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No more deficit for Paces Cafe

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Paces broke even this past semester, amassing a  gross revenue of $15,000 and a net revenue of $o in the fall. It was the first semester in its over 10-year history that the student-run cafe has not made less money than it has spent. Paces staff credits the café’s newfound success to their recent restructuring, which included menu adaptations and OneCard accessibility.

Last fall, Paces was closed due to an audit from the Business Office. Since reopening, Paces staff has taken steps to revamp its reputation and make changes to its structure on campus. Previously, administration expected Paces to earn at least enough to cover the cost of goods, while the school funded the $30,000 to cover student wages each year. The college backed the café to provide students with a late-night, on-campus food option and offer 40 some student-workers with experience in the food and management industry.

Since Paces’ reopening, Paces management added the café to the OneCard, allowing for more student accessibility. They began purchasing supplies from Dining Services, a more sustainable food supply source than regular runs to a supermarket, and they upped their advertising game through sending weekly meme-filled emails to the campus community. Paces Kitchen Director Henry Han ’20 said their efforts have paid off; in the past semester and a half, they’ve seen an uptick in customer and applicant turnout.

“More and more people want to hang out in Paces now,” he said. “We are seeing more freshman and sophomore applicants, which is a result of our new image.”

Paces received 80 applicants for the spring semester—around 50 of which were for the barback position—and accepted roughly half of them. Four had not worked at Paces in the past.

Even after such success, Paces plans to continue to push forward. Head Director Ahmad Shaban ’19 noted Paces’ ultimate goal is to repay its debt to the college.

“We are determined to be profitable,” he said. “The college has supported Paces for so many years, and I believe that it is time for Paces to be a financial investment.”

To reach such a target, this semester Paces has added new food items to their menu, such as fruit smoothies and turkey-apple-provolone sandwiches. Han, who oversees menu items, said he plans to continuously revamp food options to keep customers interested and excited about the café. Before the end of the semester, he said to look out for some sort of banana-peanut butter smoothie.

Shaban said Paces hopes to serve more Swatties on a more consistent basis. Some ideas for achieving this include the introduction of board games or live student performances to their entertainment menu and reducing cost of menu items and goods. Another: to open on the weekends.

“We want to create a social space for students who do not want to go to PubNite on Thursdays, are bored on Fridays, and do not want to go to the fraternities on Saturdays,” he said. “Since Paces is currently a wet party space during the nights that we want to be open, we are seriously considering moving locations and, perhaps, rebranding the business.”

In this way, increased revenue has allowed Paces more flexibility to work toward its future goals.

Taking a closer look at the CO-OP

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The Swarthmore CO-OP has been a part of the Swarthmore community for over 80 years, and its status as the only grocery store in the ville makes it popular among both residents of the borough and students. The college’s relationship with the CO-OP changed in 2016 when students were able to utilize their OneCard and Swat Points there, but the relationship between the CO-OP and college students has a long history.

The CO-OP is a food cooperative that first opened its doors in 1932. Food cooperatives are distinctive from other grocery stores because they have investors where decisions regarding the production and distribution of its food are chosen by its members. The CO-OP is the third oldest food cooperative in the country.

According to digital marketing intern at the CO-OP Isabel Paynter, the CO-OP’s investors typically purchase 60 shares of the company for $5 each. These investors who have at least $300 of equity in the company have the ability to influence the products carried at the CO-OP. Many of the items the CO-OP carries are considered speciality or local.

“We [the CO-OP] have over 110 local vendors, which means the products we carry are not the type you can buy at Giant or Target. We carry brands that are organic or fit our brand and sometimes that’s why our prices are more expensive,” Paynter said.

For some students, the higher prices at the CO-OP can be a deterrent from buying products there. Leisa Liao ’18, who is on the PPR meal plan that offers $700 in Swat Points, noted that while she likes to use her Swat Points at the CO-OP, she still finds some of the prices expensive.

“This year I’m trying to shop more at the CO-OP because I don’t like eating out as much and I want to learn how to cook. The other week I hosted a dinner party for eight of my friends, and after doing some grocery shopping in Media and at the CO-OP, it ended up being about $200.” Liao said.

Liao also shops at other nearby grocery stores and compares prices to find which products are better to purchase at the CO-OP. She primarily shops at the CO-OP due to its accessibility with the OneCard.

