It’s midnight on a Wednesday night and you are hungry. Really hungry. Serves you right for eating at Sharples at 4:30. And the stash of granola bars in your room is just not looking appealing. Besides, for some reason, you really want to eat good food, food that makes you feel better after eating it rather than just merely full. Local food. And you only have six dollars in your wallet.
Shocking though it may seem, there is a place on Swarthmore that you can go to at midnight on Wednesday and address all of the above needs. That place? Paces Café.
I feel like there are times in every Swattie’s life where you cannot simply make it to Sharples by 7:15, or 6:30 on weekends. And there are those times where you eat at 5:00 and find yourself hungry later. Sure, in that situation there is usually Essie Mae’s (unless you just realize you are hungry at midnight or after 10:30 on Sunday), but a chicken wrap gets a bit tiring after two meals. It was during one of those stretches where I found myself perpetually feeling hungry as a result of early dinners that I truly began to appreciate the wonder of Paces Café.
Before I get to the food — which, of course, is the reason I am writing this column — I would like to take a moment to comment on the atmosphere of Paces Café. The lighting is warm, there are candles on the tables and good music (music I like at least) plays in the background. For whatever reason, something about the place causes me to become less stressed and focus on work. For those who have only experienced the space during Pub Nite, the transformation is quite distinct.
Anyway, during this week of odd eating habits I asked one of the waiters what she would recommend and she suggested a turkey burger. I was quite skeptical. The waiter sensed this skepticism and she assured me of the deliciousness of the burger. She was absolutely right. It was divine, a full meal, and inexpensive. Then came the sad day when it was Thursday and Paces Café was no longer open (and would not be again until Sunday) and I could not get real food on campus at midnight. At the time, my feelings toward Pub Nite were less than kind.
Sometime after the revelation of the wonderful turkey burger, which was one of their chef’s specials, I was talking with Mallory Pitser ’14, one of three directors of Paces Café, who told me that the chef specials at Paces are almost exclusively local and I learned that they all contain at least some local ingredients. Paces now gets much of their food from Winter Harvest, an organization which describes itself as “a buying club from which you can order locally produced food during the winter and spring months.” Paces bases the meals they cook for their specials from what is in season. “We’re lucky because we have chefs that are willing and able to cook that way,” says Pitser.
Next year, Paces Café is going to try to be even more local. They are hoping that their bakery specials will be able to be based off of what is seasonal, in addition to their chef’s specials. Pitser also seeks for Paces to have food from the Good Food project that they can use as ingredients for their dishes. Paces is striving to be able to find ways for people to go without paying in cash next semester. They are investigating using an iPhone app to process debit and credit cards and instituting a tab system where people can put down a certain amount of money up front and then spend it at their leisure in Paces over the course of the year. Any money not spent would be returned to the student.
Next week, Paces will be serving up specials like vegetarian shepherd’s pie and tuna corn chowder. Other past chef’s specials include a sun-dried tomato, feta and artichoke quiche, a tuscan tomato soup, and pear, honey and cheese crostinis.
I think that it would not be remiss for me to restate, or perhaps more clearly state, exactly how remarkable Paces is. Not only does Paces Café provide a wonderful atmosphere to hang out with friends and study, it also provides incredibly high quality local food akin to that of a restaurant in a venue that is centrally located on campus and often charges less than six dollars for its food.
Amelia is a first-year. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.