Did you miss me, CJ readers? I hope so. After running out of OneCard restaurants to review, I’ve felt a little lost this semester. My reviews were once a bi-weekly testament to how much I love food. Now that Paces Cafe has OneCard, I have one last review, and thus one last chance to solidify myself in food review history. Sure, the Phoenix’s Campus Journal might not have the journalistic clout of the “New York Times” food section, but here we are.
Student-run and operating out of the same space that hosts keg parties on Thursdays and Sundays, one would expect its ambience to range from sad to non-existent. Created almost solely by fake flowers in empty wine bottles, the overall atmosphere feels slightly contrived, but so do these reviews, sometimes. The blue walls and bright red mural behind the bar are familiar sights to most Swarthmore students, but when the lights are on and there isn’t any alcohol being served, Paces is bright and chipper under the presumably fluorescent lighting. Paces’ two stairs divide it in half, and the two sides create vastly different spaces for sipping on milkshakes and eating the closest thing to homemade food Swatties can get on campus.
I hadn’t been to Paces until after spring break, when some of my friends had the idea to go. Initially reluctant because I still wasn’t sure how their pricing worked, once I got there I discovered that I had been missing out. With seemingly infinite milkshake options, I realized that my future had been fundamentally changed. Rather than relying on Sharples ice cream for my dessert needs, I can create my own milkshake destiny at Paces.
Paces Cafe’s menu appeals well to their target audience, the late night snacker. They have breakfast foods as well as savory dinner options for those who just can’t eat breakfast after dark. My first time at Paces, I ordered the pancakes with berries and white chocolate chips, hold the white chocolate chips. While waiting for my pancakes, I pondered just what to call the meal that I was about to eat. Combining breakfast and lunch is brunch, but what does one call combining breakfast and dinner? Binner? Dreakfast? Breakinner? Dinnerfast? These are the kinds of questions that I am completely unprepared to answer simply because there is no good answer. Having breakfast for dinner needs no title besides ‘delicious.’ My pancakes thankfully came before I spent too much time trying to create a new word for the extra meal that I was adding to my day.
The pancakes looked thick and fluffy, not unlike an edible version of the adorable dogs that run up and down Magill Walk on weekend afternoons. The berries added a slightly tart dimension that balanced the sweet pancake. Nearly perfect — except for being slightly burnt on the bottom — the pancake was filling and tasty. Lightly dolloped with whipped cream, I had to fight off some well-intentioned friends who wanted to get in on the goodness topped on my meal. The dish was a good capstone to a long day but did not quite fulfill my wildest breakfast dreams.
In my two subsequent trips to Paces, I ordered the avo-toast. The first time, it came out on a thin piece of toast with halved cherry tomatoes, and the second time it was the nightly special and came on a thick piece of toast with lots of small, diced tomatoes. I found the variety within the same dish ordered on different days to be intriguing and unique. Both toasts, however, had the same fundamental elements. The avocado smeared on the crunchy toast was quite thick and at times overpowered the tomatoes. However, at the key moments of the dish, the crunch of the bread, the savory tomato, and the avocado combined to create a trifecta of delicious flavors. All of the elements have vastly different textures and flavors that make each bite different. The differences between the elements of the dish contrast each other and make a meal that is not too exciting, but also not too boring. A late night snack has to strike a balance between not having enough flavor and being overwhelming late at night.
Paces Cafe is a great way to spend your Swat points without having to walk all the way to the Ville. If you can figure out their red-tape riddled pricing system, you are on your way to a decent meal. More relaxed than Essie’s, smelling slightly more like beer, sitting in the dingy but cheerful room is a fun and tasty way to end your day.