The Neuqua Valley cafeteria lunch food tier list


Jake Panek, Staff Writer

Every day from third to seventh period, hundreds of students file in and out of the cafeteria at Neuqua Valley. For many students, this is the first meal they’ll eat in a day, so the quality of the food might not matter, as long as they eat. Well, not for me. I’m convinced that there’s an art to cafeteria food, and for the past few weeks, I have tried many of the culinary delights that Neuqua Valley offers to seek out the ones that are the very best, the crème de la crème, if you will.

The foods will be placed into five different categories, which are:

  • the S tier: reserved for items that I would eat outside of school over normal food
  • the A tier: reserved for items that I would eat outside of school
  • the B tier: foods that are great considering the standards for school food
  • the C tier: foods that are average/mediocre considering the standards for school food
  • the F tier: foods that might save your life if you’re starving, but at what cost?

A few notes before we begin: of course, taste is subjective. If you disagree with some of the opinions presented in this article, I only really have two things to say: you’re entitled to your own (wrong) opinion, and keep it to yourself because I do not care. Let’s begin!


Starting off small, we have the apple. I don’t know what specific type of apple this was—my best guess would be a red delicious—but this was rather underwhelming. At their best, apples are sweet and crisp, and at their worst they’re soft and mushy, and this apple I tried sadly leaned more toward the latter. There was nothing horrible about this apple, but nothing about it stood out; it was just your average apple, and for that reason, I will be placing it in the high C tier.

Apple slices with sun butter

I generally prefer apples in sliced form, so maybe I’m already biased when it comes to this item, but these were still exceptional. Disregarding the apples themselves, the packaging they come in is delightful and helps set the tone for the pleasant experience you’re in for with these delicious apple slices. They’re everything that the whole apple wasn’t in terms of flavor and texture, but the real kicker here is the sun butter. I had never tried sun butter before, but now I feel like any apple slices I have without it will be insufficient. Easily, these are in the S tier.


There’s not a whole lot to say about this item; it’s just a banana but a very solid one at that. I was initially put off by the rather small size of the one that I had grabbed, but I think that only made it better as a quick snack. Bananas have always been one of the better fruits for me, and this one didn’t disappoint. A tier.

Beef and cheese burrito

Moving into actual items instead of just fruit, we have the beef and cheese burrito. I’m admittedly not the biggest fan of burritos, but this was still a nice meal. My favorite thing about this item would probably be that the two ingredients are proportioned nicely; some items featuring cheese often feature too much or not enough of it, but when I got this item, I was delighted to see a good ratio between the beef and cheese. I feel like it’s pretty self explanatory; there’s not much else that I have to say other than be sure to grab a napkin, because there is a fair amount of juice that comes out of this thing. Solid B tier.

Buffalo chicken wrap

The items in the refrigerated section of the cafeteria are generally underwhelming (more on those items later), but this was the biggest surprise of any item I tried. Obviously, the inclusion of lettuce on any wrap will make it better, especially in the case of school food, but this was still so far beyond all of my expectations. The amounts of chicken, cheese, dressing and lettuce are all well balanced; none of the flavors overpower each other. This might not be the best item I tried, but it was certainly the underdog of the bunch, and I’m putting this up in the mid-to-high A tier.

Update: while in the process of making this list, I tried the buffalo chicken wrap again and realized that there had been a slight change of recipe. This new version (pictured on the right) uses plain chicken with buffalo sauce, whereas the original had buffalo chicken and no buffalo sauce. I got this item again and again in the hopes that the old recipe would come back, and not only does it seem to be the new, permanent recipe, I think it was worse each time. I’d place the new version in a mid-to-low C tier, but my original rating still stands. All other references to the buffalo chicken wrap in this article refer to the original version.


Much like the banana, there wasn’t much to these carrots, but there didn’t need to be. I feel like there isn’t much of a middle ground when it comes to carrots; if they aren’t bad, they’re usually great, and these were easily in the latter. A tier.


Consistency is rather hard to come by with school cafeteria food, and the cheeseburger is the epitome of that idea. I’ve gotten the cheeseburger plenty of times before starting this tier list, and I feel like it’s rarely the same experience. The bread has never been outstanding, but there are days where it is noticeably better—at least when mixed with the meat and cheese. The meat itself is usually the same bland patty, but there are times where the patty is large and sometimes uneven in size, and in these situations the boring flavor overpowers the rest of the sandwich. At its best, I’d happily place the cheeseburger in the B tier; at its worst, I’d say it’s a mid-to-low C tier. I’ll split the difference and settle with a very high C tier.

Cheesy breadsticks

The easiest way to describe the cheesy breadsticks would be that they’re just a slightly lesser version of Bosco sticks, but don’t let that misconstrue this item—Bosco sticks are pretty great, after all, so even their weird knockoff has potential. This is one of the many instances where you have to commend the creative craftsmanship behind the food; there are so many items that utilize the pizza crust in unique, wacky ways, and this was no exception. The mozzarella cheese was great and paired nicely with the bread. I wish there was one more breadstick included, as I feel like only two of these is insufficient if it’s to be a whole meal, but that’s a rather reductive complaint for school food. These aren’t bad at all, and I’ll throw them into the mid-to-high B tier.

