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Scenario: You're at the shopping mall during lunch/dinner hour. What do you eat?

Malls are not bastions of haute cuisine. The purpose of the food court is primarily a utalitarian one: fill the gullet fast

And answers like, "Well, Hoity Toity Cafe is just across the street so I would rather run over there for a meal," don't count. FOOD COURT!!! :)

My choices are:
-Orange Chicken at Panda Express
-Walnut Chicken Sandwich at Paradise Bakery

If I'm there for dinner, I grab a Chicken Ceasar Salad from La Madeline

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  1. If they have a Chik-Fil-A that's what line I'll be standing in. I love their chicken sandwiches.

    1. I can usually choke down some sushi collection at Wok'n'Roll.

      1. In the Boston area, we're lucky enough to have the very decent Gourmet India option.

        2 Replies
        1. re: gini

          Agree with Gini - Gourmet India is the spot I hit (Boston and Providence RI area).

          1. re: gini

            Yes indeed, our choice also.

          2. -Chick-Fil-A original chicken sandwich and a Diet Lemonade
            -Orange chicken from Panda Express
            -Pepperoni pizza from Sbarro

            1 Reply
            1. If I have to eat at the mall I go to Great Steak and Potato. They provide a halfway edible attempt at a steak sandwich.

              As for Panda Express, there food is terrible, maybe folks who eat here have no decent chinese restaurants near them..

              10 Replies
              1. re: swsidejim

                Panda Express is not terrible! It isn't authentic Chinese cuisine, but it hits the spot when looking for something quick and yummy!

                1. re: clarecat

                  like i said, if Panda Express is considered good, Id hate to eat at the local chinese spots where this is the case. They must be really bad..

                  1. re: swsidejim

                    Would have to agree here... We had a themed week going on at work and they brought Panda Express in one day and their dumplings were like bad McDonalds chicken nuggets (thats saying something..). Their rice wasn't cooked soft and their 'sweet&sour' sauce looked like red food dye with canned pineapple. It was horrifying.. I would most definetly wait until I got home before making this a quick snack.. egh.

                    1. re: andlulu

                      I like their eggplant and tofu but their rice is horrible, bone dry cheap rice.

                      1. re: kare_raisu

                        The white rice is gross; the sauces are gross. The orange chicken, the Mongolian beef and the kung pao whatever are the things to get... and they're not bad.

                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                          Add to that list the Mandarin Chicken (which to me, anyway, is a "low-fat" version of the Orange Chicken).

                        2. re: kare_raisu

                          I'm Chinese and for some reason I love the dry rice they serve at restaurants...

                  2. re: swsidejim

                    I ate at Great Steak and Potato last week in the Phoenix Airport. They use this gooey yellow cheese on their baked potatoes - gag!

                    1. re: gini

                      never had a baked potato there. Not something Id get at a fast food place expecting to be impressed.

                      Did you try a steak sandwich? Not haf as good as a real Philly steak, but when you need some beef and cheese, and cannot stand to eat taco bell, or the other choices at the mall it eases the philly steak jones., at least for those of us not lucky enough to be in Philly.

                      1. re: swsidejim

                        Naw I had the grilled veggie sandwich with melted cheese. Not bad mushrooms and grilled veggies although the fries & bread were a waste of time.

                  3. Im in boston so I guess I'd go to legal sea foods for a salad. I'll pass on the chowder bc I don't think it's that good.

                    Luckily in the prudential center there are a lot of half way decent places to eat and if I walk outside I can go across the street to abe & louie's for a hamburger or down to parish for a sandwich (too expensive). Or I can go to wendys (favorite option) (:

                    1. Luckily the malls that I tend to shop at (Tyson's I and II in NOVA and Short Hills in NJ) have moved away from the traditional food court and instead have restaurants (mainly local chains and the higher end national chains). If I want a quick bite instead of a sit down meal I tend to get a sandwich at Au Bon Pain or a burger at Five Guys.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: viperlush

                        I was just about to mention Short Hills NJ myself - thankfully they have a Legal Seafood there. Nice to be able to sit down and have a decent meal instead of fast food grub.

