Category Archives: Food Fiends

Penn Club of San Diego Goes South of the Border for Street Eats

By B. Bea Rajsombath, C’99, club president

There are a lot of great things about living in sunny San Diego, including over 70 miles of beautiful coastline, the nice Mediterranean climate, pockets of diverse neighborhoods with their own vibe, mountains or beaches within miles of each other, great restaurants and bars, its proximity to Tijuana, and so much more.

The Penn Club of San Diego works on creating events and activities that feature the neighborhood gems and life in San Diego; events any of our alumni can appreciate, whether they recently moved here or are returning natives.

In November 2013, the Club joined Turista Libre for a wine tour in Valle de Guadalupe. Based on that successful and fun adventure, we had requests to organize another event south of the border. As Turista Libre (TL) focuses on organizing tours highlighting the local aspects of Tijuana and surrounding areas, we worked with them to deliver another event for our alumni. Passports in hand on March 22, Penn alumni and friends met up with TL at San Ysidro, the last US stop before reaching Mexico, about 15 miles south of San Diego. We were joined by a few other TL guests to walk across the border to board a small school bus operated by TL to start our adventure tour: TJ Street Eats.

Penn Alumni and friends

Penn Alumni and friends

We started our day with a birria taco from a busy food truck stationed on a non-descript street by a Staples. It was simple, yet bursting with flavor. A cheese quesadilla was offered to our vegetarian guests. The tacos were so delicious most of us wanted more, but we were advised by TL to limit ourselves to the one because we had a number of stops to make. A few of us couldn’t hold out though and had to try a second taco.

A birria taco

A birria taco

Our second stop was at Kokopelli’s food truck, for black Harder ceviche de lenguado tostada. Our vegetarian guests feasted on grilled Portobello mushroom tacos. At this point, more guests were losing their willpower to hold off on just one item and explored some other offerings from Kokopelli’s. A few also ventured to try a seemingly, innocent pink-colored salsa…and suffered through the burning from a habanero-beet mixture. TL also offered up some Tecate beer for refreshments before we headed to our third stop.

A tostada

A tostada

Before we reached Tio Pepe, a wonderful bottle of tequila was shared. Some of us are still searching for the bottle on this side of the border. Tio Pepe is a neighborhood gem with plastic tables and chairs, friendly staff and a bustling lunch crowd. I would love to go back…if I can find my way there! Here, we sat down to enjoy Guadalajara-style torta ahogadas, a few rounds of Corona and some ventured off to order additional tacos. I don’t know where they found room.

Torta Ahogada

Torta Ahogada

After indulging ourselves, we still had two more stops! The next was at Tepoznieves, an artisan ice cream parlor with more than 100 flavors. Unfortunately, I was too busy sampling the flavors and enjoying my selection of three small scoops to capture any photos to share. On the way to our last stop, another bottle of tequila was brought you to be shared. Finally, we made it to Baja Craft Beers for a sampling of house brews. We essentially had the place to ourselves so early in the afternoon. The brewery had great space and a long list of local and international beers available.

Baja Craft Brewery

Baja Craft Brewery

Alas, our great little adventure came to an end by 5pm and TL returned us to the border to make our way back across to the US. We definitely enjoyed our TJ Street Eats tour and working with Turista Libre again. We already have requests to repeat both the wine tour and the TJ Street eats.

The Penn Club of San Diego and Turista Libre

The Penn Club of San Diego and Turista Libre

These are just a few of the activities and events the Penn Club of San Diego organizes for local alumni in the greater San Diego area. If you are interested in learning about these and other events, please contact us via email, join our email listserv, like our Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter.

Our next event is a yPenn Happy Hour on July 10th. We hope to see you there!



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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Clubs, Food Fiends, GAN, Guest blogger, Penn Clubs, Photos

A Different Kind of Study Break

Author: Carolyn Grace, C’16

In case you haven’t heard yet, Quakers, Finals Season is in full swing.  This explains why I haven’t posted recently, but with 1 final and 2 papers already completed I am back in the blogging game!

I am sure many of you remember from your college days the various “study breaks” offered by different college houses and groups at Penn.  Anything for free coffee and muffins, right?  This year, however, I had the pleasure of taking a study break that was a bit more, well, unconventional.

