A Beginner’s Guide to Food at Penn

Staff Writer
A Beginner’s Guide to Food at Penn

I remember freshman year. You want to be cool and have friends, but mostly you want to feel like you have everything figured out. What is that janky pizza place the older kids are talking about? Where can I get dining hall food that doesn’t suck? And, mostly, are food carts even sanitary? You’ll have to find all the hidden gems yourself, but read on for the quintessential Penn dining haunts.

Food Trucks: 

Lyn’s: Did you ever imagine you could enjoy a bomb chicken wrap complete with lettuce, tomato, cheese and sauce for $3.50? No? Meet Lyn, who is about to change the next 4 years of your life. For an egg sandwich before class or a cheap-ass lunch, Lyn’s is going to be your go-to. The eggplant parm and Lyn’s ability to remember everyone’s order is magical. Be her friend. Spruce Between 36th and 37th. 

Photo by Amanda Shulman

Photo by Amanda Shulman

Magic Carpet: The betchiest food cart in all the land. Despite being completely meatless (#whatvegetarianseat), there is always a long line outside both Penn locations. The one thing you must know is that the cookies, which change flavor daily, are crack. The magic meatballs are probably the most popular menu item, but the chili (with cheese and extra hot sauce) is also excellent on a cold day. For a lighter lunch, make a combo salad of tofu, hummus and tabouli or try out the Dervish Delight to satisfy a falafel fix. 34th and Walnut & on Spruce between 35th and 36th.

Photo by Julie Adam

Photo by Julie Adam

Schmear It: If you’re anything like us, you like a little bagel with your cream cheese. Schmear It does just that.  They have a long list of traditional and modern schmear options, and if none of those are doing it for you, make your own. The “loxsmith,” complete with cream cheese, chopped lox, scallions, tomatoes and cucumbers, on an everything bagel is the best start to any morning. Just make sure you check Twitter before heading over, because the location changes daily. Disclaimer: if you’re from New York, lower your expectations. You’re not in the land of bagel bliss anymore. Read more about Schmear It. 38th and Locust.

Photo by Marykate Surette

Photo by Marykate Surette

Dining Halls:

McClelland: Great place to use up all of your dining dollars and mealswipes on… one banana. There’s definitely a chance to make lifelong friendships here, but also just as large a chance you’ll run into that guy from NSO who told you he was a sophomore. Awkward. The food can get repetitive, but the granola is great and there’s room for creativity —use the microwave to melt cheddar cheese onto tuna and bread for a DIY tuna melt! The Quad.

Hillel: Seriously, this place is great for a) using a meal swipe and a couple of dining dollars and b) eating dining hall food that isn’t terrible. There is a mad dash for the chocolate chip cookies when they are brought out on giant platters, so be prepared to sprint for one (or two, because you ran which is kind of like working out so you definitely deserve a second one). Mondays and Wednesdays are meat nights (no dairy) and the most popular, but dairy nights on Tuesdays and Thursdays are great too because of the create-your-own omelette station (they even make them with egg whites!). 215 S 39th St. 

Hill: We know what you’re thinking – “there’s actually something positive that comes from getting stuck in Hill?” Yes, there is. That positive thing is Hill brunch. Cruise on over for not-so-terrible custom omelettes and sweet treats at the cost of just one meal swipe. Get seconds, thirds and ice cream to top off your meal before you drag your ass over to Van Pelt to work on your Econ 001 homework for the rest of the day. 34th and Walnut.

Restaurants: 

Allegro’s: While not the best, Allegro’s will become the most familiar part of your Penn experience. Clubs order it in to entice you into going to meetings (and it works – who turns down free pizza?), and you’ll order it in or stumble in at 1:30am on your way back to the Quad. For late night eats, it’s all about the pizza — our favorites are the white pizza and barbecue chicken pizza. When you order in, go for a chicken platter (it comes with SO MUCH meat and you get soup/salad, a garlic roll, and two sides — one of which must be mac-n-cheese), a chicken pesto panini or any of the pastas. 40th and Spruce.

Photo by Amanda Shulman

Photo by Amanda Shulman

Wawa: Ever-present hobos, late night snacks, the touch-screen machine you use to order deli sandwiches… where do we begin describing Wawa? Last year’s  makeover has given Wawa a classier look, but don’t fret — it’s still the ratchet ole joint every college student dreams of… especially when you’re walking home at 4am with no shoes and just want a bowl of mac-n-cheese. 38th and Spruce.

Photo by Amanda Shulman

Photo by Amanda Shulman

HipCityVeg: This place gives Magic Carpet a run for its money as betchiest place on campus. You will rarely walk in without seeing a gaggle of girls sporting leggings and Uggs enjoying banana whips (like froyo, but it’s made only of banana) or groothies (green smoothie). Though vegan, this place makes a mean meatless burger with a wide range of toppings like avocado, chipotle crema and artichokes. Not hungry enough for a burger? Grab a chopped med salad or sweet potato fries and a milkshake. When it gets chilly outside, be sure to check out the chili too214 South 40th Street.

Photo by Amanda Shulman

Photo by Amanda Shulman

New Delhi: This isn’t high school anymore, kids! It’s actually okay to like Indian food and be the person responsible for the potent smells in the library (well, maybe not the second part…). Enter New Delhi, the ultimate order-in operation to satisfy your ethnic cravings. Naan and chicken tikka masala. Boom. Plus, once you get comfortable visit the brick-and-mortar shop yourself and try out the buffet. It’s Delhi-cious. 4004 Chestnut St.

Honest Tom’s Taco Shop: We know it’s far from your dorm, but try at least once to make it over to Honest Tom’s. The burritos and tacos are seriously delicious, plus,  it’s a great way to see the hipster gentrification of West Philadelphia (Is that P.C.? Oops.). Afterwards, head next door to the Lil’ Pop Shop for, you guessed it, crazy-flavored popsicles. If you can make it there before 11am, dig into a breakfast burrito. The life-changing doughy brick — stuffed full of eggs, beans, avocado, bacon, potatoes and salsa — will have you in a blissful coma for the rest of the day. 261 S 44th St.

Greek Lady: If it seems like the Greek version of Allegro’s, that’s because it is. They even have the same chicken platter, but with different Greek sides. Order in omelettes in the morning before you darty, or grab a chicken salad for an ultra-filling lunch. 222 S 40th St.

Beijing: Restaurants on Spruce have come and gone, but we’re pretty sure Beijing is forever. This is your average greasy Chinese food BYO. By month 2 you’ll have your own BYO favorites, but this is a decent start. It’s great for ordering in or pick-up if you live in the quad. Everything tastes like what you would expect, just make sure you love your msg. 3714 Spruce St.

Harvest: No.

The Great Gia vs. Sweetgreen Debate: There are two custom salad spots on campus – Gia and Sweetgreen. By the end of the year, you will have a preference. There aren’t many funny things we can tell you about salads, so we’ll just give you the gist of the differences between the two. Sweetgreen is an organic-y, trendy salad. Everything looks clean, healthy and expensive —and it is! Gia is more casual, like the salad place in your hometown (unless your hometown is NYC or LA). There is a wider spread of ingredients, but it just doesn’t seem quite as healthy. Both will probably keep you away from the Freshman 15, so give them a try. Gia: 3736 Spruce St. Sweetgreen: 3925 Walnut St.

Photo by Marykate Surette

Photo by Marykate Surette

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