“I only started shopping at the CO-OP once it was on the OneCard. I’ll shop at the CO-OP until I run out of points because you’re using points that you’ve already paid for with your room and board. I wish the OneCard would expand to other grocery stores, like Target or Trader Joe’s, that offer cheaper prices on products,” Liao said.

Though the CO-OP is OneCard-accessible this school year, this summer, rumors erupted about the CO-OP losing its OneCard status. However, these rumors were quelled shortly before students returned to campus.

According to Paynter, the terms and agreements with the college had expired and renegotiations were made. Some of these renegotiations included the elimination of the 5 percent discount off all products for Swarthmore students. Yet Paynter believes that the CO-OP’s new online engagement is more beneficial to students. Raffles, email subscription lists, and contests all give students the opportunity to score new coupons or discounts at the CO-OP.

“I think [having the CO-OP on the OneCard] is a good way for college kids to be a part of the Swarthmore community. Students can benefit from a lot of things that the CO-OP offers that they don’t know about,” Paynter said.

Thomas Dailak ’21, a regular customer at the CO-OP, likes to shop at the CO-OP because of its vicinity to the college.

“I shop at the CO-OP because I like to cook and I need to buy ingredients somewhere. There [is] very limited supply of places where I can do that. For me, coming from New York, the prices [at the CO-OP] are pretty much what I’m used to,” Dailak said.

However, Dailak does believe that easier access to other grocery stores would lower costs for students.

“They [the CO-OP] know they’ve cornered the market on groceries, so I think that the prices would probably adjust as well if more students had other options for [grocery] shopping,” he said.

Though the school offers shuttle service to stores like Target, Giant, and Trader Joe’s, these stores are often less convenient due to the CO-OP’s close proximity to campus and its OneCard accessibility.

While criticisms of the CO-OP’s pricing persist, the CO-OP continues to play a significant role in both the borough and on campus.

A Swipe Of Advice: On the Meal Plan

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If there is one objective, capital-T Truth that exists within the entire span of our infinite universe, it is that there is one, single best meal plan for Swatties to be on. There are five meal plan options, consisting of four lies and one answer to the questions humankind has been asking for the entirety of existence. This, obviously, is a bit of an exaggeration. Different students have different lifestyles that make different meal plans fit them best — however, there are some clear distinctions to be made, and as the resident expert on all things OneCard and dining, I’m here to provide a guide on how to get the most out of your now unchangeable meal plan choice, and how to do better next semester.

The Swat plan, better known as “the unlimited plan” is the default plan for all students, and one of the two plans available to first-years. It gives students 150 Points, for on-campus use, and 150 Swat Points, for Ville use. The unlimited plan is fairly unpopular, as going to the Ville often requires more points than is allotted, but can be managed. 150 points over the fourteen week semester means that those on the Swat plan can use almost 11 points per week off-campus, and slightly more than that if they travel over fall break. That means you can eat a meal or two in the Ville every week. This is reasonable for those still working out the time-management aspect of Swarthmore. Getting Sharples at the same time every day helps newer students establish routines. For those on this plan, keeping track of how many points are left is essential. Getting a late-night snack at Essie Mae’s is also pertinent: this plan offers as many meals as you can use, so stock up on your favorite nonperishable snacks, try every menu item at the grill, or get cereal and milk for breakfast in your dorm. It’s also worth noting that the unlimited plan technically isn’t unlimited; the OneCard office subtracts each meal from a balance of 1,000. Using that many meals would require over ten swipes a day, through which would be an uphill battle for even those with the largest appetites.

The next plan, the Garnet plan, has 275 meals, 300 Points, and 200 Swat Points. It’s functionally equivalent to the unlimited plan in terms of meal swipes, as it essentially gives a person three meals a day over the 13 weeks that Sharples has full service. Considering that Sharples serves two meals per day on Saturday and Sunday, and assuming that no one is punctual enough to make it to breakfast every morning before their classes start, those on the Garnet plan can eat Sharples whenever they like, get Essie’s a few times a week, and venture into the Ville more often than their friends with unlimited meals. For first-years, the Garnet plan is a testament to not accepting the status-quo and demanding something better, in a polite email to the OneCard Office, of course.

