Sugar, Sugar

Hey, lovers of cereal and/or sweets: Check out The Cereal Boxx

A word of advice: Don't gulp down the S'mores Galore and a cup of coffee at The Cereal Boxx on an empty, dehydrated stomach.

I did just that on recent morning, and I was whacked out well into the early afternoon.

But don't let that warning dissuade you aficionados of cereal and sugar from checking out The Cereal Boxx, which opened last April near the UA. This little café serving cereal, oatmeal, low-fat yogurt parfaits and other sweet treats has a lot of charm--although the fact that everything is served in disposable containers is inexcusable.

I first visited The Cereal Box on that above-described morning on my own. (Everyone I asked to join me perused The Cereal Boxx's Web site and balked due to the sugar-laden offerings; I hang out with too damn many people who are on diets.) Although the UA was in session, I had the place--located in a less-than-ideal Main Gate Square location, next to the Marshall Building--to myself. The smallish space has a nice, modern vibe, with a high, black industrial ceiling, flat-screen TVs (tuned to CNN Headline News, ESPN and a cartoon that appeared to be The Flintstone Kids) and two seating options (a metallic bar or wooden tables, both featuring chairs with some sort of spoon-in-bowl logo on the back). Behind the counter are all sorts of containers of cereal--lots of cute dispensers and some plastic tubs that are less prominently displayed. Red and yellow walls combine with track lighting to brighten things up, and a few pieces of cereal-related kitsch can be found here and there. Large windows face north toward the Marshall Building; this would be a fun place to people-watch if the location were better.

Here's how The Cereal Boxx works, presuming you're there for the cereal: You have more than 30 cereals and almost 40 toppings (candies, fruits, pie fillings, syrups, sauces and even wheat germ) from which to select. A scoop of cereal and a topping will set you back $2.99; two of each is $3.99, and three of each is $5.69. (God help you.) Alternately, you can pick one of the restaurant's six creations ($3.99). After you receive your cereal, you're off to the milk station. (Rice, soy and lactose-free milk are an extra 50 cents, as are extra toppings.)

I asked the person working the counter what her favorite concoction was, and that's how I ended up with the S'mores Galore: a bowl of Golden Grahams, Cocoa Krispies, chocolate chips and mini marshmallows ($3.99). I also ordered a large cup of Seattle's Best coffee ($1.90); teas, "creamice" drinks and a espresso/latte drinks are also available.

In no time at all, I had my order, and this brings me to my biggest, near-deal-breaking complaint about The Cereal Boxx: All of the serving utensils and containers are disposable. When I think of the amount of paper cups, plastic spoons and plastic-foam bowls in the trash bins of this place every day ... yikes. I understand that there may be cost and space savings by avoiding the need to wash dishes, but I can't imagine that the savings is substantial enough to excuse all that plastic foam. Besides, when I think of a big, yummy bowl of cereal, I think of the clank of a metal spoon against glass or ceramics, not a plastic spoon against plastic foam. Gads.

Anyway, back to the food: The S'mores Galore was yummy, but even though I have a substantial sweet tooth, I couldn't even finish the whole thing. I left about 15 chocolate chips at the bottom of the bowl, and I was still tripping out for hours because of all that sugar and caffeine.

A couple of weeks later, I persuaded Garrett to join me for my second visit (before which I gulped down several glasses of water to help avoid another sugar rush). On this particular morning, the café was a little busier, with a half-dozen or so students munching down while studying. We decided to branch out from the cereal a bit: I ordered an oatmeal creation called Hannah's Bananas (bananas, maple syrup and streusel, $3.99), while Garrett ordered the homemade maple-pecan granola bowl ($4.50) with blueberries and strawberries (each 50 cents). I also ordered, to go, the healthiest Cereal Boxx creation: the Health Nut (Kashi Go Lean, Special K, bananas, dried cranberries and almonds, $3.99; the menu says it's also supposed to come with blueberries, but they were missing).

We sat down just in time for me to look up and notice a CNN Headline News report: "SHOULD KIDS STAY AWAY FROM ALL MEN?" Thankfully, our breakfasts were soon delivered to distract us from that. Garrett's granola was sweet and tasty, though there wasn't very much maple flavor. The exact same thing could be said about my Hannah's Bananas; they were going light on the maple that day, I guess. (A word of advice to oatmeal eaters: Be sure to vigorously stir all the toppings in; otherwise, you may end up with an inch of plain oatmeal at the bottom.)

A bit later at the office, I enjoyed the Health Nut mix; while I missed the blueberries, it was all delicious nonetheless.

It's simple, really: If you're into cereal with toppings, The Cereal Boxx is worth a try. Just ask them about the possibility of using nondisposable bowls, cups and spoons, or the possibility of offering incentives for people to bring their own. All that plastic foam isn't necessary.

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