Planning the College Christmas Party is a delicate art.  It’s more than just ugly sweaters.  One needs the perfect amount of hors d’oeuvres and refreshments, one or two competitive games, and of course a rockin’ holiday playlist.  Fortunately, the lovely ladies in Harnwell Room 1712 are experts at throwing the ultimate College Christmas Party.

Alexa, Leah, Katie, and Nina have been some of my closest friends at Penn since my pre-orientation program and NSO.  Last year, they planned an awesome Christmas party from Alexa’s tiny single in the Quad, and luckily they had a bit more to work with this year in their apartment.   Leah baked mini quiches, Nina made latkes, Alexa and Katie ran the Post-It Note game and Christmas Bingo, and I had the honor of making the playlist.

Again, the festivities were a success!  Not only because of food, games, and music, but more so because of the company.  It’s very easy to get caught up in the gloom and doom of finals season.  I can feel bogged down by the papers and the exams, of course.  But one evening with friends is enough to remind me that I’m not in this alone.  We all have crazy amounts of work, but we also have each other as study buddies or necessary distractions.  Academics are an integral part of life at Penn.  I’d like to argue, however, that friendships are just as – if not more – important.

Happy Holidays from Harnwell 1712!

Happy Holidays from Harnwell 1712!

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Filed under Campus Life, Carolyn G., Events, Food Fiends, Photos, Student Perspective, Video, Videos

Favorite Dining Options on Campus

Author: Lillian Gardiner, GEd’11


It’s taken me well over 2 years on campus to get a grip on all the yummy food offerings. So why don’t I save you the trouble and offer some of my tried-and-true favorites:

1. Joe’s Café, Steinberg-Dietrich. You may not find this on your own, but it’s a beautiful, well-lit space to have lunch inside. They offer sandwiches, soups, & salads, and a lot of healthy snacks like yogurt, hummus, and protein bars.

2. 1920 Common’s: Just past the bridge coming from Locust Walk. Featuring a recently renovated Starbucks, a gourmet grocery store, and a LOT of hot food options. If you have a sweet tooth, I’d poke around here.


3. Farmer’s market! Wednesdays during the spring and summer in front of the bookstore. It’s hard to miss, but you should make a point of getting some fruit, fresh baked bread, and a Popsicle from the Lil’Pop Shop stand.


4. Finally, food trucks. I’ll just list my favorites and you can look them up. Try Twitter for their locations and FB/websites for details: Delicias, Kim’s Oriental, Tyson Bees, Cucina Zapata, Lil’Dan’s, Pitruco.

Happy dining!

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Campus Life, Food Fiends, Lillian G.


Author: Dan Bernick, C’14

College students get hungry.  We eat often and at odd hours of the day.  Fortunately, Penn makes eating on campus both healthy and delicious.

To wit: the new 1920 Commons.

The dining hall is my favorite place to eat, because it is easy to pick what I want and is also a great place to meet friends. The top floor is a dining hall, and, this summer, they spruced the space up even more with brighter colors and comfier chairs.  The middle floor feels like a different building entirely; full of open spaces for congregating and eating.  The Gourmet Grocer has organic selections, and Fresh on the Walk offers make-your-own food for the health-conscious student. New this year, the Global Fusion and a pizza pie shop serves affordable, fresh, and delicious options for students.

The bottom floor is a scene out of a movie.  The largest Starbucks in University City – and it’s open until 2:00 AM for is night owls – is a great place to meet up or do homework.  Student groups can also reserve rooms, and the lounge area features a glass fireplace perfect for cold winter nights. The patio outside – complete with seating and a grill, and wired for student groups to perform live music – is the ideal location for a Red and Blue Barbecue!

It’s (ful)filling to be back at Penn. Quakers, eat your heart out!

UA members and the Penn Dining Team with Penn President, Amy Gutmann.
(Credit: Penn Hospitality Services)

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Filed under Daniel B., Food Fiends, Student Perspective

Magic Carpet Food Truck at SAP’s Summer Picnic

Author: Stephanie Yee, C’08

Magic Carpet is one of my favorite food trucks on Penn’s campus, so I was beyond excited when I saw it at SAP’s 40th Anniversary Newtown Square Summer Picnic. Really, I was giddy. I had no idea they did catering and special events.

