Despite the fact that Google has been in the public consciousness for the last decade(which is an eternity in Silicon Valley), working at Google has long been the antithesis of a “dead end job.” Thanks to tons of media coverage, the company is famous for its abundance of employee services such as free massages, car washes and those infamous Google buses, its pretty obvious as to why Google is still the de facto standard of Silicon Valley job envy. In the mid 2000s, it was also one of the first companies to offer its employees free gourmet foods around the clock, something that was almost unheard of at the time. Google is the gold standard when it comes to free company food and thus far, it hasn’t been toppled.
Not to be outdone, Marisa Mayer, former executive at Google and current CEO at Yahoo, decided that she too, wanted to compete with the likes of Google and made all of Yahoo’s cafeterias free for all of its employees. Thus far, Yahoo has become more desirable for the Silicon Valley scribes and more and more talented people are flowing into the company.
Yet, is this all a facade? Is Yahoo that much better? Can it reasonably compete with Google? Does anyone really care besides the Yahoo shareholders? While we aren’t at the liberty of answering any of those hard questions(we are a food site after all), we do have the ability to answer the most important question in all of the history of the internet.
What better way to do our duty for mankind then to call up our buddies, drive down to Google and Yahoo and gorge ourselves on the best free food we’ve ever laid our eyes on just so we can tell you if Yahoo serves better free food than Google. You are welcome.
Parameters and Criteria
This… can get pretty unwieldy and complicated. So to simplify things, we have to set some parameters.
Even though both Yahoo! and Google have multiple cafes scattered around their respective campuses, for simplicity’s sake, we will only be visiting the main cafeteria that is located on each main campus. Yes, I get that different cafeterias specialize in different cuisine, but lets be honest, unlike a cow, I only have one stomach. In addition, given that I’m not quite sure how kosher this review is(I was anticipating getting escorted out by security because of my picture taking) I’m going to move through things fast. Basically eating everything I possibly can within an one hour timespan.
In addition, I will only be eating whatever is being served that day. So even though Tuesday’s special at Google is meatloaf while on the same day its filet mignon at Yahoo, well, sucks to be Google then.
Lastly, the only foods used for comparison’s sake will be the one’s that don’t require any assembly(eg. a sandwich) and that aren’t salads(cause no one cares about salads). Of course these ratings are completely subjective and at the end of the day you’ll have your own. But hey, if you’ve visited this website, then you kind of/sort of care about what we think. So… enjoy!
Hooli Google was one of the very first companies to make the radical move of offering all of its employees free lunches AND dinners in its fully stocked cafeteria. Sure every tech campus had a cafeteria, but the idea of offering free food all the time, every day, was definitely more foreign than a Chinese mom at a high school football game. What is particularly surprising is that the food is actually… pretty good. I remember when I use to work for a competitor that was right around the corner. I would visit Google almost everyday to eat their lunch and justify it by telling myself that I was making them lose money.
Since then, we’ve seen up and coming startups and established companies also offer up free food. From Twitter, Zynga, LinkedIn, Facebook and many others, everyone is taking a page out of Google’s playbook in hopes of attracting the best and the brightest engineers(from Google no less).
I’ve been to Google’s main cafeteria more times than there are calories in a Twinkie. Even now, I’m still not sick of this place since they do a great job of cycling through variations of cuisines. Each station is distinctly marked and there are so many choices that unless you are a competitive eater, you’ll probably never eat all the items in one sitting. For example, the station now marked as “street food” has traditionally been some sort of Asian food, with Chinese being the dominant fare every time I’ve been. On that particular day, street food served pork spare ribs, green beans and jasmine rice. So until they till me otherwise, I’m going to assume that’s the case going forward.
If you are wondering why there are so many pumpkins and decorations strewn about, I went on Halloween. So no, Google doesn’t have a bizarre dress code for its workers.
The Indian food is and always has been, pretty stellar. The zucchini daal is an interesting indian + thai mix that combines semblances of thai tastes(thai green chili and tamarind) into a prep style that is distinctly Indian. And you know what? It works. Also, you can’t really screw up basmati rice so I’m not even going to bother reviewing it. Overall, the Indian food at Google does not suck. Recommended.
While I wouldn’t tell anyone to come here expecting to each “authentic” Chinese food, frankly speaking, the pork spare ribs and the green beans were pretty spot on. If you are cool with Panda Express, then you’ll feel right at home here. The pork spare ribs were slightly tangy with a blast of sweetness and is very reminiscent of the stuff you find at Chinese take out places. The one exception here is that the crust on the meat was crunchy and the preparation method didn’t dry out the pork. String beans were a bit too soggy and salty for my taste.
Flap Steak Sandwich
By far the best thing on the menu that day. This is one mean sandwich and its unapologetic for being so damn good. The flap steak is cooked just right with the right touch of moisture and medium rare-ness(if that’s even a word) that it would feel right at home at a restaurant on the outskirt of Kansas City. I’m not saying its as good as Kansas City bbq, hence, its on the outskirts, so probably closer to Lawrence, Kansas.
Izakaya Style Chicken Wings
Simple soy sauce and sake based chicken wings paired with some Worcestershire sauce. Smoky and not dry at all. Are they tailgate worthy? Maybe. But anything can be paired with a Miller Genuine Draft. I mean, it is the champagne of beers right?
Pizza, Potato Salad and Chicken Breast
I’m noticing a pattern here that harkens back to my college days. I remember staying in the on-campus dorms and everyday I would get a slice a pizza and everyday, I would be utterly disappointed since the pizza always sucked. It’s like, pizza was not invented to be served in a cafeteria and eating pizza here at Google doesn’t change that fact.
