First-Years, Let Me Orient You (Toward Good Food)

First-years, there are two things you should be aware of by now: one, food is awesome; and two, you have a lot to learn. 

The former is obvious, so let’s discuss your oblivion. For whatever reason, the Pomona College Office of Campus Life (OCL) is mortally afraid of the idea of ignorant 18-year-olds jaunting onto campus and disturbing its life, which is presumably why they decided to have Orientation cover every imaginable topic. Next year, they’re going to have a forum on the merits of walking versus crawling.

But seriously, orientation is important: It minimizes any possible damage that can stem from first-year ignorance, where “damage” generally means things like participating in sponcest (do not ignore this one), not knowing how to deal with naked sponsors (they took care of that right away), or fearing that not enough of our tuition money is going toward ice cream socials (you will never need to worry about that).

What I’m trying to get at here is that I have to teach you about food and college. To do this, I’m going to compare local restaurants to some of the 5C’s greatest, most profound stereotypes. Have you ever been at a restaurant and thought, “This restaurant fits this 5C stereotype perfectly?” Me neither. But let’s make this work. Like all stereotypes, these can be grossly false, and, like all stereotypes, they are possibly very true. 

Pomona:  “We’re awesome. And everyone else isn’t.”

The Back Abbey is considered one of the best spots in Claremont, and I’m convinced it’s mostly because its management feels, deep down in its fake Belgian heart, that it offers a Michelin three-star burger. It’s also expensive in the way that only restaurants situated in retirement communities can be. The Back Abbey charges $13 for a burger, and then it has the pretention to charge $8 more for fries. This is roughly equivalent to Pomona charging $40,000 for tuition and $10,000 more for room and board.  The best alternative is Eureka!Burger, Claremont’s other expensive burger spot. But its burgers, at least, are $12—and they come with fries. 

Harvey Mudd College: “We know how to design a backseat, but we don’t know how to use it.”

Mudders have a way of being incredibly competent at things they logically should not be good at, like throwing parties. Who would’ve thought engineering and party-throwing involve the same part of the brain? And who would’ve thought Royal Panda serves good Chinese food? Royal Panda looks like a typical American-Chinese buffet, but it actually has a decent Taiwanese chef hiding in the back. To get him to make you something authentic, ask one of the employees at the front for the secret menu and prepare yourself for a “Why does this American want to order real Chinese food?” look.

Pitzer College: “Gary Johnson has some really good ideas.”

Loving Hut is Claremont’s local vegan joint, which means it has all sorts of interesting creations—and Pitzer students are nothing if not interesting creations. Loving Hut even serves avocado milkshakes, but they cover the avocado flavor with banana, because they realized that avocado milkshakes are not very good.

Claremont McKenna College: “I’m looking for a keg and an internship.”

Mix Bowl is the CMC of restaurants: It’s impossible to be sober and enjoy it. Mix Bowl is Claremont’s resident “We have bad food, but we deliver late!” Thai restaurant. Go for Sanamluang’s pad see ew ($6.50) instead. I should admit that my sister went to CMC, so at least 80 percent of my CMC insults are (perhaps) unnecessarily harsh because of a heated sibling rivalry (that I’m winning). 

Snack: “Does finishing my homework really matter?”

Where’s the best place to grab a snack in Claremont when you know you should be reading for your microeconomics class but don’t want to because you know the subject is microeconomics? I’d go for Saca’s falafels. Saca’s is near South Campus, it’s cheap and it tastes good. Best of all, it will give you a break from Frank, which you will learn is very important for one’s sanity.

Pub: “I regret doing this.”

I’m going to risk the wrath of California (and any potential fan base) and just go ahead and say that In-N-Out is bad. Period. 1) Secret menus can be cool (like Royal Panda’s), but In-N-Out’s isn’t. 2) Five Guys is better by a significant amount. 3) I’ve never gone to In-N-Out and felt good about that decision afterwards. Unfortunately, the same can be said of Pub. 

Your first year: “I gained 15 pounds… and it was awesome.”

The best way to take advantage of your recently discovered independence is to go out to eat way too much. 

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