We are always on the hunt for new restaurants in town so when we quickly noticed a food review online this past week, we immediately decided to visit said location.

Now, this place wasn’t the easiest thing to find information about online and the original food reviewer didn't link back to a menu. A few moments of digging around and a quick phone call later, we booked a reservation for 11 am.

The location? The Lighthouse Café at Greater New Bedford Voc-Tech, operated by the school's culinary arts students.

The café was cozy with some four-top tables, some tables pushed together to make parties of eight, and like any good lunch spot should have, there was a breakfast counter and plenty of booths. Already at 11 a.m., the place was jammin' with people ready to eat (but it's rude to take photos of strangers eating, so here is post-lunch rush photo).

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The menu was small but wildly fascinating. It ranged from Fish & Chips to Seared Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl. Foodies that we are, we decided to order a couple of items each and settled on a bowl of Robyn's clam chowder; a spicy fried chicken sandwich; Brennen's Italian mussels with onions, garlic, sundried tomato, black olives, banana peppers, artichoke, and spinach over cavatappi; and lastly, Euridice's marinated beef tenders with Bleu cheese crumbles, mashed potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts.

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The chowder came out first, within seconds of us placing our order. The bowl was large enough for two people to share, at just $1.75 (there was also a cup for $1.25). The chowder was perfectly seasoned with plenty of potatoes and onions and far more chopped clams then you'd ever find in a bowl of chowder elsewhere.

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Moments later, our entrées arrived.

The Italian mussels ($4.50) featured over a dozen mussels that were perfectly steamed and seasoned just right. The balance of vegetables balanced perfectly with mussels and the cavatappi was the perfect accent for it.

The marinated beef tenders ($4.50) were cooked medium rare and sliced on the bias, topped with just the right amount of Bleu cheese crumbles to add to the flavor of the flame-grilled beef without overpowering it. The generous portion of homemade mashed potatoes was well seasoned and the roasted Brussels sprouts had just the right amount of crunch to them.

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We also tried the spicy chicken sandwich ($4), just to sample one of the regular menu items that are available throughout the trimester. It was a gluten-free fried chicken sandwich with plenty of kick, served on a potato roll with French fries and pickled vegetables.

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Here was the rest of the day's menu, to give you a sense of the offerings:

It took us a good 30 minutes to finally realize that no one at the restaurant was on their phone. Not the younger folks, not the older folks – NOBODY was on their phones. There is zero cell service and obviously regulars know about this place. Everyone around us spent their lunch hour talking to each other, joking, and being actual real-life humans.

Finally, the “manager” on duty said, “Well, this is a classroom, you know.”

Duh. Of course a restaurant entirely operated by culinary high school students would be phone-free. It’s a classroom.

Going to lunch at the GNB Voc-Tech Lighthouse Cafe not only was delicious, but all of our food barely cost $15. And although it is open to the public, there are some things to keep in mind if you want to try it for yourself:

  1. Reservations are required, as most of the faculty do eat lunch here, too.
  2. You need to enter through the school’s main entrance and check-in with the front desk. Bring an ID!
  3. Lunch starts at 10:49 and ends at 12:15 but honestly, you’ll spend only about five minutes waiting for your food once the server has taken your order.
  4. Tips aren’t expected, but any extra money beyond the bill goes into a pool for a special dinner experience for seniors in a fancy Boston restaurant at the end of the year.
  5. Some items remain on the menu through the Voc-Tech trimester, but the entrée portion of the menu rotates daily, so you have to really love a surprise! Is it going to be Buffalo Chicken Egg Roll Day or Chicken Alfredo? The menu is posted by 10 a.m. each day here (https://www.gnbvt.edu/about-us-school/faculty-staff/coffee-shop-2/)
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As Culinary Instructor JoAnne O'Neil noted, they aren’t there to compete with area lunch spots, they just want their kids to get the real-deal experience when it comes to working in the food industry and hope they love it enough to go on and be the SouthCoast’s next favorite chef, baker, or food truck operator extraordinaire.

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