So we’ve already checked out the on-site food options at EA Redwood Shores and Ubisoft Montreal. Now it’s time to visit Microsoft and see if their cuisine is as rich as their founder.
Where: Microsoft in Redmond, Washington
Why I was there: I traveled to Microsoft in early 2007 to get my first look at Shadowrun. Specifically, I was embedded with the (now defunct) FASA Studio for a whole week, working directly with the game’s AI/core designer, Derek Carroll. The FASA crew was awesome. Derek set me up in a nearby office with a debug unit and an HD set which he generously pulled from his own desk. But the hospitality didn’t end there. Everyday the crew invited me to join them for lunch, which often involved driving to one of the nearby (or not so nearby) restaurants in Redmond. Very few (if any) of the FASA team ate at Microsoft’s cafeteria just down the hall. But on Tuesday I had consumed a rather large breakfast and didn’t quite feel like joining the guys for lunch at noon. So later in the day I decided to wander down the hall and see what the cafeteria had to offer.
The Facility: FASA was located in one of many Microsoft office buildings scattered across the city, disconnected from the company’s main campus. This particular building (referred to as the Willows building) has a rather large cafeteria on the first floor. What struck me first was the muted lighting, lack of windows, and soothing colors on the walls. In addition to catching a quick bite to eat, it appeared it would have been just as easy to catch a quick nap; a much different vibe than the EARS cafeteria. The dining area isn’t huge, but big enough to find a table where you’re not rubbing elbows with a neighbor.
The Food: The Willows cafeteria offers just about what you’d expect. There’s a grill where you can order burgers and a variety of other hot, grilled, and/or fried foods. They also have a rather extensive salad bar with lots of fresh veggies. Oh, and don’t forget the table with baskets of fresh (and reasonably priced) fruit. I like the idea of visiting the cafeteria for a healthy mid-day snack…not that I ever did. After browsing for a few moments, I zeroed-in on a cool make-your-own-sandwich counter. Of course, I stacked my sourdough slices with meat, mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, and bell peppers. I rounded out the meal with some chips and a soft drink. When I went to pay for everything I was shocked to find that everything cost me less than $5. That’s the cool thing about this place. Everything is so cheap…probably cheaper than taking your own lunch and definitely cheaper than eating off-site.
Alternatives: The FASA office kept a stocked refrigerator filled with soda, energy drinks, and milk…even chocolate milk. So if you were thirsty, a cold complimentary beverage was never further than a few paces away. But when it came to eating, the FASA crew always seemed to leaves the office. The first day we hit a Chinese restaurant off Redmond Way, affectionately referred to as “Dirty Chinese.” See there’s lots of Chinese restaurants in Redmond so they were assigned colorful codenames including “Clean Chinese” and “Sweaty Chinese.” On Wednesday we went to a tasty (but crowded) teriyaki bowl place where I had a great conversation with the game’s core designer, Sage Merrill. Thursday was pizza day at a distant restaurant I can’t remember the name of. Then on Friday everyone was too busy to leave the office so Chris Blohm (the game’s training/tutorial designer) brought food in from Thai Ginger, a restaurant that has since become one of my Redmond favorites. As you can see, the FASA crew gave me a first-class tour of some of Redmond’s best eateries. This would come in handy a few months later when I was sent back to Redmond to work on the upcoming guide for the new Metroid game.
Next week: Nintendo