I never could have believed that I would have this thought, but here it is: I almost miss campus dining. Well, I miss not having to make my own food. Having spent the past two summers at Vassar with no meal plan, my options were either to cook for myself like a mature human being, or spend copious amounts of money at the various restaurants near school.
Since I have now eaten at nearly every single restaurant within reasonable walking distance of campus, I think my choice was fairly obvious. While I did spend far too much money eating out, I cannot say I regret getting to sample all of the different dining choices that I would never have done during the school year.
Two years of intense dining out, trying foods both good and bad, may have left a hole in my wallet and a longing in my heart, but I like to think that my experience can be used for good. What I could have used as a freshman was an off-campus dining guide, and this distilled list of three prime off campus eateries can serve as just that.
Early in my freshman year, I was deeply skeptical about the place that would become one of my favorite restaurants, Twisted Soul. I had no basis for this skepticism, merely an adamantly held belief that it would not be particularly good.
Thankfully, I was proven incredibly wrong. Twisted Soul became one of my go-to choices for off-campus dining options the first time I decided to change it up and grabbed a few of their Argentinian empanadas between classes one Tasty Tuesday. Tasty Tuesday, when nearby restaurants congregate in the college center to sell food to harried students, is both a highlight of my week and the dread of any professors that have me and my usual gyro and bubble tea combo for a Tuesday class.
Run by a Culinary Institute graduate, Twisted Soul offers a fusion of traditional Argentinian food and entirely new takes on foods from across the globe. At Twisted Soul dishes like lamb and portobello pot stickers are just as viable an option as macaroni and cheese, and this is one of the reasons Twisted Soul is so special.
But while the food is fantastic, the thing always brings me back to Twisted Soul is the drinks. On the back menu is an exhaustive list of all the flavors of bubble tea, smoothies and lemonades that Twisted Soul has to offer. I have made it my personal mission to try every flavor of bubble tea they have, but the allure of their top-notch lavender lemonade has impeded that plan. Their lavender lemonade with basil seeds is a prime example of how this restaurant takes a food concept and twists it into something entirely new. I get mine with black Sago tapioca pearls added to it for an extra treat.
However, Twisted Soul is not perfect; depending on the day, the time between ordering and receiving the food can be lengthy, and their menu could do with an expansion. Some of their portion sizes are also a bit small for my preference and the price, but it is not a huge detriment to the overall appeal. While I wouldn’t say it is a place to bring family for a fancy dinner, it is a good place to go with a few friends when the Deece holds no appeal and the need to get away from campus life grows too strong.
Another one of my favorite off-campus eateries is a bit more appropriate for a nice dinner with family: Baby Cakes. Baby Cakes is a French-inspired cafe just off campus that does a killer brunch and has some superb desserts.
The location itself is spacious and beautifully lit, with candles on each table. Baby Cakes has a great atmosphere, wonderful service and top-notch music, including jazz nights, and it is for these reasons that Baby Cakes is my first choice for coffee dates.
Unfortunately, dinner can be rather pricey here, so I recommend saving the dinner menu for special occasions. However, their bottomless coffee and a cased dessert is always a classy way to finish off the night after a cheaper dinner elsewhere. I am particularly fond of their devil’s food cupcakes as well as their tiramisù, when they have it.
At Baby Cakes there are various seasonal changes to both their food and drink menus, and I highly recommend taking advantage of them. During winter Baby Cakes offers some of their best hot drinks, particularly their mulled cider and peppermint patties. Baby Cakes cider is, hands down, the best cider I have ever had, and I recommend it without reservation.
Sometimes, however, one just needs some greasy, bad-for-you diner food and, for that, we will always have The Acropolis. Affectionately called ‘Acrop,’ this 24-hour diner is a haven for the tired, the inebriated, the ones pulling all-nighters.
The service is hardly the best and the food is, well it’s, diner food, but there is something special about Acrop. Maybe it’s from the times I’ve gotten pancakes and coffee at 2:00 a.m. when all other options were as exhausted as I was, but Acrop has a very special place in my heart, despite how greasy the food is and how mediocre the service. Every college student needs a 24-hour diner sometimes, and Acrop serves its purpose well, even if it isn’t the closest restaurant to campus.
Ultimately, the best way to find one’s favorite restaurants is through trial and error and every restaurant has its pros and cons, but as far as I’m concerned, these stand out as particularly choice options for the not-always-so discerning Vassar student.