo Cafe until they fix things up. As per last year’s guide on where not to eat on campus, I graded the Russo Cafe on a combination of sustainability (yep, I’ve taken Earth Systems 10, just for fun and self-ed) and deliciousness (as a self-identified super-taster and artisan bread baker).
How did Russo Cafe score?
The Russo Cafe gets a C+ in “sustainable deliciousness“, which puts it wayy below Cool Cafe at Cantor, and even below older institutions such as the Treehouse or Bytes Cafe near Gates. Why so low?
A number of complaints:
1) Taste / Preparation
2) Ingredient quality / provenance
3) Over-use of cornware cups
Simply put, the Russo Cafe looks great on the outside and the food looks appetizing… until you start eating it.
Sorry Russo Cafe, this gets a sustainable deliciousness Fail by Stanford standards!
Shall I say more?
I tried the Beef Bourguignon (I’ve done my time in a consensus-run vegetarian co-op but now identify as a flexitarian with a vegan offset policy, and wanted to try a dish that was hand prepared (?) by a chef on-demand rather than simply pasted together.
While this looks great, once you bite into it, you realize that the meat is not cooked evenly through, and the sauce is unbalanced–whither the grains / potatoes / rice to balance the heavy aspects of the dish? I don’t know. A friend has had this dish several times and has reported that although they liked it in the past, this week has not been a good week for Cafe Russo, which has been opened reportedly since November, according to one staff member.
The dishes my friends ordered also looked great… but had errors in preparation, whether they were the odd choice of pickled dressing over potatoes to pair with a pastrami-on-rye sandwich (why why? it already came with something pickled, and the oddly acidic dressing / accountrement just confused the strange pairing of potatoes, not in potato salad style but straight up just mixed together), or the preparation of another meat dish another friend ordered.
As for sustainability, I had to ask for a glass cup rather than get cornware, which were the default and give the appearance of sustainability (cough like the b-school cafe cough) rather than the glass cups you find at co-ops and cafe cool.
Also, the staff members were generally clueless about where their foodstuffs came from. The pizza dough was made on site, but the staff did not know about their flour sourcing (I prefer Organic Giusto’s flour which I sometimes get from a friendly baker down the street, in 50 lb. bulk bags), and not even where their vegetables or bread come from! [They seem not to make their bread, unlike the Treehouse / Coho, who have for a while relied on the talents of one Guillermo, a solidly strong artisan baker trained in Mexico who produces their pastries, breads for tortas and sandwiches, and the like.
Finally, the meat seems to come from Fasciola, which is pretty much where co-ops on campus that don’t give a big ass about sustainability get their livestock from. I’ve had a lot of their product and I am not a fan… while it may or may not be a step up from franken factory farming, I couldn’t find any organically sourced ingredients in the cafe, and also *none* of the meat was reported to be grass-fed, unlike Stanford Dining which reportedly switched to 100% of beef being grass-fed (though not necessarily grass-finished?) in addition to Petaluma Poultry.
In other words, it doesn’t look like they’ve done their homework, but probably make more money this way. So, if you just care about looks and price, go for the Russo Cafe, if you care about taste and sustainability, look somewhere else and/or write/talk to their managers, I know I will!