The Parrish plan and the NPPR apartment plans have the most points and the least swipes and illustrate the phrase “with freedom comes responsibility” well. At just 160 meal swipes, those on these plans must budget their trips to Sharples wisely, as they can only average 12 over a seven day period. These students have much more freedom to spend points: each plan totals 900 points, with the Parrish plan giving students 500 on-campus points and 400 Ville points, whereas NPPR residents get 200 on-campus points and 700 for off-campus use. These students must budget their time and points wisely, especially if they are cooking meals from scratch using ingredients from the Co-Op, which is known to be pricier than chain grocery stores like Giant or Target. This plan is only for students who truly can commit to acquiring food by themselves. There are some valid critiques of Sharples, but it’s consistent, and you don’t have to cook it yourself or wash dishes, which saves students precious time and energy.

Lastly, the Phoenix plan is the best of both worlds, combining the ability to regularly get meals at Sharples with the flexibility of having more points. At 225 meals, the Phoenix plan allows students an average of 17 meals per week, giving a student the option to have lunch and dinner at Sharples every day with 3 extra swipes for Essie’s or weekday breakfast. 400 on-campus points and 300 off-campus points means that students on the Phoenix plan can get two to three Ville meals per week. The Phoenix plan isn’t available to everyone on campus, but for those who can choose beyond first-year options,it strikes a perfect balance between campus options and being able to venture off-campus when one chooses.

A person’s meal plan selection won’t make or break a person’s semester, but it can vastly improve their dietary utility if chosen correctly. Every meal plan has its benefits and costs, but only the Phoenix plan provides the most points without sacrificing regular access to Sharples. And, of course, it is named in honor of Swarthmore’s best publication and only on-campus print news source.

Lessons Learned from Cooking Shows (and Swat)

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Like any good French-Californian girl, I was taught to look at cooking shows with a vaguely pitying disdain. Until a week ago, if you brought one up I would either A) Blink confusedly and ask if that’s like one of those hot dog eating contests, or B) Snort inelegantly and mutter something about it being typical of Americans to need reality TV to learn how to make pasta. (Yes, I am aware that I’m a snob.)

Until, of course, I actually started watching cooking shows. I am now officially hooked. At first, I thought I was just willing to do anything to procrastinate. That is when I realized the horrible truth.

My life is a cooking show.

Or, to be somewhat fairer, I found parallels between the lives of participants in cooking contests and the lives of Swatties. Or perhaps I’m just sleep deprived and think the entire world revolves around Swarthmore. To recap my profound connections:

“The Great British Bake Off:” Multiple British people bake elaborate cakes and pastries (such as a 20-layer German cake, and yes, the judges count the layers) in a random outdoor area with freakishly green lawns. Profiles are pretty diverse, ranging from teenagers to grandparents. This show forced me to realize that certain British people have mastered cooking beyond fish and chips, lukewarm beer, and sticking everything in mint jelly. Much in the same way, Swat has made me realize that Americans outside of the California/San Francisco/San Franciscan French community bubbles are actually pretty great. We may have close to nothing in common, but we are all passionate about something (labor organizing, or Latin, or nature and rare plants, or linguistics). Also, contestants in TGBBO are almost suspiciously nice. They compliment each other and exchange hugs and are generally supportive of one another, like any Swatties I have encountered.

“Chopped:” One of the most famous cooking shows out there. Four chefs compete over three rounds (appetizer, entrée, dessert), with one chef eliminated each turn. So, not really like Swarthmore, which is somewhat harder to be expelled from. It is worth noting that the first episode I ever saw of Chopped was on the theme of noodles, and I had just had an argument over whether college students were actually able to cook anything other than noodles (considering that my hall’s bathroom sink has had ramen in it for the past three days, I would say some of us can’t even manage those). The show (like Swarthmore) is also very White, although there is almost always one Asian chef per episode. What struck me the most was the chefs’ obsession with each other’s dishes. For all that we are a cooperative school where (allegedly) grades don’t matter and you should only compete with yourself, I have overheard many desperate conversations about a classmate’s paper being longer, smarter, or generally better. There’s not much of a step from “chef X’s dish looks so much neater than mine!” to “everyone else in that class is so much smarter!” It doesn’t matter whether you are writing a political science essay or crafting the perfect Halloween meal; the other person’s plate/paper will look better.