The theme of the picnic was “Gourmet Food Trucks,” so Magic Carpet was not the only truck there. There were two other Philadelphia-based food trucks parked next to Magic Carpet, but I didn’t even bother looking at the other menus. Magic Carpet was there, so obviously I was eating there. It always seems like a life-and-death situation when I am trying to choose only one item from their expansive menu, so luckily, they had a limited menu for the SAP picnic. We ordered one Magic Meatball sandwich (tofu meatballs with red sauce, cheese, and salad) and one Sloppy Jason sandwich (veggie chili with cheese and salad). As they were making the sandwiches, I told them how excited I was to see them at the picnic because I frequent their truck at 36th and Spruce. Really, I was gushing. The sandwiches were delicious, and it was great seeing a part of Penn’s community 13 miles away from Penn’s campus.

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Campus Life, Food Fiends, Stephanie Y.

Smoothie Criminal

Author: Drew Feith-Tye Asia, C’09

Greetings from Sweeten!

This is my first blog post EVER (cue the new girl) and I’m quite excited to be contributing to this already-awesome forum of all things PENN. Graduating in 2009, my dear alma mater has never been far from my heart (or my mind), so I am pleased as punch to have some space to articulate my unwavering love and admiration for my old student (and current professional) stomping grounds.

I think we’ll keep this one short and see where the next post leads. It’s been a while since I’ve had a writing assignment (I was a creative writing minor and took tons of prose and poetry courses back in the day – which is not so far back but I feel SO OLD sometimes when I walk up Locust Walk in the morning with my little thermo-regulated polka-dotted lunch box and loafers instead of my backpack and sneakers).

So, let’s see. I have millions of memories from my days at Penn – incredible friends who I couldn’t live without, professors who inspired me, scenery that took my breath away, and meeting my husband (the best of all). But, aside from all of these major moments, one in particular stands out right now:

The Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Protein Shake at Pottruck. That thing was utterly epic in its thick, creamy, unabashed deliciousness.

Hankering for the recipe? Do it to it, Lars (Heavyweights, anyone?):

Three scoops chocolate protein powder (also known as whey – as in “curds and”)

Two parts banana (b-a-n-a-n-a-s!)

One heaping spoonful of peanut butter (I prefer the chunk, you?)

A hearty splash of skim milk (because, obviously, we’re keepin’ things light)

Blend and serve. In a MASSIVE cup. Liiiiiiike THIS:

This beverage  is the kind of thing where you know you shouldn’t do it, and you’re pretty positive it’s going ruin every calorie of your last uber-aggressive elliptical journey up and down that steep red-light beeping hill (it’s always harder on the way down, isn’t it?), but despite it all you JUST. CANNOT. RESIST. By the end of my senior year, I didn’t even pretend I was going there to work out – I just popped in and headed straight for the Energy Zone (no pass go, no 10# arm curls).

Sure, call me an addict – because that would be a perfectly appropriate description of my relationship with this substantially large cup of heaven-sent sweetness. But. BUT. My obsession did teach me an unforgettable lesson.

That, despite wanting something (whether or not it’s liquid gold), it’s very important to ask: “Is this going to be good for my nutrition, and my long-time health goals?”

And then, of course, truly “whey” your options.


No, but really, I learned after a not-so-long while that drinking this frequently was aiding in my ballooning, so I cut back. Eventually I cut it out all together. Now, nearly four years since my days at Penn, I belong to Crossfit Center City, where I do Olympic-style lifting, double unders, burpees (they sound gross, and they are, but not in a digestive sort of way), and I steer clear of sugar. And gluten. And peanuts. Which means no more liquid gold. Does this seem boring? Maybe. But I’ve learned to control myself and, although I’ve had my rough moments, I haven’t thought about that smoothie in years.

Until earlier today when some girl walked out of Pottruck with very little to no sweat on her brow, and one massive cup in her hand, sipping and savoring every plentiful ounce.

Thank you, random student, for inspiring this post, and, in many ways, my newer-found approach to fitness.