                      2. Chick-fil-a or Wendy's... maybe soup from somewhere else.

                        1. Chick-fil-a, I love their nuggets.

                          Subway, I can get a reasonably healthy lunch here. Usually turkey breast on wheat with lots of lettuce and vegetables dressed with oil & vinegar.

                          Chinese, Bourbon Chicken or Spicy Chicken with fried rice. Not authentic but GOOD.

                          The deli place is good for chicken & seafood salads as well as panini's.

                          Mama Illardos has the BEST pizza.

                          1. Chik-Fil-A sandwich or a Chocolate Marshmallow Ice Cream cone.

                            1. I usually get one or two beef tacos, or occasionally taco supremes, at Taco Bell. I'm not proud of it, and try to limit myself to only going to Taco Bell when I'm at malls.

                              1. Hot Dog on a Stick (w/ lemonade)

                                10 Replies
                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  I was just about to type that! My favorite part was always the fried coating, I always wondered if they would just take a stick and fry a bunch of batter onto it.

                                  1. re: wanderlustre

                                    Yeah, that fried batter/skin is outrageously good, esp. with their mustard.

                                  2. re: ipsedixit

                                    Ditto this. Their lemonade is terrific.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      Totally agree. You're in a freakin' mall, you might as well eat like you're in one. Option 2 is a big burger from a small chain, Johnny Rockets or some such slightly upscale or better burger, you know there's always one in a mall or food court regardless of the name.

                                      BTW, I go to a mall about 2-3 a year and stay for little as I possibly can.

                                      1. re: ML8000

                                        Actually, I think Johnny Rockets is sort of underrated.

                                        Good, solid burgers (they use the right patty size, e.g. 1/3 pound) and the shakes and malts are fabulous. Flavored sodas are a kick as well.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          Oh yah, I agree. I could go for a #12 and a vanilla malted right about now!

                                          1. re: Rubee

                                            Yup, the red red sauce makes all the difference ...

                                          2. re: ipsedixit

                                            I like the shakes and their cheese fries.

                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              I was thinking of places that usually are in the food court, but you're right - Johnny Rockets' burgers and fries are another good way to go!

                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                I don't go to many malls but there are a few Johnny Rocket's in malls in the South Bay/Pennisula. Also, every food court usually has a beefy/burger place, Buckhorn, or some other burger place.

                                        2. Tough decision - it's between McDonald's and A&W.

                                          1. I just returned from an unsuccesful lunchtime suede boot-buying mission. I picked up a Panera artichoke/chicken panino. It was ....sorta like food. In retrospect, i wish I had gotten a chocolate chip faux-bagel and a glass of skim milk. That's more my typical on-the-run lunch.

                                            Honestly, I have to say the apple they gave me with the sandwich was not that bad. This morning I had a locally grown, fresh off the tree Fuji...and if it was a 10..this one was no worse than a 6 or 7. God knows sometimes the apples you get in that sort of setting are beyond hideous.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: danna

                                              While there are many ways that I think of Panera as the heart of darkness (e.g. they clearly have a policy of giving the end pieces of the baguette that they offer with their salads to people ordering to go, which is beyond low-budge IMO), their greek salad is ok. Good, no. But better than their sandwiches and passably edible, yes.

                                            2. Nordstrom Cafe in Short Hills, NJ because, as someone mentioned, the mall has no food court. I used to always get Panda Express at food courts, but lately I've been going with Italian subs or whatever's closest to a sub if the food court has a sandwich place.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: maryelizabeth

                                                Maryelizabeth, could you give specifics about the cafe? I shop there too occassionally. We usually stop into Legal Seafood but don't always want something that large if we're there during the daytime. I didn't even realize there was a cafe in Nordstrom because I haven't really explored that store too much yet. We've been living in the area a few years, but don't normally go to that mall unless we're looking for something very specific which can't be gotten elsewhere.