“Cutthroat Kitchen:” Four youngish and photogenic chefs — at least one of which will rant about being from Brooklyn — compete in three rounds — appetizer, entree, and dessert. They are given $25,000 to buy “sabotages”  such as making all the other chefs hold hands as they cook. Whoever wins keeps the money they have not spent, so this show reminded me of my parents’ lectures on budgeting and necessary expenses. The title, I will admit, does not scream “Cooperative Quaker school.” But, let’s face it: Swatties have a dark side. As far as I know, none of us are actually willing to pay to make our classmates suffer (though think of all the choices, should such an opportunity come up. Limiting their course selections to 8:30 classes? Robbing them of Swat Points and making them eat at Sharples for every meal? Forcing them to wear a Donald Trump shirt?), but haven’t any of us ever fantasized about doing something very unpleasant to the one know-it-all in your seminar, who talks over the professor and starts every sentence with “actually?” How about causing something terrible to happen to that rude and unpleasant former hookup? Of the three shows that I have discussed, Cutthroat Kitchen is by far the trashiest and most bloodthirsty. Peace-loving Swatties would blanch at the thought of being compared to these culinary sharks, who discuss intimidation tactics and have such brilliant lines as “smiling is not my thing.” But that vicious monster does come out full force, at one time or another. Why do you think we have Primal Scream? I will admit this show is a guilty pleasure; but then, so is concocting wild revenge plots aimed at your assholesque hallmate/classmate/ex. Embrace the darkness in you, Swatties! At least it’s not being broadcasted to millions of people.

To recap: cooking shows are not bored housewives reading out Betty Crocker recipes (forgive my past assumptions). Stress, anxiety, and worrying about others being “better” is a universal experience alive both on college campuses and TV kitchens. Anyone can be a jerk. And British food is marginally less terrible than we are led to believe. At this rate, I have no doubt that we will soon see our own beloved(?) Sharples on national television soon.

Local Food?

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We are all at least aware of the “eat local” movement. We’ve all been primed to know that eating locally is, in many ways, the way to eat sustainably. Eating local was (and in a way still is) the hot new trend. Terms like “Locavores” and catchy phrases like “Think Global Eat Local” have emerged. We’ve seen the “eat local” stickers and the restaurants who tout all their local sourcing on their menu. We’ve got it pretty ingrained in our minds that local food doesn’t just mean sustainable, but tasty (and often more expensive) too. So much so, that now when we hear about local foods night in Sharples, our ears perk up.

But what is local food? If we assume that local food is just better, then how come it’s been so difficult to do? How come “local foods night” is just one night, and not just the norm?

I often wander into Sharples, eating the assortment of foods without questioning their source. So with the attention towards local foods, I was curious to learn about the process of acquiring the different produce at Sharples and to see what locality really means.

I met with Director of Purchasing Janet Kassab and her daughter Mary Kassab from Dining Services in her office in the back of the kitchen. The lively sound of clanging pots and hissing steam permeated the air as I shook their hands. Both women wore large smiles, and I had the sense that I had just walked into someone’s home.

“Oh hi, yes, please take a seat!” Janet said.

The office was full of papers and flyers and to-do lists. Next to me was a long list of vendors. It was then that I realized this operation, though comparatively smaller than those of other universities, is pretty big and complicated.

“Overall, we use around 30 to 40 vendors regularly,” Mary said.

That’s the amount of vendors across the board from everything from canned peaches to meats. But they work most closely with Bill, the owner of West-Chester based American Beauty Fish and Produce. American Beauty purchases from Philadelphia’s food distribution center Lancaster Cooperative Auction and directly from west coast vendors.

“I pick up the phone and I just go ‘Hey Bill, we need [for instance] 30 pounds of tomatoes,” Janet said.

Prices for every item are dependent on the market or other factors such as weather and demand.

“Sometimes [the price] is impacted by national weather events,” said Mary, “We always have to keep in mind that a certain produce [might be] less available and therefore more expensive because of this frost or that flood.”

Bill, well-connected in the market, can inform them of major price changes and Mary and Janet can change their menu accordingly.

“I call Bill, and I say ‘we’re going to need this’ and he’s going to say ‘uh oh all of a sudden we are going to have to pay top dollar for the tomatoes,’ so then I’ll be like ‘okay let’s tweak the menu.’ We’re going to serve grape tomato [instead], change that Greek salad normally made out of the plum tomato that has become so pink and plump and not worth eating,” Janet said.

Both Janet and Mary state that their reactive flexibility is thanks to Sharples being a self-operating system rather than a contracted one.

“Operations that are contracted are married to the same product and the same person,” said Janet, “That’s the way they make money. And we’re lucky we don’t have the same kind of burden.”

