We've all had bad memories of cafeterias (as this topic was inspired by entries on the "We are so spoiled" post), but entering an establishment, picking up a bakelite tray and sliding it along three parallel stainless steel pipes while selecting our fare has not always been a dismal experience. Yes, let's dispense with any mention of the school lunchroom. That was dismal.
From early childhood, I recall the ubiquitous Horn and Hardart (known only to the New York/ Philadelphia crowd) had quality fare that is sorely missed to this day. It was fresh, unembellished and embodied the simplicity of a grandmotherly kitchen. Great stuff!
More recently, I had the pleasure of being invited by a former ambassador friend of mine to lunch with him at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton. YIKES! A cafeteria like I've never seen. With the same tray-on-rails format, the array of appetizers, soups, salads, main courses, grilled-to-order items, fresh vegetarian and vegan dishes and serving areas for dozens of warm, room temp and chilled desserts blew me away. Every imaginable beverage followed - teas, fresh juices, coffees, you name it. It was all-encompassing. And all was delectable. I guess with the influx of highbrow intellects from a gazillion cultures, you have to be good. And it is.
Are any others worth mentioning here?