You know the Freshman 15 isn’t real, right? I’m serious… it’s not real. Tons of articles and reports say the average first-year weight gain is 2 to 6 pounds, not 15. But 6 pounds is still… well, 6 pounds. But if you’ve got to gain them, Reader, would you rather that weight be from food in the Dining Hall (hereafter referred to as The DH) and the Chat? Or would you rather have great alternatives mixed in and make that weight gain count? The correct answer is “great alternatives,” of course. Because even the most dedicated scarlet-and-grey Arcadian can only eat so many under-salted french fries and unlimited ice cream before they begin to long for something more.
I’ll start with campus first, because it would be rude to ignore the most easily accessible (and for some of you, compulsory) dining options. The DH is a wonderful place, on occasion. My experience so far after five semesters on campus is that reviews of the school’s buffet-style eating option vary from “Don’t eat the mystery meat” to “Delicious, wonderful, 10/10, would eat here again.” I remember an older gentleman named Tony who came to The DH everyday (weather permitting) for lunch. “It’s the best deal in town!” he told my friends and I one time when we sat with him.
The Chat, meanwhile, is the place for restaurant-style eating and is a short walk across the Haber Green from The DH to the Commons. You can order from the deli and grill stations, as well as the By Design station, which rotates and features dinners that students can design (hence the name) themselves. I’ve had Asian style (we’re not talking biryani, phở, or bibimbap here, but hey, students can’t be choosers. Or can we? We pay tuition, we have agency!), custom chili—my favorite by far—and a sandwich design station. The Chat is the more preferred option for campus dining, not only because of the quality of the food (a few steps up from The DH), but it’s also the campus watering hole. (Have eyes for someone? Go get your food, pull up a chair, and look around. This might sound creepy, but I guarantee you 80% of the people in The Chat are doing just that at any given moment.) But back to food. My campus favorites: On Sunday mornings, get yourself a custom-made omelette with the meat and vegetables of your choice from The DH. Alternately, a beef steak with cheese sauce and fried onions is a good stand-in for when you’re craving a cheesesteak.
Here, I bring your attention to where you will spend a ridiculous amount of your free time at Arcadia University: Michael’s Family Restaurant. Ripped directly out of the 90s with its comfy-enough booth seating, pink neon lining the interior, it offers an extensive menu. Best of all, Michael’s is right across the street from Arcadia, open 24/7, staffed with lovely waiters and waitresses, and is the second watering hole for students. You will find any and everyone here at any given time (but particularly between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m.). All sorts of deliciousness is here, ripe for packing on your Arcadia 6, from sandwiches of all kinds to Italian specials and all-day breakfast. Get yourself a chicken parmigiana or a slice of cake (I suggest dark side of the moon) with a milkshake.
Continue down the street and you’re going to make it to Jasmine’s Asian Bistro, a quaint little Chinese place. As students, we’ve gotten conditioned to little (or large, in some cases) boxes of beef fried rice and tupperwares of chicken and broccoli. Jasmine’s is definitely a few notches up from your usual Chinese delivery. A great menu of East and Southeast Asian cuisines make any trip to the resturant worth it. Don’t forget to tip. Some waiters can get a little cranky when they see returning patrons who haven’t tipped in the past.
My last bookmarked Glenside food location is a pizza joint. Uninspiring description, I know, but Apollo’s Pizza is really good pizza. A friend who works at a pizza place near her home says she knows why the pizza is so good. “It’s because of the sauce,” she lectured. “It’s sweet, like New York pizza.” I don’t have a background in food science or pizza studies, but since she works at a different pizza place, I don’t feel like I’m spreading bad information. If you grab one of their menus (or look at the online one here), you’ll find clipless coupons for money-saving deals that get students to that blissful food-induced coma they’re always craving.
If you’re feeling adventurous, hop on the 22 or 77 bus and take yourself somewhere. Willow Grove Park Mall has a food court and a Chipotle, Chestnut Hill has abundant options for dining, or a ride in the direction of Olney Transit can take you to H Mart and a handful of other Korean restaurants. You probably already know if you’ve read any of my other blog posts that I miss Korea… a lot. Having these restaurants so close makes me extremely happy. I won’t even mention dining in the city. That would take a whole post of its own.
Food is much more important than just eating and counting calories. Food is social, it is language. When I was abroad, everything was all about food. It was how I initiated conversations with strangers, how I caught up with old friends, how I got to meet new ones. That’s the purpose of this list, not to just give you a list of places to spend your money, but new means of socializing. Take the roommate that you’re trying to get to know better to eat Chinese one night or order a couple of pizzas with your club. Ask someone on a date for spicy Korean or take a loved one to Michael’s when they come up for the day to visit. My point is just go out and eat—and what you’ll get will make those 2 to 6 pounds worth it.