The University of Penn isn’t particularly well known for its culinary appeal. The general attitude of most of the student body seems to be apathy. The food isn’t horrible, and the dining halls are clean. Students eat and carry on their merry way to wax poetic about their comparative lit class or their rehearsal tonight. The truth is that there are so many places near campus to get food, so many off-campus options that sometimes (read: many, many times) the dining halls get overlooked for food carts and 40th street shops. These eateries are seen as the better option. Especially if a student is vegetarian, vegan, or gluten free, they tend to go searching outside of the dining halls for healthier options.
Well search no more, you crazy kids!
The new 1920 Commons may be the first and only renovation that will change your view on on-campus dining! If you haven’t visited it yet, make it a point to drop in some time. The changes are really nice and are very much geared toward a better overall dining experience.
Although the upstairs is much the same, the downstairs, UnderCommons, was gutted and revamped to the max with a bigger general store, a more open seating plan, more modern seating, and two brand new dining options!
Pizza Pie is a new pizza place with lots of great vegetarian toppings such as margarita pizza, spinach and feta, and vegetable medley. Their sauce seems to be homemade and their specials are so incredibly reasonable. A slice and a soda for only $3.14? It doesn’t get much sweeter than that.
Global Fusion, a new noodle place, kicks it into high gear with a serve-yourself vegetable bar, your choice of chicken/beef/fish/miso broth, lo mein, and udon noodles. It seems to be one of the healthiest meals they offer, and it’s quick and easy to grab if you’re in a rush.
There is also the ready-made, prepared foods section, in which you can buy sandwiches and salads pre-wrapped and packaged for your convenience. Everything is fairly reasonably priced, and can be paid for with cash, PennCash, bursar, or Dining Dollars.
But the most drastic change by far would have to be the new Starbucks. The entire Commons basement was turned into a large, comfortable seating area for Starbucks. Students can quietly share a hot tea and light conversation on one of the sofas or murmur half sentences to themselves over a Venti coffee and a particularly difficult calculus problem at a smaller table in the corner.
There is a new glass fireplace that is the centerpiece of an enclosed porch with big glass windows and brightly colored seats. It’s the perfect spot for a group meeting or, perhaps, even a casual first date with a special someone. The atmosphere is one of comfort and camaraderie; the openness of the entire floor plan makes everything so much more warm and welcoming. Additionally, this new Starbucks is open much later than the last (open until 2am Monday-Thursday and Sunday!), meaning that you can go and get that much needed caffeine fix if you’re burning the midnight oil.
All and all, I’d say that the new Commons is so worth a good visit whether or not you decide it’s someplace you want to frequent or not. Who knows? You may find yourself more enamored with this dining experience than you’d ever thought was possible here on campus. So walk away from the conveniently placed food truck and give a second glance to old 1920 Commons. It’s new, improved, and waiting for you to walk right through those doors!