Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Penn Bites

Recently I read an old blog post by Adam Roberts, the AmateurGourmet, on his New York recommendations. He began with a summary of the quintessential nibbles that define New York: dumplings from Chinatown, a hot dog at Gray’s Papaya and an epic bagel. It prompted me to think of Penn bites, the foods that provide a snapshot of life and eating at Penn. Here's my immediate bite list. Feel free to suggest more in the comments.

1. Kiwi
Yes, frozen yogurt is a huge trend. Yes, there are three frozen yogurt places within walking distance of my house. None of them are self serve and none of them offer the breadth of flavors and toppings that Kiwi provides. Kiwi also constantly changes their flavors (countdown to pumpkin season please) and it’s a fun place to run into friends. Penn and Kiwi have a great relationship. How many times have you grabbed Kiwi to catch up with a friend? It’s a thing here and we somehow all convince ourselves it’s healthy.

2. One BIG coffee nursed slowly over the course of a day of studying

My caffeine levels at college are probably dangerously high, something that ought not to continue after graduation. I’m a big fan of coffeeshop studying and suspect that nothing represents the Sundays of my college career better than a large coffee and serious study time.

3. Food carts
Perhaps my favorite part of Penn’s food scene is the food trucks. Where else can you get anything from a macaron (at Sugar Philly) to an arepa (at Delicias Philly) to meatless meatballs (at Magic Carpet) to the perfect hangover sandwich (at Hemo's) within a few blocks of one another, usually for under $5.  Waiting in line and running into random people is half the fun. The other half is going so often that the employees know your name and order.

4. Wawa
Penn students get religious about Wawa and after a few weekends here it’s easy to see why. Late night Wawa runs are not merely a culinary experience; it’s social and it’s fun. Also, they have $1 coffee (any size) all of January and that needs to be acknowledged.

5. Houston Salads
I dare you to find another salad bar without a limit on toppings or a charge for anything beyond the basic carrot shreds. Houston doesn’t charge extra for cheese, nuts or nice fruits and the salads are huge! Get your parents to give you some Penncash and get nomming.

6. Brunch
There’s no such thing as breakfast or lunch on the weekends. Fact: These meals always merge. Whether you brunch at Hill, Tap House, Sabrina’s, White Dog or in your apartment, you’re brunching. It’s a thing. It’s tasty, you’re willing to wait for it and it delays the inevitable torture of a Sunday afternoon full of homework.

So there’s Penn, or at least some pivotal parts of it, in a few bites. When your kids someday ask you what college was like, just give them a tasting menu. It will be way less awkward than explaining any actual stories of your adventures.

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