The question of locality is very complicated in Sharples. On one level there’s the ‘hyperlocal,’ as Mary calls it, which is easier to identify. Sometimes the apples are from Beechwood Orchards in Biglerville, Pa. However, it is important to realize that the eastcoast’s main harvest is in the summer, and there’s really not much during the rest of the school year.

“Things like banana or oranges are never going to come from a local source,” said Janet, “We also just can’t produce an avocado.”

These non-local products are often extremely difficult to trace. However, since Bill, a local man, is doing the purchasing, the “local” is still being emphasized and supported. The many levels and concentric circles of food distribution nowadays complicates the locality question. What can be certain is that both Mary and Janet purchase and prepare food mainly based on their relations with people.

Janet frequently goes to farmer’s markets where she meets farmers who eventually become a source of both food for Sharples and a sort of family for our Dining Services. One such person is Isaac, “the egg man.”  

“Isaac the egg man, you know, has these neighbors Glenn and Nancy Wise … they sell sweet potatoes,” Janet said.

“And when Isaac delivers the eggs, he just brings Glenn and Nancy’s potatoes as well, and sometimes he brings his kid,” Mary said.

It’s a homey operation, where relationships circling outwards through family ties or friendships make things work.

“Nancy wanted us to buy from her son too,” Janet said, “he sells chickens, but they’re frozen so they’re not much use to us.”

The operation is not very strictly planned, and oftentimes Janet, Mary, and their staff have to improvise or change their minds. It’s hard work, but it’s also more fulfilling for Janet.

“This will be my 25th year here, and I started working in the cash office. It seems like [the job] will become so old but it [never does]. My personality wouldn’t be one that’s like, ‘okay this is it and this is it forever.’ I’m always like ‘let’s try this and let’s try that’ and the people in the kitchen go a little cuckoo,” Janet said.

At this point of the interview we were briefly interrupted by a phone call from the ‘tofu guy.’ I could not help but smile at the endearing term, and also the brief annoyance I saw on Janet’s face about the type of tofu. Janet prefers this one-on-one interaction even if it seems like more work.

“As a unit you’re spending money, the college’s money, and I want to give that money to a human being, not to the multi-million dollar [corporation] that is selling this bill of goods,” Janet said.

They also always work with the students in mind, knowing what is popular.

“The cook in there is always like ‘Broccoli?!” Janet gestured wildly with her eyes wide, “Students just fiend for broccoli! It’s incredible.”

This consideration for student preferences also informs the menu.
“The students and all of us, you know, you guys are captives, here all the time. It’s kind of like this is your house, your kitchen, your stuff, and no one really likes to see the same thing. I mean we want to have the same grilled cheese so we have the same basic [foods] but we also like to [say] ‘Ah, we’re having cherry chutney on the pork today … you’re not going to reinvent food, but you’re going to alter it,” Janet said.

If locality simply means the source of food, then we can’t do it unless we always eat the same kind of butternut squash and have extremely limited fruits. In fact, food is extremely hard to trace nowadays because it goes through so many processes. Looking at the boxes of bananas, for example, we could not figure out exactly where they were grown; the stickers indicate the country where they were distributed, but often times they don’t give the full story. But, if locality is about people, relationships, and a strong sense of community, then Mary and Janet’s work is local through and through. From Bill to the ‘Egg Man’ and ‘Tofu Guy,’ one cannot help but acknowledge that Sharples is truly a home operation.

“We get our love letters on our napkins,” said Janet as she gestured towards a wall where comments from the Napkin board are pinned up.

It seems that there is, in fact, a lot of love in Mary and Janet’s kitchen, and if that isn’t local, then locality shouldn’t matter all that much.

Alcohol for the atmosphere: Swarthmore as a wet town

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Maybe it is just me because I come from a state where you can walk into a Walgreens and see a handle of vodka next to the health vitamins, but I think Pennsylvania alcohol laws are weird. When I first visited Swarthmore during my senior year of high school, my parents decided to go get something to eat in the Ville while I was visiting classes, and after walking around the two blocks that consist of downtown Swarthmore, they were puzzled by the lack of food options. A quick Google search showed that Swarthmore was a dry town, and that was probably why there were so few restaurants. Due to this fact, they have continued to make fun of me for wanting to go to an urban school and ending up at a school in a dry town 11 miles outside of Philadelphia that looks like it could be in the middle of nowhere.

