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Russian menus, grapeless Jazz Salad and other top-secret cafeteria complaints from inside the CIA

This is serious stuff. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Ever wonder what secrets lie in the Central Intelligence Agency’s cafeteria? Of course you have.

It turns out that some of the nation’s top intelligence officers are aggressively insisting on quality control in their office cafeteria. Thanks to a 2010 Freedom of Information Act request recently surfaced by the open-source FOIA experts at MuckRock, we now have a rare glimpse into what exactly life is like in Langley.

The FOIA request was for the “feedback” messages sent by CIA’s employees to cafeteria managers; the messages received in the government’s 2011 response were as good as you would expect. Names are, of course, redacted.

1. Attitude everywhere: In addition to the fact that the CIA’s Burger King doesn’t offer a “dollar menu” (the horror!), the employees at that location apparently need an attitude adjustment. “Why can’t there be nicer food handlers?” wrote one person. “Attitude every day.”

Attitude at the burger king

2. Bring back the ketchup: When you’ve got international terrorism to worry about, the last thing you should have to concern yourself with is the condiment situation in the lunchroom. One lengthy complaint laid out all the (many) reasons why individual ketchup packets are better than the “pump box” dispensers that they were replaced with.

“Please put back the individual packets of ketchup, mustard & mayonnaise,” wrote [name redacted]. “The large pump boxes of these items are not convenient to use, causing frustration & are not liked by many people.”

individual ketchup packets

3. Locally brewed tea only, please: CIA employees have high standards for their iced tea. Really high standards. They will not tolerate this poor tasting “processed tea” flowing out of dispensers with “pipes coming out of the back.”

“Please consider reinstating the previous dispensers or with something that brews the tea close by.” Kthanksbye.

Locally sourced iced tea

4. The great Jazz Salad crisis: “The Jazz Salad was supposed to be a Sonoma Grape and Prosciutto salad,” wrote one person. Except that there were no grapes. Only cherry tomatoes masquerading as grapes. Calamity ensued:

Grapes are in the title of the salad. I asked about them, and the server pointed to the cherry tomatos [sic], said they were grapes. I said, “no, those are tomatos [sic], soooo should I just get grapes from the salad bar”. [sic] She didn’t really give an opinion — but I did get grapes from the salad bar, and I did tell the cashier about it (she asked me to write a note — I hope you got the note). I do not condone putting salad bar items into a Jazz Salad (I have been known to get a separate container for salad bar items to add to my Jazz Salad) but felt justified in this case.

Jazz salad

5. Russia on the menu: Someone tried to be “cute” with the Russian themed cuisine in the cafeteria and it backfired spectacularly.

“First of all, to try to be cute with substituting a backward R, a ‘Ya’, for an R, is tacky,” wrote one employee. “Please recognize that many of us have really traveled to these countries and when you provide food like you did today, it causes me not to support this kind of cuisine in the future.”

Today's russian menu

6. A lesson in chicken portions: For those uninitiated, a quarter chicken portion must include the whole breast and the wing. Anything less is unacceptable:

Chicken portions

Abby Phillip is a national political reporter for the Washington Post. She can be reached at On Twitter: @abbydphillip

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