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Drew A., Food Fiends

I Remember…BYOBs

Author: Elizabeth Kimmelman-Schwartz, C’04

When I was a college student, I loved going to BYOBs in Philadelphia.  In fact, one summer when I stayed at Penn, two of my girl friends and I would go to a different BYOB every Thursday night and we would bring a bottle (or three) of the finest White Zin that the State Store had to offer.  By the end of the summer we had conducted what we considered to be a thorough taste test on all the White Zins in the liquor store and concluded that Gallo was the best.  Just FYI.

I tried almost all of the affordable BYOBs in the city when I was at Penn and I loved them.  Cheap food, good company, the ability to drink wine no matter what our IDs said*, and it got my friends and I out and exploring downtown Philly.  We loved a lot of the small Italian ones and our particular favorite was a Mexican spot that was “BYOT – Bring Your Own Tequila.” We’d always go out to a BYOB with a large group before sorority formals.  My senior year, the Greek Honor Society that I was a part of took over a downtown BYOB for our end of year dinner. Every table had it’s own box of Franzia!  (Who says Penn students aren’t classy?)

I have such wonderful memories of all of these BYOBs, and I was so excited to move back to Philly in 2007 and go to all of them again.  I soon found out that BYOBs are like a lot of college things that seem charming and fun when you are there – things like dorm rooms, sharing bathrooms, having your normal bedtime be 2 AM – that turn out to be horrible ideas in the real world.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say my memories have been tarnished, but I will say that they have suffered.

So, that Mexican BYOT place?  I last ate there in May 2009.  The food and company was great, fun times were had, although my friends and I were the oldest people there by at least five years.  I thought all was good.  Until my friend wound up in the hospital with a horrible stomach bacteria.  People had to wear hazmat suits to visit her!  When she told them where she had eaten the doctors and nurses said they were not surprised and that they see a lot of cases of this after people eat at this restaurant.  I sadly crossed that one off of my list.

Next up, those little Italian charmers.  The last time I went to one of my favorite BYOB brick oven pizza places from college, there was a sign at the entrance stating, “Bottles of wine are limited to one for every two people.”  I read this in a panic as I clutched my box of wine, waiting for two of my friends to show up (judge away, but some boxed wine really isn’t bad and it lasts longer).  I spoke to the owner and told him, “I’m really sorry but I didn’t know about this policy.  If you’d like, I can ask my friends to bring bottles instead.”  He looked at me and kindly said, “Oh, ma’am, that isn’t directed to you.  That’s directed to the crazy students who come in here.” Color me old, and appalled.

Finally, my FAVORITE Italian place from undergrad is about two blocks away from where I live now.  I was so excited to have this be my neighborhood place – you know, that spot you and your husband go to when you are out of dinner ideas or want a quick and easy date night and where the owners know you by name and greet you warmly whenever you come in. What did I find there? Fast and borderline rude service, along with big, rowdy, loud groups of Penn students. As my husband glared at them for ruining our romantic date night, I said, both proud and ashamed, “You know, that used to be me and my friends.” We have since found another neighborhood Italian spot, one that the Penn students haven’t overrun…yet.

So, yes, my Penn go-to BYOBs are now a thing of my recent past, but I do have to give a shout out in general to the BYOB culture of Philadelphia. First, now that I am a “grown up”, I’ve found other, classier BYOBs here that I love going to. I’ve had some of the best meals of my life at BYOBs.  A great BYOB is a must-eat-at destination spot for any out of town visitor.  And, I’m happy to live in a place that has something for everyone, from your loud Penn student to your almost-thirty something married couple looking for a nice date night spot.

*The former lawyer in me would like to point out three things.  One, I do not condone underage drinking. Two, I do not admit to underage drinking in this post. Three, I will not list any of these BYOBs by name so that today’s Penn students can still enjoy them.

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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Campus Life, Elizabeth K., Food Fiends, Memories of Penn

Sweeten Fifteen

Author: Leigh Ann P. and Aimee L.