                                                1. re: sivyaleah

                                                  Laurie, the cafe is on the third floor. You order at the counter and then sit wherever and a server brings your drink and your food when it's ready. There are probably about 25 tables, so generally plenty of seating except maybe right around noontime. The food is really excellent. I always have the chicken salad sandwich. It's wonderful, not too much mayonnaise. Even my 3 year old's chicken fingers are real chicken with a side of watermelon and strawberries (and chips), pretty fancy for a kid's meal. There's also a cafe in the Nordstrom in Menlo Park mall. That one is newer, I think, and the decor is a bit more upscale, but the Short Hills one is nice too. Service has always been excellent and VERY fast. You could be in and out in 15-20 minutes, easy, if you're in a hurry.

                                                  1. re: maryelizabeth

                                                    Even better that there is someone serving you. I got the impression when you said cafe, that it might have been kind of self-serve like the Lord and Taylor in Westfield is (and for that matter, the food is not particularly good there). The cafe sounds like a very good option. I'm not nuts about the other food options in Short Hills other than Legal SF and if there in the daytime would prefer to grab and go.

                                                    I almost never go to Menlo, or Woodbridge for that matter. In general, I tend NOT to do the mall thing much. I prefer stand-alone stores for shopping - or the computer. Malls make me feel claustrophobic and stressed out!


                                              2. My most-frequently visited local mall has an outlet of a local middle-eastern mini-chain. I usually have chicken shwarma & hummus or the falafel, if it's freshly fried.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                                  Forgot to add that I also regularly dine at the PF Changs at the mall...sadly, it has some of the best chinese food in the area.

                                                2. My body has not recognized classic American fast food as "food" for years, and like an organ from the wrong blood type it will reject any food by-product quicker than you can say Jiminy Cricket.
                                                  So, as if stranded in the Andes, I'd have to devour one of my fellow shoppers.

                                                  1. First choice is a bowl of soup from Au Bon Pain. I can't be more specific, because I haven't been shopping recently. My usual standby at the local food court is a hot dog, fries and soda from Nathan's.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Leslie

                                                      The +1 says the soups at au bon pain are not bad...

                                                    2. I'll take the Smashed Potato from Steak Escape. It's filling, reasonably tasty, not horribly greasy, and about five or six bucks.

                                                      1. I was going to say that Nordstrom's Cafe is almost always my mall food of choice at Sout Coast Plaza in SoCal. Their menu is far superior to any fast food (and to many other non-mall cafes, to boot!)

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: CynD

                                                          I agree - Nordstrom's Cafe is superior to any "mall food" We are lucky to have one in central Ohio - not all Nordstroms have a cafe.

                                                        2. The Great Con... opps, I meant The Great Khan (Mongolian BBQ). It's not a steamtable stand, but it's still pretty fast... and tasty when you get the hang of selecting items to add. I'm not sure how wide the distribution of TGK is (NoCal).

                                                          1. Chik-Fil-A used to be it; now it just upsets my stomach.

                                                            If there's an Au Bon Pain, I'll get a sandwich there.

                                                            1. Chick-Fil-A or a slice of pizza or ziti from Sbarro's.

                                                              1. Interesting... I would have thought some of you in bigger cities would have more interesting options than I did growing up in Topeka, KS and now living in Kansas City!

                                                                When I used to go to the mall, (online shopping is a godsend!! ;-) I would either have Chick-Fil-A (chicken nuggets and waffle fries) or a Pretzelmaker original pretzel with the original jalopeno cheese (the cheese used to be awesome but they've since switched over to fake ballpark cheese)!

                                                                1. Ham N Cheese sandwich on a croissant at Kelly's Coffee & Fudge
                                                                  Scallops on a skewer at McGraths

                                                                  I'd go back to Great Khan's if they brought the lamb back

                                                                  1. Baked potato at Wendy's

                                                                    1. I'm never in the mall for over an hour (I'm a go in, get it & get out shopper) so I NEVER have mall food.

                                                                      But if I HAD to pick one, I'd go to the LE DIPLOMAT CAFE, right next to Nordstrom's.

                                                                      1. Here's a long winded answer.

                                                                        DW, daughter and I in Cinn looking at colleges staying a Cinncinatian Hotel. Ask the young ladies at t he front desk where we can grab a bite. They tell us to go around the corner and down the street and go upstairs to a pretty good resto. So we follow her directions.

