In the previous postings we’ve looked at the on-site and off-site culinary options offered at EA Redwood Shores, Ubisoft Montreal, and Microsoft. Now it’s time to visit the home of Mario…and I’m hoping there’s more than mushrooms on the menu.
Where: Nintendo of America in Redmond, Washington
Why I was there: I made my first trip to Nintendo almost exactly a year ago to work on the guide for Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. This was also the first time I had to play an entire game on-site, requiring a two-week stay. Fortunately, I had a mapper with me (David Bueno) who helped expedite the process as we fought (and mapped) our way through Samus’ latest adventure. But I wasn’t the only Prima author setting up camp in the Pikachu conference room last summer. Steve Stratton was there too working on Phantom Hourglass; later joined by Levi. On our first day, Steve showed David and I around, making sure we knew where to go for breakfast, lunch…or any other time we needed something to eat.
The Facility: Café Mario is located on Nintendo’s second floor, just down the hall from the employee store and museum. A line-up of culinary choices welcome you as you enter the cafeteria, including a large salad bar on the left and a number of hot and made-to-order options on the right. The dining area is reasonably spacious with plenty of seating options, even during the height of the lunch hour. Windows line one entire wall, providing plenty of natural light which complement the warm colors on the walls. More seating is available outside on a large patio. During E3 last year they setup a mini-E3 in the back corner of the indoor dining area for all the employees who couldn’t attend the real show. This allowed the employees (and even visitors like us) to try out some of the new stuff; Wii Fit was a big hit.
The Food: Operated by Sodexo, Café Mario offers everything from snacks to full meals, serving hot dishes daily for breakfast and lunch. While I never ate breakfast there, the smell of bacon, eggs, sausage, and hash browns were a daily temptation as I wandered in for my morning bottle of orange juice. Given my lengthy stay, I had plenty of time to explore the lunch menu. For the most part the menu is static, but signature dishes are provided on different days of the week, constantly offering a fresh selection for their regular customers. I sampled a few of the grill items (including the Luigi Burger) but quickly became attached to the salad bar and make-your-own sandwich counter. Pizza by the slice is offered too, which I often enjoyed with a side salad. No matter what I ordered, the damage rarely exceeded $5, which is a great deal considering the quality and quantity of food provided.
Alternatives: Nintendo is located in a somewhat isolated office park. So if you want to go off-site, you better have a car. Redmond Town Center is only a short jaunt up highway 520 offering plenty of great restaurants like Ruby’s Diner, Thai Ginger, Claim Jumper, and Desert Fire. A variety of fast food restaurants are located on Redmond Way too. During my stays (I was there a few weeks later for Battalion Wars 2) I never felt the need to go out for lunch. I could always find the variety I wanted at Café Mario. It seems most of the employees feel the same way. I even saw Reggie Phils-Aime loading up at the salad bar one day. So if it’s good enough for Reggie, it’s good enough for me.