The fries, on my, the fries. They taste just like McDonald’s fries, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they were actually bought from McDonald’s. Sergei would probably need to sell one or two shares of Google stock to make that happen.
Lastly, the chicken breast is dry and terrible. Don’t bother.
Custom Built Burritos
Probably one of the more impressive concepts at the Google cafeteria is the burrito bar. The burritos are made chipotle style so you have your choice of what you want to throw into your burrito. With the price being nothing, I had to get everything and anything in this burrito. Overall, it’s good. You can’t really go wrong with cooked meat wrapped in a flour tortilla.
There is not denying that Marissa Mayer has done some magical things since coming to Yahoo! She has brought a once fledging company into a level of respectability in Silicon Valley all the while moving the needle on the stock price. Sure, it can be argued that she’s really done nothing but throw money at products and people that may be questionable and furthered by the fact that Yahoo! hasn’t done much lately. But we are a food site, we don’t care about important things like that. With all the hype and momentum surrounding Yahoo!, Foodamentals really wanted to see just how much she has improved the company in the only category that matters – whether the free food is any good.
The main cafeteria, known as URL’s, is like any tech cafeteria you’ve ever been to. There are a wide variety of cuisines that change on a daily basis. Of course, being a very tech-centric crowd, there are both healthy, unhealthy and random offerings for everyone. Sure, we could probably survive just on fried chicken and french fries, but given that this is a food review, let’s mix it up shall we?
There are different stations setup with each station representing a different type of cuisine. Having been to Yahoo! a couple of times, seems as though Indian, Japanese, burgers, bbq and pizza are the staple cuisines that are consistent on a day to day basis. But, its not like they are serving chicken tandoori every single day, the staff is known to mix it up and introduce different varieties within the cuisine.
Could the chef in the above picture be any less excited about his job? #justsaying
Overall, it’s a good size cafeteria with ample selection for whatever you desire. The menu does change on a day to day basis so as a Yahoo employee, you won’t be bored with what is being served. We would have loved to have tried every single item, but in the interest of time, we picked out what looked good.
Variety wise, it’s either on par or slightly more robust than what was in Google’s main cafeteria. Though things are a bit more chaotic and the layout isn’t as clean cut as Google, there is decidedly more space between stations so that you aren’t elbowing the guy next to you while you wait to get your sushi.
The Indian Food
Prior to coming to Yahoo, I was told by Yahoo! employees that the Indian food is pretty spot on. And to a certain degree… it is. While the presentation is nothing to write home about, we all know that when it comes to rating Indian food, it comes down to two things. 1. How good the food tastes and 2. How fast the food exits your body. Frankly speaking, the chicken is a bit dry, but the sauce is pretty spot on and paired with that rice, its actually pretty killer. I had high expectations for the flat bread/naan, but while it looks decent, it turned out to be more flaccid(insert your own joke here) and moist then was expected. Overall, for the price, it’s pretty decent, not great, but decent.
The Japanese Food
One of my friends made a joke that in the Yahoo! cafeteria, the fish is used for different things on subsequent days. What starts off as sushi on Monday, ends up being fish sticks on friday. So with that being said, I had pretty low expectations for their Japanese food. But hey, the joke is on me as all of it was surprisingly pretty good. The pokē was by far, the best thing on the menu. I’m not saying this is stuff you are going to be getting at the Tsukiji fish market, but for a free lunch, its pretty damn good and even has a nice spicy kick to finish it off. The spicy salmon hand roll and the salmon sashimi were both pretty good. Albeit, its not the freshest thing on the face of the earth, its fresh enough that I’m not throwing up in my Uber later on.
The Fried Stuff
As an American, I love anything that’s breaded and deeply fried in oil. With Thanksgiving fast coming up, we can expect to see more than a few number of houses go up in flames as over-ambitious home cooks look to deep fry their turkey. Well, we ain’t trying to burn down Yahoo, but we did get to try a few American staples such as onion rings, steak fries and their take on British fish and chips. With the exception of the steak fries, everything else was pretty mediocre. The fish and chips had no crunch, but instead, ended up being supremely soggy. Its as if the fish were accidentally dropped into a tub of Guinness and fished out for the rest of us to eat. Surprisingly, the steak fries were pretty bomb. Dry, crunchy and extremely salty. Everything that an American would want.
The pizza is terrible, don’t bother.
Surprisingly, the yellow squash was the best thing on the menu. It was nicely grilled so that the sugars would be released and therefore you get this nice, soft and sweet texture that is absolutely… winning. The picture at the top was of artichoke mac and cheese whereas the middle picture was a serving of mushroom risotto. All three dishes were pretty good and they turned out to be my favorite savory dishes at Yahoo! I would come back here to give these another go fo’ sheezy.
As a Yahoo employee, you get free reign to order as many lattes and artisan coffees as you want from their espresso bar. Unlike a drip and dunk that we all do every morning, these guys were nice enough to even make the “leaf” that’s so popular in lattes these days.
The “Must Eat” Item at Yahoo!
Bar none, the gelato bars are the best thing on the menu. If there is one item you must get its these Blue Bottle Coffee gelato bars. They are simply mind blowing, simply because they actually taste like real coffee. In fact, I would suggest you eat less of all the other foods just so you can get two, three servings of this stuff.
So with all that is said and done, does Yahoo! have what it takes to dethrone the current king of free meals? Sadly, the answer is no. Like many Yahoo products, it sounds great in theory, but execution still leaves a bit more to desire. Having said that, you are getting free food, so there’s really no reason to complain.
Point being, call up one of your pseudo Facebook friends and see if you can cajole them into escorting you through this free food paradise. If not, well, then its time to start polishing up that resume.
If you enjoy reading this post, remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more food related news/stories!