But this summer that might all change.

Swarthmore 21, a community organizing group, is working to change Swarthmore to a wet town on this summer’s primary ballot. For more on that see: “Swarthmore 21 Causes Debate in the Borough.”

The thing about a dry town is that it doesn’t just prevent stores from selling alcohol: it prevents the town from growing. The mark-ups on alcohol in restaurants are astronomically larger than the mark-ups on food, allowing more restaurants to make a larger profit. An increase in restaurants brings more foot traffic to the town, allowing other stores to open up. Basically, our economy runs on alcohol.

When I chose to come to Swarthmore I knew I wasn’t getting a school that was integrated into a big city or had a huge party scene, and I was okay with that. But now that I am here I miss having a downtown area to wander. I miss walking around on a nice night and seeing couples eating outside of restaurants or kids playing in the fountains. I miss the quirky local shops and restaurants. More than that, I miss the atmosphere.

If you want to know what this is like, just walk by the Inn on any given night. Has anyone else noticed that people at the Broad Table Tavern always look happy? As I walk by the big glass windows I stare in wearily, wishing that the ziti didn’t cost $20. The place is always packed, and the reason isn’t just because the food is decent: it is because it is a monopoly. Regular people that drink and just want to enjoy a glass of wine with their dinner only have one place to go in this town, The Broad Table Tavern. Hopefully this will change soon.

I envision several restaurants opening up, offering students and residents alike places to eat out and laugh over a nice glass of wine. I see families walking through the streets on their way to a nice dinner. I see residents and students enjoying a nice conversation as they wait for a table. I see people walking through the Ville just because it is a nice place to be.

I don’t think my expectations are that out of line. Small towns have charm, why can’t this one?

Philly Beat: Food Time

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When I was told the theme for this week was food, I was ecstatic because it meant this was an excuse to write about my favorite thing ever. Growing up in a family of ‘foodies,’ every social interaction I had was centered around food: reunions, birthdays and even meetings. Soon, it became more than just a pastime, rather a hobby and passion. Even after living in the area for three years now, I have a constant bucket list of restaurants that keeps getting longer. From a French-North African bistro to a fun dim sum bar, Philadelphia is far more gastronomically diverse than most people think, featuring some unique fusion restaurants and outstanding cuisines with a twist. For this piece, I decided to go with five recommendations of the most fascinating concepts or unique menus I have come across so far.

“Amada”

Specializing in some incredible Spanish tapas, Amada is by far one of my favorite restaurants in Philadelphia. Located right on Chestnut Street and just two blocks away from The Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, Amada’s iconic open-kitchen is complemented by a seated bar overlooking the tapa preparation, along with a lounge area. During their happy hour, they serve $5 tapas ranging from a cheese platter with truffle honey to traditional Spanish croquetas and patatas bravas. Despite functioning as a tapa house, they have a few grill and seafood options with portions large enough for a full meal, and are more than happy to help select a great wine to go with your meal.

“Fogo De Chao”

This Brazilian steakhouse features various fire roasted meats that are carved tableside by the chefs. The full lunch experience is $36.95 for unlimited food, including trips to the salad bar. If you are a red meat person, Fogo De Chao is a haven that serves some incredible filet mignon cooked to perfection. The salad bar includes sides such as different cheeses, veggies, parfaits and even fruit. Fogo De Chao is situated right next to Dilworth Park in my favorite and also the most lively area in Philly with different restaurants and bars around such as Sampan, El Vez, Time, and more. Alternatively, Fogo De Chao has another branch in King of Prussia. Definitely work up an appetite before heading to Fogo De Chao and make the most of the all you can eat dining experience.

“Bing Bing Dim sum”

Located in the booming East Passyunk restaurant district, Bing Bing Dim Sum is a fun, Pan-Asian restaurant with a great happy hour that also features bar food for $5 per dish including bao buns, dumplings, and even salad. The dishes are best to share family style, and the menu indicates both vegetarian and gluten-free dishes. Aside from their range of dumplings, they offer a few noodle and rice dishes. Both their food and drink menus are short but fun and creative.

“Restaurant Neuf”

Situated on South 9th Street, Restaurant Neuf puts a unique and interesting twist on their dishes by serving Algerian, Moroccan and Tunisian flavors with a French twist. This North African restaurant serves a range of dishes, from delicately cooked seafood to a flavorful spicy braised goat leg, including a variety of delicious tagines and unique dishes such as a date-stuffed quail. Their Tunisian meatballs seem to be the most popular, and they have a brunch-only menu that is completely different from the regular dining menu. Restaurant Neuf is ideal if you are looking for a completely new and unique dining experience and an incredibly flavorful cuisine.

