Chow Bella

Edward Jensen's Cafeteria Plan

Edward Jensen is on a one-man quest to review every cafeteria in downtown Phoenix. Through his Downtown Phoenix Cafeterias Project -- which you can follow on Facebook -- he intends to eat off a tray til he can tell us for certain which cafeterias in town serve up the best (and worst?) chow. 

We'll admit that when we think "cafeteria" we have unsettling flashbacks to a. elementary school and b. too much television coverage of a slaughter at a certain Luby's, a couple decades back. But hey, different strokes and all that. It'll be interesting to see what sort of information he forks over.

Jensen is a senior in the Urban & Metropolitan Studies program on the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus. "I'm not a self-described 'foodie' but I know what I like when it comes to food and I'm sure that there are others that have similar tastes," he says.

He's already got a good number of followers on Facebook, one of whom posted the image above, from a long-ago downtown cafeteria.

In the interest of "scientific experiment" -- and mainly because we couldn't think of more than a handful of public cafeterias in what's typically considered "downtown," we had a couple questions for Jensen.

What is your definition of downtown Phoenix?
My definition of downtown Phoenix is not particularly a geographic idea but
a mindset
. If you like small eateries, if you like not having to drive from
point A to point B all the time, and if you like taking part in the
renaissance experiment that is "urban Phoenix," then that's downtown
Phoenix. Though, if I had to assign geographic boundaries, it's Central
Avenue from Buckeye Road to Camelback Road, and 3-5 blocks east and west of

A cafeteria?
My definition of a cafeteria is a place where you can serve yourself (generally), choose from many different diverse items, and then pay a cashier when you're all finished. There might be a grill for hamburgers, a salad bar, a place to get pizza, and so on.

And what's your favorite cafeteria meal, so far?
It's a tie between Phoenix City Hall Grill (10th floor of Phoenix City Hall, 200 W Washington St) on Thursdays and the State Capitol Executive Tower basement cafeteria (1700 W Washington St) on Wednesdays. The common thread? It's Mexican Food Day, where these eateries have better-than-usual food and generous portions of Mexican cuisine staples. Me? I prefer the taco salad.

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at