I met up with my sister for lunch at Marketplace Cafe. This was yet another place I’ve heard so much about since its opening, but I refused to go until now because of the long lines. Thankfully, it was not too crowded when we went.
The setup is a little strange – it’s like half cafeteria, half restaurant and had I not been with my sister who dines here often, I would have had no clue on how to proceed through the line. There are no menu signs, so you just have to go down the line and view the samples: a basic offering of pizzas, pastas, sandwiches, salads, and a few specialty entrees. Then they give you a claim ticket for the hot items, while they give you the salads on the spot. Then there’s the desserts and drinks, and you pay at the register. Up to this point, it’s a pretty straightforward cafeteria.
But after we chose our seats, it sort of morphed into a restaurant: a server greeted us and read off our ticket. “You’re just waiting on your pizza and sandwich”, our server stated, as if that was not obvious. Then she brought us utensils, drink refills, and presented us with what I call a “tip plate” (in lieu of a tip jar) with “Thank you :)” handwritten on her business card at the end. I tell you, it seems like a pretty good gig they’ve got going here, getting tipped for only doing half of what traditional restaurant servers do. Don’t get me wrong, the service and “cafeteria chic” ambience were great, but I just wondered if it was really necessary to have the servers there. I’d prefer it if they just made it 100% cafeteria with no servers and instead had lots of attendants to keep the tables clean.
Anyhoo, we shared a Bleu Cheese, Pear and Candied Walnut Salad ($10.50).
I had the Pizza Margherita ($10.50) which was freshly baked with salty mozzarella and fresh basil.
My sister had a Grilled Cheese Sandwich ($5.50) served with a cup of tomato soup, fresh fruit, and chips. This is not on their regular menu, but is available off their kids menu upon request. I think this is the best deal in the house.
I welcome Marketplace Cafe as an added dining option when I’m at Ala Moana Center. The food is good, the ambience stylish, the pricing reasonable, and most of all, the location is dynamite. Because it’s cafeteria style, the vibe is more laid back and inviting. This is sure to become one of my favorite stops for a mid-shopping break, or for a casual lunch with business associates.
PRICE RANGE: Approx. $10-15 for most salads, pastas, sandwiches and entrees
MY BILL: N/A – It was my sister’s treat!
Nordstrom at Ala Moana Center
1519 Kapiolani Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96814