As productive and responsible members of this esteemed community, we have taken it upon ourselves to review an integral part of the Swarthmore experience that binds us all together: Pasta Bar.
Like any legitimate food critics would do, we must start with the ambiance that inhabits Sharples. Sharples serves as a longstanding institution students have become accustomed to for meals with just enough uncertainty to make eating there feel like a new adventure each day. Though some might say Sharples takes the spice out of life while fulfilling a mundane necessity of a well-balanced Swarthmorean diet, we think the contrary. Whether you’re ready to register to vote, sit in a comfy chair while waiting for a friend, or realize that your friend is already downstairs and walk around the whole dining hall twice just to find them, Sharples provides a great dining option for you.
Once you’ve entered Sharples, like any other sit down place, a choice about seating must be made. As something that can severely alter the dining experience, it’s a huge plus to be able to choose where you sit. This freedom is more exciting than “picking” your sophomore year dorm.
In Sharples, having four unique sections to choose from, all adorned with an equal distribution of stickiness, creates a “choose your own adventure” culinary experience that is guaranteed to bind students in solidarity. Just ran out of points and need to eat away the disappointment? With just the right amount of luck, there’s a booth for you. Want a nice place to study or make people think you’re in a relationship with someone? Take them to the date table to confuse all your friends. Need a quieter place to doubt your career prospects? The quiet section is a perfect location. Coffee is conveniently close to keep you going.
While in New York, not only did I(Kwate) have to spend time asking friends for food recommendations, but I also had to spend an extraordinary amount of time navigating with Google Maps. Once I had arrived at the place that was supposed to have great Korean fried chicken, I awkwardly waited outside, trying to find the place. Unknown to me, and unlike the familiar entrance to Sharples, I had to go up a flight of stairs to get to this restaurant, which I didn’t realize until I saw two men walk down from the staircase with to go containers in their hands.
Once you’ve chosen a place to sit, you have the novelty of choosing your own tray. Choices range from plain trays to beautifully sharpied trays with art from students, all covered in varying amounts of water depending on how recently they had been cleaned. With tray in hand, it’s time to get some pasta.
Unlike conventional eateries, Sharples flips the process of acquiring food on its head. Rather than someone serving you food, pasta bar liberates the customer to be their own person. They refuse to make assumptions about what and how much you eat.
The service, much like the pasta, is quite exceptional. If you are talkative and become a regular, Pat will serve you with banter equally as good, if not better, than the meatballs.
When it comes to the menu, Pasta Bar guarantees some flare to your Wednesday or Sunday simply by changing what kind of sauce is provided. You’re never sure if you’ll be having whole wheat pasta with just marinara or our new favorite, meat sauce with mushrooms. Not to be forgotten is the chef’s weekly signature pasta toss, surely a Pasta Bar mainstay.
The full experience is really enhanced by the beverage options available. Staying hydrated is key to experiencing the full Pasta Bar flavor profile. There are more than 15 options for drinks not including the countless possibilities available when you mix and match. Not only do you have such a bounty of options, but you are also only restricted by the amount of cups you’re willing to carry on your tray or go back for. Personally, we would recommend a 3:2 ratio of lemonade and Sprite to pair with the whole wheat pasta topped with the meat and mushroom sauce.
Finally, the pasta. We find that the whole wheat pasta with meat sauce and mushroom to be a surprising delight. While most meat sauce and pasta combinations prove to be quite heavy on the stomach, this entree provided a hearty, yet not overpowering depth of flavor. The mushrooms provided an additional savory note that countered the natural acidity of the tomato sauce. As for the near-iconic pasta toss, the array of colorful veggies like peppers, tomato, and eggplant provided a much needed respite from our ongoing carbicide. However, the normally reliable pasta toss proved to be a bit too oily and underseasoned for our taste. Perhaps a pinch of garlic salt and some other spices could have remedied an otherwise solid entree.
In all though, Pasta Bar proved to be a satisfying and hearty meal to end the week on. It was the perfect mix of safety and adventure, perfectly tossed together as pasta should be.