It’s that time of year again!  That time when you say, “I can’t work out on the elliptical machine today because I ate too many cupcakes.  And I brought some cupcakes home so I’m going to eat more cupcakes.”  Or, “It’s too cold to walk the one block to the gym.  I’m going to drink some eggnog instead.”  Or, “I’m not going to have my usual Houston Hall salad for lunch since there is a giant pile of cookies, cakes and tortilla chips right behind my desk.”

You probably already experienced the Freshman Fifteen in college.  This is what causes the Sweeten Fifteen.

This is the culture of Sweeten during December and it doesn’t change much throughout the year.  There is a constant influx of food infiltrating our 2nd floor counter – an endless barrage of party leftovers and gifts from kind, generous, good-looking alumni – and it ultimately ends up on our collective spare tires (but, so worth it, kind and generous alumni!).  It is a mere three feet away from our desks, and it catches our eyes, destroys any shred of willpower we have, and asks us to stop staring and just give in.  We’re still a couple of months away from our annual exercise competition (which Emily S. and Cecilia R. smoked in 2011), and if you are anything like us – you know, normal(ish) – you are probably experiencing a similar struggle with holiday eating, so we put our heads together and came up with a few exercises you can do in the office during a break to ward off that extra holiday poundage!

*Disclaimer: The illustrations below are a rendering of Leigh Ann P. and Leigh Ann P. only.  Any resemblance to any other person living or dead is merely coincidental.  Unless that person is Kate Middleton, in which case, wow, THANK YOU!

Try sitting on a large exercise ball instead of a regular office chair!  This is fantastic for your core.  Leigh Ann P. tried this at work a few years ago and the ball put her just slightly too low for her desk.  But – if you have an extremely long torso, this may be just the solution for you!

You could simultaneously balance a common office supply, such as a stapler, on your head while walking backwards up and down your office stairs.  Jillian Michaels would be so proud of you for multitasking with your different muscle groups.  What could possibly go wrong?

Marge T. suggested dropping a box of paper clips on the floor and forcing yourself to pick them up one by one.

What do you do to stay in shape during the holidays?  Do you have any other office-related workout suggestions?  Let us know in the comments!


Filed under Aimee L., Food Fiends, Leigh Ann P., The Sweeten Life

Food Justice

Author: Lisa Marie Patzer

For Thanksgiving, I made my annual trek back to Colorado to visit family and friends.  This is one of my favorite holidays because my brother-in-law, a bona fide “foodie,” makes the Thanksgiving meal a true event.  This year, he made hand braised bananas, mushroom stuffed onions, organic turkey, two different kinds of homemade cranberries, pecan, walnut and apple pie; the list of food goes on and on.

Braised Bananas

And he is very particular about the ingredients, making sure everything is fresh, locally grown and when possible, organic.  My two nieces and nephew are developing not only a refined palette for well-prepared food; they are learning the importance of food selection and preparation.  Maggie, my 13-year-old niece, illustrated her awareness of food politics when she labeled the recent legislation passed by congress making pizza a vegetable “doublespeak.”

This family education about food is somewhat atypical, especially in neighborhoods where access to affordable, locally grown, organic food is limited.  Three representatives from the Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative (UNI), a program of University of Pennsylvania’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships, recently spoke about the issue of Food Justice on The Green Hour, a radio program about health and environment.

Kristin Schwab, Youth Development Director, Matthew Johnson (19), Youth leader and alumnus, and Tiara Parker (16), Nutrition Educator, spoke about the Youth Development Program at UNI.  Matthew, now an alumnus of the Youth Development Program, first joined UNI as part of a gardening crew.  The gardening crew learns how to grow fruits and vegetables, harvest what they grow and teach others about urban gardening.  Tiara, currently a member of the cooking crew at University High School, interns as a nutrition educator, teaching healthy habits and inspiring people to get excited about cooking.  Tiara explained the Think AHEAD model. The acronym reminds people to choose foods which are affordable, healthy, easy, accessible, and delicious.

Based in West Philadelphia at W.L. Sayre and University City High Schools, the UNI Youth Development program provides paid internships to approximately 60 high school students during the school year and 100 students during the summer. UNI empowers teen interns to explore and identify solutions to the problem of urban American health disparities via their placement in either peer nutrition education or urban agriculture work sites.

By teaching healthy cooking classes, tending school gardens, and operating local farmer’s markets, UNI interns enrich their local neighborhoods, increase access to healthy food, and improve community and school health while building their leadership capacity and developing academic and job-related skills.

Additionally, interns involved in UNI’s Youth Development program play a lead role in advancing youth-led solutions to improving community food systems through participation in multiple regional and national networks and conferences.

In July of 2011, Matthew attended “Rooted in Community,” a 4 day conference of young people from various organizations.  Ty Holmberg, Bartram’s community Farm and Food Resource Center Director for UNI, helped organize the event.  He was quoted as describing the event as, “it’s a summit of youth from around the nation that have come to fight for food justice and have come as a network of young people to really change their food systems.  Not just in their community but nationally.”  One of the outcomes of the conference was the Youth Food Bill of Rights.

Youth Food Bill of Rights

As I prepare for my next holiday meal, I am going to use the UNI Think AHEAD Model to inspire my food choices.

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Filed under Food Fiends, Lisa Marie Patzer, Philadelphia, Sustainability at Penn, Uncategorized, Volunteering

I Remember…Freshgrocer

Author: Elizabeth Kimmelman, C’04

I know, I know.  This one seems kind of obvious.  I went to Whole Foods last weekend to get some produce and I certainly remember that.  Going to a supermarket is not a big event, right?

WRONG.  Unless you are a recent graduate of Penn and therefore think your campus always came with a convenient well-stocked (at times) grocery store, you know what I mean when I say that the arrival of Freshgrocer was an event worthy of a blog post.  When I was a freshman, Penn had no supermarket.  There was Wawa, and there was a sketchy Thriftway on somewhere around 43rd Street.  I never actually found out exactly where it was because I was too scared to go.  One of my friends went there with her parents during orientation week so she could stock up on Easy Mac and Elios pizza and I think it took all they had to not throw her in the car with them and take her back to North Carolina.

Since Thriftway was out, Wawa was my only option when it came to groceries.  I remember going there for my milk and cereal and pints of Ben and Jerry’s (freshman fifteen alert!) and then I’d supplement with the fruit food truck for some fresh produce.  Granted, an 18-year-old’s diet doesn’t require much more than that, but I didn’t have a choice in the matter.  One time I asked my best friend to bring me some fruit.  It was during Passover, I was sick and I really couldn’t eat much.  The fruit truck line was too long (so she claims), so her only other option was bringing me fruit jelly slices that her parents had given her to eat as a treat during Passover.  My poor swollen tonsils just couldn’t handle it.  Penn needed a supermarket, and fast.

Luckily, with about a week left to go freshman year, our prayers were answered.  Freshgrocer opened at 40th and Walnut and I swear I had tears in my eyes and heard angels singing as I stared up at that glistening building.  It was a miracle, like every Penn student’s collective wish coming true.

My best friend (of fruit slice fame), another friend and I were done with our finals early and decided we needed to celebrate the new supermarket.  So, we went to Freshgrocer and pretty much bought everything we could on our student budgets.  I mainly remember buying a giant baguette, tons of cheese and grapes.  We had a picnic in the quad and were so happy!  Freshgrocer led to other happy times, like visits to their candy wall during finals studying and before movies, late night food runs, and dinners of their surprisingly yummy hoagies.  That supermarket meant so much to us, because we knew what it meant to be at Penn without it.  And, despite some shutdowns because of rodent problems, ridiculously long checkout lines and a layout that was nearly impossible to navigate, we loved that store.

Looking back, Freshgrocer was only the beginning of a 40th street expansion that continued long after I graduated.  There are now things like Bobby’s Burger Palace, Capogiro gelato, one of the prettiest CVS stores I’ve ever seen, Jimmy John’s, etc. lining Walnut Street between 39th and 40th.  Izzy and Zoe’s might be gone (I really don’t know how the students are surviving without their brunches) but the expanded Greek Lady almost makes up for that.  Don’t worry, Smokes is still standing strong.  But, there’s no doubt campus has changed, and definitely for the better.  To think, my classmates and I were there when it started, standing in a checkout line for 15 minutes waiting to buy some cheese!


Filed under Alumni Perspective, Campus Life, Elizabeth K., Food Fiends, Memories of Penn