As with other restaurants, a cafeteria's quality varies, depending on management and food freshness standards, which -- as habitual readers of this column know -- often has little to do with menu pricing. The shadow of the Houston health inspector has recently fallen upon the following:The Dinner Bell Cafeteria (6525 Lawndale) was cited for: storing single-use items less than six inches above the floor; soiled non-food contact surfaces; and accumulation of dirt in ventilation filters. Best bets: pies and corn pudding. Dinner Bell has a 1950s Mad Men atmosphere and serves large portions, but subtle flavors don't survive long on the steam table. Go on the coldest day in January.
The Piccadilly Cafeterias, a Baton Rouge export as venerable as Texas's own Luby's, has overtaken the Big L by absorbing the Morrison's cafeteria chain. Piccadilly now operates locations in 15 states, including one at 7750 W. Bellfort. With an anemic Cajun influence, Piccadilly quality varies widely, but its chocolate cream pie rocks and the strawberry pie ain't bad, either. At Piccadilly, vegetables come bathed in pork fat. The Bellfort location received poor marks for garbage receptacle conditions and dirty outside storage areas.
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Receiving a five-violation rap sheet way back on August 17, including one for poor lighting in the food service area, The Family Café (2712 Blodgett) is better than the chains. Each day one meat or fish dish is complemented with soul food sides--red beans, candied yams, peach cobbler, etc. The food is a distillation of all the best Southern elementary school cafeteria meals you've ever had. Once during the many times we've dined there, a patron in the dining room said (and didn't just think), "Where did all these honkies come from?" Life's treasured moments.