2201 Lloyd Center, 282-2511

"A teen with an empty stomach finds god in a food court." Gandhi said that, and it is one of his best-known quotes for a reason. The food court, a natural habitat of the American teenager, is not only an educational wonder in geography, but also a civic meeting place where teens from many different backgrounds can come together in peace over vittles.

We are lucky here in Portland to have the Lloyd Mall food court, one of the finer mall food courts in the world, and once described by Food Court Journal as "a feat in fried and battered comestibles." Anxious to observe this renowned pavilion, we headed to the Lloyd Mall to nosh on some of the mall's finer edibles.

Basking in the white light of the atrium, surrounded by the seafoam, rose, cream, black, and gray color scheme, and large potted plants and trees, we were overcome with a sense of serenity rarely found in such settings. Teens gathered in small groups, identifiable by their uniform ensembles. Some were on their way to see Urban Legends: Final Cut. Some were just there to play a few games at Tilt. The Hokey Pokey song wafted up from the ice rink below.

The victuals choices were overwhelming: Taco Time, Panda Express, Cajun and Grill, Ivar's, Let's Talk Turkey, Edo. It seemed that every nation was represented. We sampled a variety of fare, but were most pleased with the Baked Ziti at Luca's Villa Pizza ($4.59), a popular dish with the female teen set, and the fabulous jalapeno corn muffin at Paradise Bakery and Café ($1.65). Our companion enjoyed the Cajun Spicy Chicken and Pasta ($4.79), from Cajun and Grill, followed by a tasty triple berry Orange Julius ($3.00) for dessert. He found both to be flavorful and satiating, though he did almost asphyxiate on a Spicy Chicken bone.

Elegant ambiance, smart conversation, impeccable service-the Lloyd Mall was all we had hoped. Even if we did have to seat ourselves.