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- Quick and easy service
- Large selection of sandwiches, salads
- Bright and light dining room
- Hot entrees from steam trays
- Discrete location in office park
- Cafeteria ordering system, paper plates, plastic utensils
I don’t know about you but in my world, I love my work lunches! It’s a quick break and treat during the work day to get out, get some fresh air and grab a quick meal before heading back into the office for the afternoon. So I’m always on the prowl for good lunch spots in RTP near where I work. Checking online reviews, Cafe Meridian and Catering caught my eye! Consistently sporting 4+ stars on Yelp and Google, I was wondering why I hadn’t heard more through word of mouth about this apparent dining gem. Located north off the 55/54 intersection in S. Durham, it had escaped me over the years even though I’m in the area pretty frequently.
Pulling into the Cafe Meridian parking lot, I immediately understand why I never noticed it before. Unlike you’re typical, bright and eye-catching exterior, Cafe Meridian sits in a tidy office park with discrete signage that faces the inside of the park. I hop out of the car and step in and the place is already quite busy at 11:45am with a line of people near the counter area. I’m still scratching my head a bit and spot some menus up front near the cash registers. So, it looks like you order up front, get your food and sandwiches, then grab a drink and pay before eating, a cafeteria style set-up. Ok, I’m game!
Cafe Meridian offers an array of salads and sandwiches in the $6 to $8 area which are made to order, very affordable. They also have a handful of hot items which are their specials of the day. You’ll have to check their twitter feed to see what they have on the menu for hot items (soup, entrees, sandwiches). I’m not very fond of cold lunches so I go with their garlic parmesan chicken daily special. It comes with 2 sides for $8.79, I go with the mac n cheese along with sauteed veggies, yum! Grab a drink at the counter, pay up and then it’s time to find a seat. Cafe Meridian’s dining room is simple but tastefully decorated with modern art, it feels a bit nicer than what you would expect for a casual grab and go dining scenario.
The crowd at Cafe Meridian looks like primarily RTP office workers which makes sense given the location. Cafe Meridian is only open for lunch, Monday to Friday from 11 to 2pm so no surprise it gets the working lunch crowd. At the table I’m poking through my lunch and it looks delicious. A chicken breast filet slathered in a light garlic sauce and crowned with shards of parmesan. Very tender and tasty although I would have enjoyed MORE garlic here! The side of squash peppers and broccoli were fine and the mac n cheese is quite good, holding its firmness in the steamer tray and showing off good cheddar flavor.
Overall I was pretty happy with my lunch and it was a good deal. But I have to confess, I’m not a fan of the cafeteria style set-up here at Cafe Meridian. From the steam tray eats to the pay at the cashier to the paper compartment plates and plastic utensils, something inside me dies a little when I eat like that. For me, the work lunch is a chance to take a quick break and reward yourself with some fresh air and decent food. And while Cafe Meridian certainly does a decent job with its food, it misses the mark for me in overall experience but your mileage may vary! If you love salads, sandwiches and basic entrees for a good price, you will enjoy yourself here! But for me, I’d rather pay an extra $1 or $2 and get my food to order at a place like William’s Gourmet Kitchen around the corner. To each his/her own, I guess. But thank you Cafe Meridian, keep up the good cooking!