Cheap restaurant options are needed for WCHS students


Photo by Jasper Bernstein.

Cabin John Village is home to a few relatively expensive fast casual restaurants.

By Jasper Bernstein, Observations Editor

First world problems, despite their triviality, are alive and well at WCHS. If the conversation ever delves into the inconsequentiality necessary for a conversation like this, there is a simple fact that must be acknowledged: better restaurants are needed in the WCHS area. 

Look, restaurants in the WCHS area might not be the foremost issue in everyone’s mind. With free school lunches, food options for 25 percent of the school (the seniors being the only grade that can leave at lunch) are relatively unimportant. But even so, those food options are severely lacking. 

When talking about nearby restaurants to WCHS, the conversation must begin with Cabin John Village. Home to popular restaurants such as California Tortilla, Cava and Shake Shack, the mall has become the most popular location for students during lunch. 

However, all three of these restaurants serve expensive, fast casual food. Any student that wants one of these three restaurants must expect to pay a little under $15 for a drink and lunch. For budget-strapped students, expensive fast casual cannot be a regular option for lunchtime. 

It also seems as though this problem is not going away soon: with recent additions of The Pretzel Bakery and Colada Shop, the mall seems disinterested in cheap fast casual options for students.

Another option for students is Montgomery Mall. “The mall” boasts a huge selection of restaurants, ranging from Sarku Japan teriyaki and sushi to Chipotle. These are great options for students, with relatively inexpensive prices and common-denominator food. The problem, however, rests in the distance and crowdedness of the mall. 

The mall is about a ten minute drive from WCHS, and inaccessible to non-drivers at lunch, due to the distance. When factoring in the time it takes to get to cars and out of the parking lot, students can expect to be at the mall for under half of their hour-long lunchtime. And when lunchtimes coincide, students can expect heavy traffic inside of the mall, making for long lines at the major restaurants. 

Perhaps the solution to this first-world problem rests with something similar to the lunch at Walter Johnson High School. At WJ lunch, students of all grades are able to leave for the entirety of lunch. It serves them well, as Georgetown Square, the mall located directly next to the school, is the go-to location for student lunch. 

Home to inexpensive fast casual locations such as Flippin’ Pizza and Subway, Georgetown Square is a perfect location for students of all grades during lunch. Located just outside the doors of WJ, the mall allows any student to get there without a car, or without wasting much precious lunch time. Even better, the plentiful outside seating makes for a less-than crowded location.

At Cabin John, there are some cheaper options, like the McDonald’s inside, but these are not sufficient for the population. Having a mix of less expensive restaurants and more expensive ones, means that people who do not want to spend $15 to eat, will have to eat at the same places over-and-over again or choose to remain at the school for lunch.

The residential location of WCHS is a big factor to why the restaurant options are less than student friendly. Dollars are votes for what people want to see, and in its current state, WCHS is not in a position to have a huge dollar vote. Only seniors are allowed to leave at lunch, and many seniors will choose to stay at WCHS for lunch, due to the large travel time required in such a short lunch period or because they prefer to stay in the building. 

WCHS should start by safely extending open lunch to all students, as well as finding ways to get non-drivers to the locations that they want to go. Perhaps this comes by encouraging carpools among students, or increasing the lunch period so students can walk to Cabin John Mall with time to spare. No matter what the answer is, giving more students a chance to use their dollar to vote for inexpensive fast casual restaurants near WCHS is a positive thing.

Among the many problems at WCHS and within MCPS, lunch options seem like a small issue to worry about. But the inconsequentiality of the issue should not discourage students from taking a stand for what they want to see during their high school lunch experience, and what they want the next generation to see.