Chicken sandwich

It’s exactly what it says on the tin: two pieces of bread and a chicken patty, no more, no less. I could spout some stupid nitpicks, but it’s hard to complain about an item that’s as simple as this. It’s a perfectly serviceable sandwich, and for that reason, I’ll place it in a comfortable low A tier.

Chocolate milk

I mean, come on, man. It’s chocolate milk; do I really need to give an explanation? If you don’t like this, you either have some sort of allergy or lactose intolerance (in which case, I am very sorry that you can’t have this astounding beverage) or you’re just stupid. S tier all the way.

Circle pizza

The first version of the circular pizza that I tried might be the worst item in terms of ergonomics. I’d tried that circular pizza multiple times, and I felt like I always either got sauce all over the place, had to hold it in the most awkward way so as to not get sauce all over the place or just ended up dropping it because of how awkward it is to hold. It’s a shame that it was so inconvenient to eat, because it did enough in the taste department to satisfy me. But then, a new iteration of the circular pizza premiered, one that was more of a pie shape than a round oval, and I have to say, it’s a sizable improvement. The taste is mainly the same, but it’s just so much more convenient to eat. Overall, I’d say that this item is worthy of a low B tier.


Grapes are probably my favorite fruit, but I’ll be the first to admit that more often than not, a lot of grapes fall into middling territory. They’re likely the most inconsistent fruit, and these grapes were sadly just not that good. Most of that can be chalked up to their mushiness, which overshadowed the decent taste that was there. At their best, grapes are an easy S tier, but these grapes aligned more with the C tier.

Grilled cheese

It’s impossible to mess some things up, and grilled cheese is one of those things. All you need is bread, cheese and a grill (maybe put some butter on the grill if you’re feeling fancy), and it’s the perfect example of a food that’s all the more better because of its simplicity. Like carrots, as long as your grilled cheese isn’t bad, it’s probably great, and this sandwich is definitely amazing. There isn’t much to say about it, but this is an item that I’d happily eat every day. Undoubtedly an S tier.

Grilled ham and cheese

The more I sit with the grilled ham and cheese—and the more it sits in my stomach—I realize that this is a major downgrade from an already flawless food. The idea of adding more to a grilled cheese is puzzling, and there is nothing in the execution here that proved me wrong. The ham does not blend with the bread and cheese at all—it’s honestly quite discomforting biting into a grilled cheese and feeling the texture of supermarket deli meat—and it results in a weird taste and consistency that did a number on my stomach both times I tried this item. The concept might be there, but I can’t with a good conscience recommend the grilled ham and cheese, and I’ll toss it into a mid-to-low C tier.

Ham and cheese sub

I do not like the ham and cheese sub; to say more would imply that this item is worth your time, and it just isn’t. There isn’t anything that I’d say is truly awful about this item or its ingredients, but the texture of the ham is just not fun to eat—I’m starting to think that this school should just abandon using ham in their items. Low C tier.

Hot dog

It’s a little hard to complain about the hot dog, even when it’s inconsistent. From the moment you first look at its foil packaging, you know what you’re getting into with the logo that simply reads “Hot Dog.” Taste-wise, this is just an ever so slightly below average hot dog. At its worst, I’d put it in a mid C tier; at its best, I’d say it’s a mid-to-high B tier. Overall, I’d say the hot dog falls into a mid-to-low B tier.

Italian sub

It only takes one look at this to know that this is the best sub available at Neuqua Valley. Like all of the subs, there isn’t much to it, but you can’t ask for more than salami, pepperoni and cheese on some bread. This is the definition of a B tier.

Long pizza

Coming in last place in the pizza game at the Neuqua Valley cafeteria, we have the long pizza. This is a pizza made on what seems to be a hot dog bun, and that is its key issue. This bread, to put it simply, does not work. It’s either super brittle or uncomfortably soft, and it always gets crumbs all over the place. I don’t think I’ve ever had an encounter with this pizza where the cheese hasn’t at the very least moved on the bread when I bite into it, and more often than not it just completely slides off, leaving me with a slab of cheese and a mediocre piece of bread with some sauce on it. If you’re really craving pizza, this will probably get that job done, but I can’t imagine eating it in any other circumstance. A solid mid-to-high C tier.


It’s been at the very least a year since I had drank regular milk, and especially after having a daily chocolate milk for the past few months, this was just underwhelming. That’s not to say that this milk was bad—it’s exactly the same beverage I remember it being—but I doubt you’ll catch anyone (with a brain, that is) grabbing this over the chocolate milk. If only we were blessed with strawberry milk. B tier.


I couldn’t tell you what was going on behind the counter that led to this item being made the way it was. To put it straight: this was not a quesadilla. A quesadilla is a tortilla and cheese; I don’t think there was any cheese on the meal I got, only what tasted like tomato sauce between two triangular pizza crusts. But I’m not one to judge a book by its cover, and in terms of taste, I can’t deny that I had a surprisingly pleasant experience with it. There wasn’t anything in particular that excelled about it, but there also wasn’t anything that I would say I disliked. It’s what I’d consider to be the benchmark for a good piece of food from a high school cafeteria, and that makes it perfectly deserving of the B tier.