“Noord”

Belonging to the same owner as Restaurant Neuf, Noord is a BYOB Scandinavian-Dutch restaurant located in South Philly right in front of the singing fountain. The neighborhood tends to be relatively busy with different restaurants and boutiques in the area. The restaurant is incredibly cozy with dim lighting, and the dishes arrive incredibly fast. The menu features mainly red meat and seafood dishes yet is still incredibly vegetarian friendly. Noord is usually only open for dinner with the exception of a Sunday brunch. The flavors are more delicate than at its sister branch, but all of the dishes are exceptionally prepared.

It’s easy to go with the ‘safe’ option of an American gastro pub or your favorite Pan-Asian restaurant, but there are some incredibly creative and unique concepts all over the city that are definite musts. These five restaurants not only serve incredible food, but are also coupled with the best ambiances and locations. Venture out to the city this weekend for an outstanding culinary experience, and explore the different lounges and bars in the area too!

The Politics of the Grocery Store Utopia

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Think about your local grocery store. It could be some independent seller, a Vons, Trader Joe’s, or even the Swarthmore Co-op. You probably can easily conjure images of its glossy, white-tiled, hyper-compartmentalized aisles, denoted by a celestial numbered sign, suspended in fluorescent skies.

Envision yourself mindlessly Pac-manning about the aisles to your desired product — Aisle 1 for PopTarts, three modules to the right to Aisle 4 for Popchips — programmed like a cog in a machine in what is probably one of the most desperate expressions of capitalist zeal.

Utopian conceptions of the grocery store regime derive just from this, the ease and simplicity of navigating about these pathways. In deconstructing the biology of your local grocery store, in parceling the nodes of its hyper-rationalized, operationalized organs, you probably don’t really stop to consider how there is a Fordist framework at play, an attempt to achieve utopian systematic efficiency with every “Breads” or “Ice Cream” delineation. Not here to be the girl who screams “CAPITALISM” but, CAPITALISM.

Ok, pero like, this is a column on how you grapple with the intangibility of multi-racialness in contemporary power monopolies, and as much as we love to play the capitalist blame-game, what do grocery stores have to do with race?

I was at a friendly neighborhood Whole Foods in Tucson, Arizona over spring break. My friend was looking for coconut milk (@TheCityofLosAngeles) and I was aimlessly meandering into Aisle 4: “Flour/Sugar,” “Baking Mixes and Oils,” “Pie Crusts” (Yes, just the crusts), “Cereal,” and other mundane food items were featured in this aisle. However, as I walked closer to the illuminated number four towering from its seat in the heavens, I took note of a category I had never seen before: “Hispanic Foods.”

Now honestly, I should be thanking Whole Foods for satisfying my Hispanic palate — after all, the coconut milk was becoming too commonplace for my leche likings. The “Hispanic Foods” section housed all of my Chilean fancies: black beans, tortillas, Cholula and pan dulce, even though conchas in Chile are actual shells, not sugary pastries.

And that was it, with one swift, technocratic strike, Whole Foods had reduced the entirety of the Spain-related and Spanish-speaking world to a 5-foot long section of Aisle 4 in the only Whole Foods in Tucson, Arizona.

According to Food Marketing Institute’s count in 2005, Hispanic consumers spent more on groceries than average U.S. consumers: an average of $133 per week per household versus $91. Doesn’t it make more fiscal sense to streamline the grocery market process and provide these consumers their own food niche, even it if it offshoots further minoritization? A system that assumes that Cholula is the ethnic iteration of hot sauce and tortillas are just exoticized white bread?

“I think there is an increase in appetite across the board for more international experiences, particularly in Hispanic grocery,” said Stephen Palacios, executive vice president at consulting company Cheskin Added Value. “The ethnic-specific aisle is eventually going to evolve into everybody’s aisle.”

CAPITALISM.

What disturbs me in this grocery store utopia is not how management fails to realize an integrative social landscape in the American public, not how “Hispanic” merely delineates a historical link to a major imperialist power, but mostly how we were placed right next to the “Pie Crusts” and not the “Asian Foods” niche in Aisle 6.  

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