For diners who fondly remember the long-lost John C. Calhoun Junior High Teachers’ Lounge, famed Superintendent Sheldon Kornfahrt’s latest offering is sure to bring back fond memories. Drawing inspiration from various culinary traditions, including leftover salad from last night’s school board meeting and the reduced aisle for quick sale at Sam’s Club, the newly reimagined Thurgood Marshall Middle School Lounge is a treat for both the palate than the eyes.
Almost unrecognizable from its former incarnation as the Robert E. Lee College Rest Room, Kornfahrt’s longtime design partners EZ Kitchen & Bath Contractors utilize their signature eclectic aesthetic. Twinkling fluorescent tubes and subtly tacky surfaces greet diners with post-rave morning vibes. The two tables don’t match and wobble relentlessly, but that’s the whole point. The Marshall Lounge puts the fun in funky.
Upon entering, the nose is struck by the unmistakable aroma of slowly brewed Yuban. Think you’ll get a second cup? Think again. The deep-cooked flavor profile of poly-based beans clings to your tongue well past the sixth period. Kornfahrt is once again working with its long-time partner William Entenmann. Famous for his pioneering work with curators, Entenmann’s coffee cake teases diners with the unspoken question, “Is this the same box that was here last week?” The cherry cheese danish is modestly presented, torn in half by the gym teacher’s possibly washed hands.
Lunch at the Marshall Lounge rewards adventurous palates and iron constitutions. Kornfahrt’s signature frittata is back, pairing distinctive notes from last weekend’s church fundraiser with hints of APT donor fatigue. Like all the homemade dishes on the menu, diners wonder, “How many times has it been reheated already?” If fresh food tends to activate your ulcer, you’ll be richly rewarded with a host of pre-packaged items, perhaps the most intriguing of which is the bowl of Halloween candy on the counter above the mini-fridge. Few chefs would be bold enough to offer only Mounds and Almond Joy. This culinary choice by Sophie invites guests to question the very definition of food.
The beverage program is colloquially hosted by PepsiCo. Pre-diabetic favorites like Dr. Pepper, Sierra Mist and Mtn Dew are still here, but, in a nod to the district’s new wellness initiative, Brita-filtered tap water will also be offered if anyone’s ok. one takes the trouble to fill the fucking decanter. While rumors persist of a secret Southern Comfort and Canadian Mist menu hidden behind unwashed cutting boards, it remains a strictly PG-13 drinks slate thanks to the unfortunate events of the 2012 Teacher Appreciation Party.
In a refreshing nod to DEI, Microwave’s first chief, Bradley Donovan-Ramirez, noticeably shook up nuclear options. Burritos (breakfast and traditional), ramen, and rice bowls are sure to satisfy ethnically curious faculty members. But never fear, the lingering aroma of Orville Redenbacher is never far away. Donovan-Ramirez is an innovator who isn’t afraid to embrace the classics.
Inevitably, Kornfahrt’s high ambition produces some questionable choices. Tuesday’s slow cooker turkey chili left us needing, shall we say, an extra long prep period. Sara Lee’s Frozen Bagels on Fridays seem both inclusive and distinctly anti-Semitic.
Overall, the new Thurgood Marshall Teacher’s Lounge hits far more often than it misses. The superintendent has even reserved a space for those struggling with the school’s name change. That curry is still in the Tupperware in the back of the fridge, the toaster still isn’t working, and the sink is still full of someone else’s dishes, because Mr. Kornfahrt knows some traditions are worth preserving .