                                                                        Well the resto is in a mall, and when we go upstairs it across the aisle from the anchor store and we all look at each other and say, No Way!!.

                                                                        Back to the hotel for a great meal in the hotel resto.

                                                                        1. If there's a Pik-a-Pita or similar Middle Eastern place I'll get the "lamb sandwich" -- sort of a gyro, but wrapped in very thin pita with the whole thing pressed under an iron-like contraption. Not bad at all.

                                                                          And food-court sushi can be decent enough -- safest bet is a barbecued-eel roll. (Off topic: It's ironic that the sushi-bar item that probably sounds most disgusting to the uninitiated is probably the most friendly to non-chowhounds. It's cooked, it's not fishy, and there's a sweet barbecue glaze. What's not to like?)

                                                                          1. At the Galleria in Glendale (near Los Angeles), which has the largest population of Armenians in the U.S., there is a pretty good Lebanese/Armenian stand in the mall foodcourt. If I'm not in the mood for Armenian, I'll usually go to Panda Express or the sushi place. The Galleria's not so bad, since there's also Thai and Indian. My kids, however, have Hot Dog on a Stick every single time!

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: Chowpatty

                                                                              ooh, there's a place on the second floor of the glendale galleria (where there's a small auxiliary food court) that serves pretty tasty bento bowls and the like. not quite "fast" fast food and not quite cheap either, but hey, it's in a mall and it's edible.

                                                                            2. The selection of food at the malls around here varies widely, from the mundane (most of the bigger malls) to the sublime (Crossroads in Bellevue, not really a mall but their food court is full of excellent non-chain selections) to the ridiculously expensive (Bellevue Square has PF Changs, Cheesecake Factory, Maggiano's and Ruth's Chris Steakhouse plus a few others, but few options that won't break the bank.) At the malls with actual food courts here, I'll usually go for whatever teriyaki place they have (Sarku or Kojo,) or I might also grab the clams and chips from Ivar's. A few of the malls also have Red Robin for a sit-down meal. I'll also have to give the Nordstrom Cafe a try at some point, I'd always assumed that it wasn't much more than an espresso bar.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: Vexorg

                                                                                You might indeed be thinking of the Nordstrom coffee bar. The cafe is a whole different place. The Nordstrom at Fashion Place in the Salt Lake City suburb of Murray as both. The coffee bar is on the first floor, actually facing out into the mall. The cafe is on the 2nd floor. I don't know if all Nordstrom's have the cafe or not. But, it is a good place to grab a little lunch when in the mall - it beats the usual food court offerings.

                                                                                1. I go to See's, smile sweetly, and ask for a sample.

                                                                                  Or, I buy a chocolate or two at See's or Godiva's.

                                                                                  Both will toll my hunger over until I reach a dining establishment other than the food court.

                                                                                  1. A lot of talk about Nordstom's Cafe....it's my choice, as well....also it's very kid friendly (yes, I know, a food court is THE kid friendly place, but the Cafe is cleaner and a bit healthier, you know?). I really like their pizzas and salads (get the dressing on the side, as they tend to have a heavy hand).

                                                                                    And, they have good cookies. Enough said!

                                                                                    1. I buy a bag of day-old cookies from Mrs. Fields for $5 ($6 in some malls). They're seldom actually a full day old...most of the time they're just a few hours old. The bags have little windows, so you can choose the assortment that suits your mood.

                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                      1. re: ricepad

                                                                                        I rarely get Mrs. Fields, but just the smell of those cookies makes me weak in the knees ...

                                                                                      2. For lunch Pick up Stix. But I would never eat dinner at the Food Court of a mall.

                                                                                        1. If sitting in the food court counts :) I walk across the food court to the ice cream parlor, order a cone for dinner and enjoy it at a food court table.

                                                                                          1. There is always an "Italian" place of some sort. You'll either find me there or at Taco Bell. Yes, I know TB isn't good eats but it's one of the few chains that I absolutely love.

                                                                                            I wouldn't eat chik Fil a if I was at Andersonville in the 1860's.

                                                                                            We have a Johnny Rockets outside TO in a megamall. We went there for lunch and I was somewhat underwhelmed. Great onion rings but the burger was totally and completely average. I did absolutely nothing for me and I didn't like paying what I did for it. Perhaps they're better in the states. I doubt it though.


