ST. JOSEPH — There are four new restaurants in town, where you can get carved roast beef, a Philly steak sandwich, a personalized pizza in 90 seconds, or a meal of old-fashioned meat loaf and mashed potatoes.

If you can’t make up your mind, you’re in luck, because the restaurants are all in the same place, at Lakeland Medical Center’s expanded cafeteria at the St. Joseph campus.

“This is a place that nourishes us, a place that relaxes us, a place that regenerates us,” Dr. Loren Hamel, president and chief strategy officer of Spectrum Health Lakeland, said Monday at the ribbon-cutting for the hospital’s newest food offerings, part of its ongoing $160 million expansion. “It will put smiles on faces.”

The food stations – Lakeland Grill House, Greens Kitchen, Crust Pizzeria and Homestyle Comfort Food – will provide new and healthier food choices, according to Ray Cruse, vice president of hospitality services.

The center is even trying to help the environment, by doing away with Styrofoam and plastic straws, Cruse said.

Jodie Hardesty, director of nutrition services, said Lakeland has expanded the size of its menu, and will provide quick service, such as that pizza baked in an 800-degree oven (and selling for $4.99).

Morning munchies include stuffed French toast, pancakes and a breakfast bar. Along with the comfort foods, such as lasagna, the cafeteria will feature international cuisine, with Asian and Greek specialties, Hardesty said.

Along with tempting taste buds, the food meets the dietary needs of visitors, with low-fat and some gluten-free options, she said.

“We try to keep it innovative and trendy,” said Chef Jeff Thomas, who has been with Lakeland for 20 years.

Those trendy items include a veggie-based protein salad and the increasingly popular veggie “impossible” burgers, he said.

If you just want to indulge your palate, try the New Orleans-style crawfish po’ boy sandwich.

Ready-to-go snacks are not the typical hospital fare, such as olives stuffed with red fox cheese, and vegetarian grape leaves. Michigan-made products are featured, with Great Lakes Chips out of Traverse City, and Kar’s snacks from Madison Heights. Locally grown produce will be available, as well, Hardesty said.

Gail Coon, supervisor of nutrition services, said they waited a long time for the modernized facilities. The former cafeteria was 21 years old, she said.

A wall mural shows the Lake Michigan shoreline, with the admonition to “Have a good day!”

The adjacent seating area, known as The Atrium, is a wide open space flooded with natural light from tall windows.

Above is the Healing Garden, where patients and family members can find peace and quiet. A nearby chapel offers spiritual support.

There is science behind the practice that relaxation helps people heal, Hamel said.

There also is a lot of science and technology going into the construction of the five-story, 260,000-square-foot patient tower that will include new space for the surgical department, intensive care unit, the heart catheter lab and the endoscopy department, and a “main street” corridor that will better connect departments.

That extends from the hardware on the roof to the machinery in the basement, and all the medical innovations in between.

“This is the engine that makes the car work,” architect Timothy Tracey said of the massive mechanicals that most people will never see.

Officials anticipate that construction on the atrium level will be completed within six weeks.

“The race is on,” Hamel said of the not-yet-completed Upton Education Center, the site of a black tie gala scheduled for Nov. 9. A Cornerstone Alliance after-hours business gathering is set for Dec. 12. A grand opening will be scheduled for next year when the final phases of construction are done.

There are 250 construction workers and 95 electricians on site most days, said Marylou Balsis, clinical pavilion project director, not counting individual contractors handling drywall, painting and other tasks.

Once the dust settles, they will have to bring in all the equipment and make sure it all works and that staff members are trained, Balsis said. Logistical issues, from parking to signage, will need to be dealt with.

Balsis expects the first patients will be treated in the pavilion by late January or early February.

After the tower is completed, another 70,000 square feet of renovations will begin, with completion slated for 2020. Renovations of the emergency department have started, and the main entrance will be revamped, as well.

At least everyone can find something good to eat.

Contact:, 932-0360, Twitter: @HPMatuszak