The hunt for decent dining at Sac State — Part 1


The beef bento box is most popular menu item at Hiraku Sushi — an eatery located in the River Front Center. (Photo by Claire Morgan)

Claire Morgan

As a student taking 18 units and working two on-campus jobs, I spend the majority of my time here at Sacramento State. With my busy schedule, packing lunch daily is rarely a thing, meaning that I’m left with on-campus dining to sustain myself through long days. So I decided to set out on a quest to find a decent eatery at Sac State to get me through graduation. At each spot, I ordered its most popular option so I could get a good idea of what each restaurant has to offer:

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(Photo by Claire Morgan)

The first stop on my food tour of Sac State was Hiraku Sushi. The woman at the register suggested a beef bento box, which consists of beef, rice with sesame seeds, cabbage salad, an egg roll and teriyaki sauce.

The “bento box” itself reminded me of a Lean Cuisine — a warm, sectioned off plastic container filled with regret and impending doom in the form of heartburn. Feeling uneasy, I took a deep breath and picked up a piece of the greasy looking beef.

My first bite was nothing but fat. The second bite was mostly meat, cooked medium-rare and decently flavorful, especially when dipped in the teriyaki sauce. The egg roll was acceptable as well, although somewhat soggy.

The rice was dry and a little crunchy, but I didn’t expect much from a pre-prepared bento box that had been sitting in a warming tray for several hours anyway. I was most hesitant to try the warm cabbage salad, and it met my abysmal expectations. Overall, I would not order this again.

(Photo by Claire Morgan)

Next on my food tour was Gyro 2 Go. Having heard a lot of talk about it, I was excited to see if it would actually live up to my expectations.  

The man at the cash register suggested the chicken plate and asked if I liked spicy foods, to which I replied no — sorry, spice-loving Hornets.  

It wasn’t until after watching the workers prepare the food that I realized the “spicy sauce” was actually just Sriracha, which would definitely have improved my meal.

The order came quickly — almost immediately after I paid. It consisted of marinated chicken over long grain rice, a tzatziki-style white sauce, a salad and a soda.  

The chicken was surprisingly tender and flavorful, especially mixed with the white sauce, which tasted more like ranch than tzatziki.  

The rice was a fitting base to the chicken, as normal white rice would have been too sticky for the sauce and the meat. The salad, in which I was happy to find cubed cucumbers, brightened up the dish and balanced out the heaviness of the chicken and rice.  

My only criticism was that the chicken seemed to fall heavily in my stomach and made me feel sluggish after the meal. Overall, this place lived up to the hype and I would definitely order again — next time with Sriracha.

(Photo by Claire Morgan)

I trudged across campus for the next stop on my food tour of Sac State. My love for Mexican food was to be tested at Gordito Burrito — as a Bay Area native, I tend to be picky about my tacos, burritos and everything in-between.  

The cashier recommended the deluxe carne asada burrito, and added that the red salsa they put in it will make it better.  

The burrito came with carne asada, Spanish rice, pinto beans, sour cream, guacamole, cheese, pico de gallo and the famous red sauce that the woman at the register spoke so highly of. The burrito also came with a side of underseasoned chips and red salsa.

The first bite was a good mix of melted cheddar cheese, rice and beans, and I seemed to have dodged everyone’s unmixed burrito nightmares.

I wasn’t blown away at the quality of the beans, and the only real taste I got was the taste of the cheese.  

The next bite brought me face-to-face with the carne asada, which, to my dismay, tasted like smoke and not much else. The guacamole was not creamy enough and tasted like processed chemical lime.

I couldn’t really even taste the esteemed red salsa, which underwhelmed my impression of this burrito as a whole. In the end, I probably wouldn’t order this again, unless I was really craving Mexican food on campus.

(Photo by Claire Morgan)

I started off a new day hungry and ready to judge — but let’s be honest, I’m always ready to judge.

I headed off to Saigon Bay Express, and the cashier said that the combination pho was the most popular since it comes with an array of meat compared to everything else on the menu.

The pho came with beef, chicken, tofu, beef balls, noodles, cilantro and green onions. Under the lid comes the entire top layer packing meat — so much that I had to fight through it to get to the noodles.  

I decided to just try a piece of meat instead of actually mixing the noodles like I normally would.  

The beef and the tofu were both tender and flavorful. To my dismay, the chicken was surprisingly dry and bland, which was odd considering it had been sitting in a bowl of soup.

The beef balls also had an odd texture to me, but I don’t generally like meatballs anyway.  Once finally hitting the noodles, I was happily surprised with their tender texture. The broth was nothing special but was good once I doctored it up with hoisin sauce and Sriracha.

Overall, the pho was decent and I would probably order it again — but with either tofu or beef.

(Photo by Claire Morgan)

The last stop on the food tour landed me at Good Eats in the University Union.

The woman taking my order recommended the Caesar salad, which came with a piece of bread and butter.  

The Caesar salad had a great lettuce-to-dressing ratio, but didn’t taste much different than any other caesar salad I’ve eaten.

The croutons, which are the pinnacle of every Caesar salad, were not too crunchy, although not the most flavorful I’ve ever tasted.

The high point of this meal was definitely the little slice of beautiful, soft and salty sourdough bread, for which I wished I could have had 20 more pieces.

Overall, I would go back for the bread. But next time I feel like eating a Caesar salad, I’ll be more likely to spend $2 at the grocery store or just bring it myself.

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