                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: Davwud

                                                                                              I'm in agreement with you on Johnny Rockets. The burgers are bland and overpriced. I might have a shake there now and then, though.

                                                                                            2. I'm not a daytime eater, but when I usually go to the mall and shop for a bit before I hit happy hour at Z-TEJAS. Years ago, there was also a Japanese place at my mall (Scottsdale fashion square) that served killer tempura shrimp!I go to the mall atleast once every two weeks, but I cannot recall the last time I was in the food court!

                                                                                              1. A Jalepeno Pretzel from Auntie Anne's--buttery & spicy!
                                                                                                Randome low grade mall sushi
                                                                                                Does Orange Julius still exist, because if I ever find a mall with one, I would drink about five OJs
                                                                                                I don't know how it is around the country, but here in the RDU area there seems to be always a generic chinese joint with an adjacent restaurant touting Cajun or Country cooking-with very similar dishes, equally vile.

                                                                                                On the topic, in the Four Seasons Town Center in Greensboro, NC there was an Arbys where this ghoulish manager would pass out samples of curly fries on a silver platter.

                                                                                                I have a thing for older malls and the restaurants that still remain, especially ones that seem to have a german theme going on-very 70s. I also have a thing for the sad stand that was obviously a bad choice of a franchise-I recall one fry shack that had a clam dip as a choice, as well as fake Taco Bells.

                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: RaleighRocker

                                                                                                  there are definetly at least 3 malls i know of in the baltimore area that have orange julius :)

                                                                                                  1. re: RaleighRocker

                                                                                                    Most of the malls around here have an Orange Julius (sometimes combined with Dairy Queen, sometimes standalone.)

                                                                                                  2. Based on the several mentions in the thread, I went and figured out where the Cafe was in the Nordstrom at the local mall (It was located somewhere on the third floor between the lingerie and the teen section, neither of which I could hang out in without raising suspicion.) I ended up waiting in line for about 15 minutes to ger in, bur was able to be seated right away. I tried the Cranberry Turkey sandwich, and found that it was quite good, but for a sandwich, chips and a soda I ended up paying over $12, plus tip. It's a nice little place, but it is also a bit expensive (as is everything else in the store. The last time I actually shopped there I ended up dropping over $300 on just a few items.) Given the fact that I can get a good sandwich with soup elsewhere in that particular mall for nearly $5 less than a sandwich alone at the Nordstrom cafe (Specialty's Bakery and Cafe, a small chain with locations in Seattle, Chicago and San Francisco) I'm probably not all that inclined to go back anytime soon. In spite of that, it's not a bad place if you don't mind the price.

                                                                                                    1. Baked Ziti (if it looks fresh) or Stuffed spinich and broccoli pizza from Sbarros. I used to work there in high school, so I got hooked on this stuff....the ingredients and stuff from sbarros is surprisingly a lot of stuff made in the back from scratch....only things that came prepared frozen were the chicken parmesan and meatballs (we still had to "cook" the meatballs in a recipied sauce).

                                                                                                      Otherwise, I would likely get some teriyaki combo plate from some asian fast food spot.

                                                                                                      1. There food courts, and then there are food TEMPLES! But I'll stick to the National Chains for the purposes of this topic.

                                                                                                        I would go for most things at Chik Fil A, La Madeleine, or Corner Bakery; only the Pepper chicken at Panda Express (or Chang's Spicy Chicken at P.F. Chang's if there is one), or something from the Cajun stall. I try to avoid mall pizza whenever I can.


                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                        1. re: TexasToast

                                                                                                          I try to avoid the food court at the mall as much as possible. If I have to eat there I'll either get.

                                                                                                          1) Great Kahns--I've figured out how to stack the veggies to get as much food as possible. I eat half and take the rest with me for the next day.

                                                                                                          2)Nathan's --still pretty good even if it's not the original.

                                                                                                        2. Chik-Fil-A chicken sandwich, hold the pickle, and a diet lemonade-- or, if possible, a medium-sized Orange Julius.