Forbes Family Cafe: Flexing Culinary Muscles

student with food

Do you ever feel like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day? Stuck in a rut, you eat at the same café every day, you know, the one closest to your class or office? There’s nothing wrong with having a go-to café, but Stanford R&DE Hospitality has so many tasty eateries on campus.

Our new “Get to Know” feature spotlights a different campus entity each month. We hope it helps you discover the many possibilities that await the adventurous diner.

On a recent winter day at Forbes Family Café located in the Huang Engineering Center. Caroline Nowaki, a civil engineering Ph.D. student, filled her salad bowl from the rainbow of healthy options available at the “Pure Bar”—arugula, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, radish, beets, broccoli. Forbes is Nowaki’s favorite lunch spot because she loves to make her own healthy salad, picking and choosing her proteins, veggies and composed salads. The homemade dressings such as honey pomegranate and ginger mandarin are irresistible.  Don’t get her started on the daily soups. Take, for example, that day's green chard miso soup. “So wholesome and delicious—not to mention great for winter,” she said.

Strong Vegan influence

Forbes Family Café is a unique option at Stanford because of the strong vegan influence on its menu, said Michael Gratz, executive director of R&DE Stanford Hospitality & Auxiliaries. “One of the only places on campus geared towards ‘flexitarians’—people who enjoy meat occasionally but focus on eating fruits, vegetables, nuts and plant-based proteins,” Gratz explained.  “It’s also the only café on campus to serve produce from the O’Donohue Family Stanford Educational Farm. Less than a mile from farm to your fork—that’s what we call a low carbon footprint.”

Another advantage at Forbes Family Café is that there isn’t a minimum charge. Selections at the salad and hot bars are weighed, and customers pay for only what they want to eat. 

Global Favorites at Bowl Bar

Forbes’ Bowl Bar is another highlight. Sarah Min ‘20, and Pat Yontrarak ‘20 from Thailand, were seated at a cozy corner table just outside the cafe. Like the soups, hot items rotate daily. That day, the students tucked into succulent pulled pork with guajillo, smoked tofu verde, roasted vegetables and cilantro rice. As is the policy throughout all R&DE cafes, entrees are labeled “Vgn” for vegan, and “GF” for gluten-free.

Min and Yontrarak agreed the “delicious” food keeps them coming back every Tuesday and Thursday at lunch between nearby engineering classes. “I’m a vegetarian, so I like that there are always vegan options,” said Yontrarak.

Paninis Pressed to Perfection

Forbes Family Cafe also offers made-to-order paninis. “The Cuban, pressed to perfection with turkey, ham, cheese, Dijon and crunchy pickles, is my favorite,” said manager Jose Flores, who notes the café is available to cater events anywhere on campus.

A section of drinks and juices, including juices, Kombucha and ice tea, are available in a refrigerated case, along with pre-packed sushi and freshly made sandwiches. 

Forbes patrons enjoy its relaxed, uncrowded atmosphere. Ample seating awaits inside the café, along with tables around the perimeter of the spacious, airy building making lunching with friends and colleagues a pleasure.

If you are not nearby, it’s  worth a walk or bike ride to check out this flexitarian gem in the heart of the Science and Engineering Quad (SEQ).