WHAT’S FOR LUNCH? BILLION-DOLLAR GRUB

RiverviewCafeteriaNot many cafeterias¬† offer a view as pleasing as Riverview Medical Center’s. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

red-bank-riverviewAfter popping by the maternity ward at Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank to welcome a new member to the family Thursday, PieHole found itself in need of both sustenance and What’s For Lunch fodder.

Emerging from the elevator on the way way out, we saw the sign: “Cafeteria.”

Bingo.

We hadn’t had occasion to eat in a cafeteria in years, and never think to go looking for one. They’re not held in the highest regard, are they? But in addition to hunger, there was a hard-to-describe pull at work here, a desire to revisit some piece of our past.

Not this place in particular. We were thinking mainly of the cafeteria at the late-1990s-era Asbury Park Press building on Route 66 in Neptune, a structure that was torn down last year after the newspaper relocated to a leaky mobile home. Or something heartbreaking like that.

The Press cafeteria was a vibrant atrium-style room that offered abundant natural light, interesting architecture, great conversation, and food that tasted like newsprint.

We arrived at Riverview’s cafeteria just as the serving-area gates were closing on the lunch hour, and immediately learned that the special sandwich of the day, a southwestern-style turkey wrap, was no longer available. So we opted for tuna salad on hard roll and a 12-ounce bowl of split pea soup.

Our server turned to a colleague, who was standing about eight feet away, and instructed him to “toss me a hard roll.”

Uh-oh.

Fortunately, the other guy didn’t hear her, so she retrieved the bread herself, and then proceeded to place a dollop of tuna onto the opened roll with an ice-cream scooper, adding nice looking lettuce and understandably wan tomatoes.

We took the last open table beside the windows, because how could we not? The hospital, for those unfamiliar with it, lives up to its name, offering from many patient rooms and other places a panoramic view of our beautiful Navesink River, widely considered one of America’s loveliest waterways.

You have to look across the rooftop of an addition, but so what? This is still a billion-dollar view. And that’s before you throw in the mansions on the other side of the river, easily worth another half-billion, literally.

The lunch? Well, the thick soup wasn’t half-bad, offering occasional bits of ham along with a stray noodle, which apparently had migrated from the chicken soup kettle. No big.

The sandwich? Well, we presume our server has good hands, because if she’d dropped a tossed roll, it might have shattered. And the sandwich itself was as expected: uninflected but hunger-quelling fare.

Throw in a bag of chips and a bottled beverage, and it came to $13.65. With the view, that’s $1,000,000,013.65. Please pay at the register.