Looking for a good meal in Alpine at a decent price? Look no further than the cafeteria at Big Bend Regional Medical Center. Though it may seem counterintuitive, this is the place to go.
“Our cafeteria is the best-kept secret in Alpine,” said Ruth Hucke, the Medical Center’s marketing director. “I’ve never lived anywhere else where people say, ‘Let’s go to the hospital to eat.’”
Although the kitchen staff prepares delicious meals for the hospital staff and the community, Kitchen Supervisor Hilda Valles stressed that patients were the first priority. When preparing patient meals, they take into consideration diabetic, cardiac, low sodium, and vegetarian diets, along with patient allergies and individual preferences. Meals are prepared with less salt and fat, and from separate recipes than those used for the cafeteria.
“We want to feed the patients what is right for them,” Valles said. “We want to feed the patients by their personal requests, and we want them to be happy and satisfied.”
When preparing cafeteria meals, Valles and cook Fred Ramirez put their heads together, and decide what they’re going to prepare for an entire week. They consider variety, both in menu selections and cooking methods.
“People can pick and choose, and fix a meal to their liking - low carb, fried or not, and so on. For example, diners can have grilled chicken and salad, or grilled chicken and two sides. You can customize the selections to your liking,” said Valles.
Ramirez decides how foods will be prepared and what seasonings will be used. He makes all the marinades, seasonings, and sauces himself.
“It’s a dream job for me. My artistic rein gets to take over,” he said.
The menu includes a daily special with either meat or seafood, two or three starches such as rice, potatoes, or pasta, vegetables, a salad bar, and desserts. Sandwiches are also available.
Hucke, Valles, and Ramirez all credit hospital CEO Rick Flores with helping make the cafeteria so popular. Flores’ outreach to the community, especially Alpine High School and Sul Ross State University, has brought lots of students in for lunch.
“Rick goes to high school pep rallies, and lets them know how much we support them,” said Hucke.
She also noted that over the holiday break when the university cafeteria was closed, the hospital cafeteria provided lunch for the Lobo basketball teams.
“We do like to support our community, and our cafeteria is a big part of that,” Hucke said
The Medical Center cafeteria is open to the public Monday through Friday from 11:45 a.m.-1:30 p.m.