I’m not sure if this is a hot take or not, but I don’t think raisins deserve nearly as much slander as I’ve seen and heard some people give them. Maybe that’s just because of my aforementioned love for grapes doing the talking, but I think raisins make for a good snack. I think the artwork and portioning of these raisins in particular make it all the better. A strong B tier.

Sloppy joe

I owe the sloppy joe an apology. When me and my friends unwrapped this sandwich for the first time, we started laughing because… I mean, look at it. We jokingly called it a “sloppy Bob,” but then we took a bite into it, and lo and behold, it was honestly amazing. I can’t blame anyone for being skeptical about any item in a school cafeteria involving meat, but I’m genuinely at a loss for words when it comes to this sloppy joe. It’s barely there, but it feels right to put it in the low A tier.

Spicy chicken sandwich

Much of what I have to say about this is the same praise that I carry for the original chicken sandwich, but I think this slightly edges it out since the spiciness makes it a generally more enjoyable meal. Just like its normal counterpart, this is deserving of an A tier.

Spicy chicken wrap

You’d think that the spicy chicken sandwich but in wrap form would still be great, but I think that this item is the prime example of just how important it is to have lettuce on these wraps. This wrap was essentially just chicken and cheese, and there was not a balanced amount of either ingredient, which I believe that lettuce could solve or at least help with. If you really want a wrap, just get the buffalo chicken. C tier.

Sun butter and jelly sandwich

I haven’t had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in quite some time, but I know for a fact that there is little room for error when it comes to making it. After my pleasant experience with sun butter with the apple slices, I was excited to try more items that use it, and this is exactly what you’d expect. The bread is good, the sun butter and jelly are equally distributed; it’s honestly just a given that this is in the A tier.


I’m already not a big grape tomato guy, but these just weren’t good. These tomatoes were mushy, which is the worst thing a tomato can be. I did warm up to these as the experience progressed, but I’m still going to place these in a mid C tier.

Triangle pizza slice

There are a few items where it’s immediately a no-brainer just from looking at it, and this slice of pizza—whether with or without the pepperoni—is undoubtedly one of the very best foods available for your consumption at Neuqua Valley. This is cheap bowling alley-level pizza, which might as well be lobster and caviar for a high school cafeteria. The only thing holding this back from being the very best item is that it’s not available daily, unlike the chocolate milk. Still, this is the easiest S tier I can give.

Turkey and cheese sub

When I first tried the turkey and cheese sub (pictured on the left), I was as enthusiastic about it as I am about the ham and cheese sub. The texture of the turkey was essentially the same as the ham, which I feel like I’ve expressed my discontent with enough already. Luckily, I tried the turkey and cheese sub again (pictured on the right, and definitely not because I forgot what I thought about it), and I was pleased to see that the turkey was in a new form, one that wasn’t the slightly gross and oily slices. The first version I tried I would place in a C tier, but this new version inched its way into a mid-to-low B tier.

Vegetable rice

This is a very conflicting item, because this is really two different items. When I first tried the vegetable rice, I did not like it at all. The rice itself was boring, but the amount of chickpeas in it was borderline disgusting and ruined the whole dish. I was fully ready to throw it into the low C tier, but then I was prompted to revisit it after hearing rave reviews from other Neuqua students, and I couldn’t believe my taste buds—to say this was the same item as the first vegetable rice I tried is insulting. There were so many playful flavors in this dish—the peppers and even the rice were a little sweet, and the onions and broccoli bounced off of that flawlessly—and the only flaw I can muster up is that I didn’t get enough of it. Despite my enthusiasm, I don’t think this is an A tier item, but it is surely in a very high B tier.

Corn dog

I bet some of you are wondering why I disrupted the alphabetical order of this list and saved this item for last, and that’s because this is without a single doubt the worst thing I have ever gotten in the Neuqua Valley cafeteria. This will probably come as a surprise to many people—the hot dog wasn’t bad, and isn’t this just that covered in some bread? You would think, but do not be fooled by its innocent appearance. The few seconds that I spent looking at this thing before eating it were the only moments that I enjoyed with this monstrosity. The second I bit into it, I was greeted with the most disgusting, rubbery hot dog I’ve ever eaten, and then I actually looked at it to see a practically uncooked piece of meat. I cannot believe that this is something that I ever bit into. I did eat the bread off of it, and I suppose that the bread could’ve been worse, but I’ll attribute that to the fact that I hadn’t eaten anything all day. I’ve heard that other people got corn dogs that were actually cooked (I sure hope that at least one of them was), but even if mine was a fluke, I don’t think I’ll ever want to risk trying this again. Putting any other food in the same tier as this would be disrespectful to those items—this is below the bottom of the lunch food barrel and an absolute F tier.

Hopefully some of this knowledge will help you with your future experiences in the Neuqua Valley cafeteria and encourage you to try these items and form your own opinions—just know that if you form an opinion different from the ones presented here, you have formed the wrong opinion.

If you would like to make your own tier list of the Neuqua Valley lunch food, feel free to use this template that I made. Here’s my own: