The University of New Mexico, as with most universities with student residents, has a dining hall that is open from ridiculously early in the morning to ridiculously late in the evening. It is called La Posada. The trendy kids (like yours truly) call it La Po.

La Po is like most other dining halls across the country: it is a self serve, baine-marie style set up, with a variety of America classics as well as “daily specials” available to you, unlimited-style. That’s right! You can go back for as many rounds of hot chippies as your little heart (and choking arteries) desire!

At every meal you can guarantee there will be toastie cheese sammiches (smothered in melted butter and referred to as “grilled cheese” in the good old US of A), disgusting looking meat-patties for make-your-own-burger, hot chippies (they call them fries, I say they are too fat to be fries), onion rings and chicken nuggets. You don’t ever really know how long they’ve been sitting there, so it’s all a bit hit-and-miss, although I’d never touch those meat patties, they look vom-a-licious.

Then, being New Mexico, there is the obligatory “Mexican” style cuisine (I use the term Mexican loosely as sometimes even I have to question whether or not you’d find these particularly dodge food stuffs in Mexico): corn chips, rice and beans, salsas, chile and sometimes a quesadilla or two with congealy-yellow cheese gluing the soft flour tortillas together. As gross as my description sounds, they are oddly satisfying and I’ve been known to go back for seconds.

The chile is completely tasteless (even if you salt and pepper it!) and seems mild enough, although gives you a nasty bite moments after swallowing. It’s quite the opposite of most dogs: all bite, no bark… I mean flavour. Seriously, I wonder how they managed to extract all possible flavour from the ingredients yet leave a really really spicey aftertaste that shocked even my chilli-loving tastebuds! It seems to be a scientific miracle and perfect if you just want a burning tongue for no apparent reason.

Sometimes they do Asian-inspired dishes, although insist on using Italian-style pasta noodles in place of Asian-style noodles in their noodle dishes, which makes your pad thais and stir fries taste really mediterranean and cause the entire dish to have a slippery-feel about it. It just doesn’t work and surely Asian-style noodles are easier and faster and cheaper to cook? Get with the program, La Po!

Italian-style dishes (aka pasta) that are served up are always under-sauced and the pasta is inedibly undercooked. It has that tough chewiness that requires all your mouth’s strength to break down into swallowable pieces. Yulch.

The Greek and other Mediteranean style dishes they do are either so overly salted (hummous, Greek salad) you can feel your arteries shrivel up and die or are so rock hard (falafel) you risk breaking a tooth on them! Needless to say, I am never taking such risks again and have gone out of my way to protect others from the hazardous food stuffs! I’m like Supergirl, only with dangerous food stuffs.

Of course, not everything about La Po is disgusting or dangerous, and there have been times where I have undoubtedly enjoyed my meals there.

For instance, just this week they had Morroccan Night on Wednesday, which was a nice surprise. The garlic pita bread they were serving was so delicious I went back and piled my plate high with the intent of sharing it, only to eat 90% of the pita bread myself… It was so delicious. There was also an unusually good cucumber salad with a tart lemony dressing and perfectly fluffy couscous that I used to soak up the vegetarian harissa soup they were serving. It was a really good harissa soup, full of flavour and identifiable vegetables (which was a nice change from the usual tasteless mush they try to pass off as soup). The other vegetables on offer also surpassed the usual La Po standard, and the spicy hot chippies they dished up for the evening were down right tasty! Apparently the lemon chicken was also really yummy, although reports on the beef dish (I forgot exactly what it was) were not so kind. I want Morroccan Night every night!

I also discovered these southern fried delights called Hush Puppies, which are kind of like round onion-ring tasting things. Brittney and I ate a whole bowl of them once. So full of deep-fried goodness!

However, on nights when the food stuffs in the baine-maries look positively toxic and you want more than just the salad bar, you can always rely on the pizza man. He is a staple at La Po, standing by his little oven, waiting for the pizzas to cook, whilst preparing the dough for the next pizza. The fact that he makes them infront of you means they are always fresh, always hot and always delicious. Definitely not the best pizza I’ve ever had, but it gets an easy B+ from me, especially because as I said: it is always fresh out the oven so the cheese is still perfectly melted and not the least bit cold or congealy. Also the crust is chewy and delicious.

The other thing you can always count on at La Po is the soft serve ice-cream machine. Next to the little cakes on offer, there is a stack of cheap supermarket-bought cones and a chocolate and vanilla help-yourself soft serve ice-cream machine. It is the highlight of every one of my trips to La Po, despite not being very good at making a perfect swirl… actually I can’t even make a swirl at all, I just end up with mess in a cone. Still tastes good though, and I like to mix the flavours so I get the best of both worlds every time.
To make things even better, sometimes, if you’re really lucky, there will be toppings for the icecream out, and you can sprinkle hundreds&thousands, chocolate chips and Oreo chunks on your soft serve, to make it that much more delicious! Oh I love the soft serve machine!

I have not yet made it to a breakfast at La Po, as I usually go for one of my many museli bars or disgustingly delicious chocolate marshmallow pop-tarts I have stashed around the apartment for that early morning meal. However, it is alleged there is eggs, bacon and most importantly… WAFFLES! I only hope the unlimited-access soft serve ice cream machine is turned on during breakfast time, as waffles smothered with icecream is truly the breakfst of champions!

Of course, if none of the above appeals to you (as most of it does not to me, bar the pizza and icecream), there is always the salad bar and endless variety of cereals on offer… If that’s up your ally.

There is also unlimited soft drink, juices, milk, tea and coffee… Although I have a strict limit of one softie a week, as I can’t bear the idea of getting myself hooked – it’s a far too expensive habit to have when I get back in Australia! (And not good for my teeth either…)

All in all, La Po is a (mostly) pretty mediocre place to get a meal, but it’s always there, it’s always reliable and it always has hot fresh-out-of-the-oven pizza and soft serve icecream. I will definitely miss it when I return to Australia.

La Po, as much as I pay you out for being gross, I think I secretly love you.

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