On my last trip home, I had a chance to visit the Google campus and dine at one of the famed cafes, courtesy of one of my good friends, “E,” who works at Google. I was pretty excited after reading so many articles discussing the gourmet cafeteria offerings.
When Google opened its main campus in Mountain View, it generated a lot of buzz for the perks being offered to employees, especially the free meals at the campus cafes. Currently, Google boasts more than 20 cafes, each specializing in different cuisines, offering its employees plenty of choices. Employees eat for free and can also host friends and family occasionally for free meals as well. Cafe food choices include Japanese fusion, French, Chinese, vegetarian, American fine dining (with offerings like kobe beef burgers), just to name a few.
I had no particular preference, so I let E do the choosing. We met him in front of one of the main buildings, Building 44, where I was almost overcome with cuteness. Larger than life desserts and Android figures?? It was like waking up to my own personal Winter Wonderland. How I would love to be greeted to this sight of life-sized food figures every morning.
For those unfamiliar, each android operating system is named after a dessert. The lawn display reflects all the operating systems to date. My favorite is the “Ice Cream Sandwich” since it is in the shape of a cute Android. We got a quick tour of the inside while we waited for my other good friend and E’s wife, “K.”
Inside, I found a life-sized smart phone. It was pretty cool watching people play cell phone games on it. There was also this alien figure. Not sure why. And a cool, batman-esque motorcycle. Apparently there is a running joke that one of the founders of Google is secretly Batman since he is so wealthy. There is also coffee and a smoothie machine station, but it was a little too cold that day for smoothies and the coffee machine was a bit too complex to operate.
Okay, more tour stuff later. Now onto the food! The cafes are spaced out over the large campus, allowed employees some fresh air and exercise as they walk to their food destination. E chose to take us to “Nourish,” as it was only a short distance and less crowded.
Here, the emphasis is on healthy meals. I like that there is this option. Eating cafeteria food everyday can be a health concern, so it’s nice to know that employees can eat out everyday and still have tasty and healthy options.
Once inside, all the food is already pre-made and served buffet style. However, the food isn’t sitting on steam trays. Instead, the cooked food is placed in small skillets, so they are often being refilled with fresh food.
I didn’t take any pictures of inside the cafe. First, I didn’t know if it was allowed and I also didn’t want to make my friends wait. One thing I found really interesting are all the drink options. They have a whole fridge dedicated to different types of bottle waters. It offers what appears to be every kind of bottled water possible except plain water, which can be found sitting in pitchers at the tables. They also serve a variety of juices and sodas and a spa water which is flavored with cucumbers.
There was a salad bar which offered the typical salad options and some soups. There were also some wraps and some appetizer bites like these stuffed mushrooms I got.
The hot food area offered several entrees. I wish I had a chance to take down the name of the dishes to provide you with the enticing descriptions, but my phone wasn’t being cooperative. I got a little of everything, including grilled tofu, brown rice, black eyed beans, poached eggs, chicken, butternut squash mash.
Dessert offering include a soft serve ice cream machine, huckleberry crumble, and a blueberry cake.
Each table has one of these little zen gardens to play with.
Another really interesting features of all the google cafes are the color codes. Foods are labeled green, yellow and red depending on nutritional value. Green means eat as much as you want, yellow means slow down and red means stop.
I found the food to be pretty tasty. It wasn’t amazing, but it was definitely better than any cafeteria food I have ever experienced. And it’s free. I had no problem eating everything on my plate.
After lunch, E and K took us on a quick tour of the campus. Google really seems to emphasize on keeping its employees healthy. The campus is stocked with google bikes, which people can ride around. (The picture of the one below is actually a broken one. When one breaks down, the seat is supposed to be placed inside the basket.) We also passed by a volleyball court.
Some other employee perks we passed by included free dry cleaning, haircuts and oil changes.
We also passed a small garden that Google grows.
Building 43 has a pretty cool Google Earth set- up but there were too many people eager to try it out. It also has a space museum.
We passed by this dinosaur flamingo display which I found interesting and a little confusing. It appears the flamingos killed the dinosaur?
We had a really fun time seeing the campus, dining there, and spending time with E and K. I really loved the Google campus. Though if I worked there, I think I’d spend the whole time eating at the cafes and snack areas.
Some other random observations:
- Despite all the touristy parts of Google’s campus, it is a closed campus. All buildings require an employee badge to get in, so you need to know someone to tour the campus.
- Google maps is so detailed when it comes to the campus that I was getting directions on my phone GPS navigating me through the parking lot to reach a certain building.
Here is a space invader face made out of post-its displayed on the windows of one of the buildings: