Are you a foodie but worried about Swarthmore’s C+ (according to Niche) in campus food? I can relate. I was so nervous that I packed myself a mini fridge full of snacks in case I needed them to survive. However, most Swatties agree that the food is actually not bad, and is sometimes even great.
There are lots of options to explore and most of it will be covered by your dining plan (thanks to our cash-free campus). This tour will focus on all the things you can eat both on campus and near campus based on my experiences.
Stop #1: Sharples
Of course we need to start at the most central (dining) location on campus. Sharples is our one dining hall at Swarthmore. Yes, there is only one. However, this means you will always find someone to eat with. Sharples serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch on Sundays. There is a 30 day cycle of different meal options.
Sharples breakfast is probably where you get the least variety in the choices but some steady classics. Breakfast usually includes eggs, tofu scramble, breakfast meat, and a sweet treat like pancakes or waffles. The real star of the show (in my opinion) is the phoenix sandwich (eggs and cheese snuggled into a croissant). This sandwich is life changing. You can also get a fruit cup, baked goods (muffins, cinnamon rolls, etc.), bagels, and yogurt. I appreciate the fruit cup in order to enjoy a medley of fruit for breakfast. Plus, the bagels are new jersey resident approved. A lot of students miss out on Sharples breakfast because they sleep through the meal hours. The only day you cannot get breakfast in Sharples is Sunday when Sharples only serves brunch. Brunch is a hybrid of items from both the breakfast and lunch staples (and there is always biscuits and asparagus for some reason).
Lunch and dinner at Swarthmore have rotating bars of food. For example there is Indian bar, pasta bar, Cuban bar, and wing bar. Every student has their favorite (and least favorite). My favorite is Indian bar just for the naan. Each bar has both meat and plant based options for your main course as well as vegetables and usually something fried as a side. If those options don’t excite you, Sharples also has grill items there are better for pickier eaters. There is also always a salad bar with a daily signature salad and grill options to choose from which are reliable.
Dessert at Sharples takes the cake (quite literally) for best thing to eat on campus. The desserts rotate every lunch and dinner. Some highlights are oreo cheesecake, key lime pie, and strawberry shortcake.
A sleeper hit are often the vegan desserts which can be often better than the spotlighted dessert. Check out @RatingSharplesDessert on Instagram for some highlights and honest reviews. There is also ice cream every night (which sometimes I actually like to eat for breakfast because it is college after all).
New Sharples (Dining and Community Commons)
The Dining and Community Commons is currently being constructed to expand Sharples’ resources. New Sharples will have increased seating, more food choices, stations for individual meal prep , and extended hours. It is built with Swarthmore sustainability goals in mind, and will include a geothermal energy transfer plant. Construction should be complete by the 2023 school year. My favorite part of the design is the pizza oven inspired by the fire places in Sharples and (hopefully) produce yummy pizza.
Stop #2: Essie Mae’s
Essies is a grill style restaurant serving grab and go snacks, food from local restaurants, and grill items. Essies also offers breakfast such as omelets. Essies often has a lunch special which can help if your are running low in dinning dollars. From the grill you can get your greasy fix with mozzarella sticks, fries, or a swat-fila sandwich. The best part of Essies is the late night meal. After 8pm you can eat a Essies for the equivalent of a meal swipe. With this dinner you can get a grill item or the local food of the night paired with a drink and, to be honest some pretty mediocre snacks. However the ability to use a meal swipe outside of Sharples is just so magical that to even makes the on-par snacks taste amazing. I found myself eating at Essies almost every night for dinner because the sushi was too good to pass up. The late night meals are often popular among athletes whose practice may go until after Sharples closes.
Stop #3: Science Center Coffee Bar
The Sci Center Cafe is located in the Science Center, and has a barista, grab and go options, and sushi from a local restaurant. The access to so many coffee options is great. I personally would trek over to Science Center for a matcha latte to encourage myself to study. The grab and go items are Swarthmore standard with healthy snacks and some baked goods. The sushi sometimes gets hate, but, in all honesty, it is probably better than the food in Sharples. Science Center is probably best purely due to its convenient location.
Stop #4: Kohlberg Coffee Bar
Kohlberg is a cafe which is also a popular lunch spot. Kohlberg is where you can find local Indian food. These options always accolated both meat-lovers and plant-based eaters. Like sci, it is popular for its proximity to academic buildings on campus.
Stop #5: Crumb Cafe
The Crumb Cafe is a student ran establishment that provides late night meals and snacks. The food ranges from fries to avocado toast to milkshakes. Student chefs are always innovating to make the food appeal to Swarthmore students. The Crumb Cafe also includes a student art gallery and will host open mic events.
Stop #6: The Ville
The ville has lots of options to explore. A popular spot is the Dunkin Baskin Robbins combo. Another spot is Renato’s pizza which is standard Philadelphia-style pizza. There is also an Asian fusion restaurant, Bamboo Bistro, which is popular for sushi. There is also a few brunch places. A highlight is the Co-Op a small grocery store (think a tiny whole foods).If you like to cook, you can stock up at the Co-Op. The Co-Op also offers fresh hoagies and sushi. All of these places can be a part of you dining plan making eating in the Ville accessible to all students.
The Ville is great to change of pace from dining literally on campus but has the convience of being so close to all buildings on campus.
Farmers Market/Food Truck Night
The town of Swarthmore holds a farmers market every Saturday in the Ville. Sometimes you can actually use your meal points here, but for a fresh fruit and pastry fanatic, it so exciting regardless. Some notable vendors include: Shane’s Candies and Franklin Fountain, Beechwood orchards and Vera pastas
The town will also host food truck nights which are popular.
Stop #7: Media
Media is a 10 minute drive away from Swarthmore which can be feasible by Shuttle. Shuttles run on weekends. In Media some highlights are Trader Joes, tons of brunch places, Dim Sum, and Swarthmore students’ favorite, Bubble tea.
Stop #8: Tri-Co
If we were basing this article on Niche reviews alone (which hopefully you now understand is not always the case) Haverford and Bryn Mawr have comparatively better food with Haverford scoring a B- and Bryn Mawr receiving an A in campus food. Your dining plan extends to the other 2 colleges, and you can get a voucher to dine at any of their dining halls. This is a great way to have a change of pace without spending money out of pocket.
Haverford has one main dining hall called the Dining Center. There are similar options to Sharples, but you can check out their daily menu if you are curious.
Bryn Mawr has 2 dining hall which are known for their yummy bunch and famous soups. People call going to dinner at Bryn Mawr for the food a “Bryn Din”. Sure it is a shuttle ride away, but it can be a fun activity.
Stop #9: Philadelphia
As one of the nations largest cities, Philadelphia has an abundance of food to try out. You can take the SEPTA into the city for under 10 dollars, and it takes under 30 minutes. You can itch the craving for any type of cuisine in Philadelphia with a diverse array of options. You can also treat yourself to a fancy meal you could not get on campus. If you want to experience Philadelphia culture: try a cheesesteak, water ice, soft pretzel, or Scrapple.
Pro tip: Try to win the Swarthmore train ticket lottery so that your ticket is covered, and you can spend all your money on good eats.
Stop #10: Dorm Kitchens
Every dorm at Swarthmore is equipped with a full functioning kitchen (granted, not all are built equal). For most underclassman this is in the style of a communal kitchen shared amongst your whole dorm. However, there is not usually a problem getting space to cook with friends. During my freshman fall, I made sweet potatoes, cookies, and ramen with friends.
If you are an upperclassman living in NPPR, you will have access to a kitchen to share with your suitemates, and you can even change your meal plan to get mote points to use in the Co-OP for groceries.
Honorable Dining Mentions:
Door Dash/Uber Eats: Get you fast food fix through delivery
King Of Prussia Mall: Take the shuttle there, and try lots of sit down dining options
Vending Machines: Every dorm has one, if you are craving a snack at 2 am
Wawa: A bit more off campus, but a PA staple
Campus events: Most campus events will evolve food, so you can fiend off of them to get some better quality in your eats