If you can get your average Penn chick off her cell phone for long enough to stop and ask her what she had for lunch, chances are she'll whip off her J.Lo inspired aviators and purr one of three things: a Cosi Signature Salad, a Gia Pronto salad or a salad from our own illustrious Houston Hall. Let's be clear: we may be in West Philly, but in these strange, carb-loathing times, you'd do well to stock some spring greens in addition your cheesesteak.
Perhaps the good people at Marathon Grill have heard the rumor that Penn is included on Playgirl's Hottest College Guys List, or the one that Penn is included on Playboy's Most Busted College Girls List; in any event, they've tuned in to the fact that hello, image is everything, and there's a shitload of salad being consumed around here. One whole page of the menu is devoted entirely to salads of every breed ($5.75-9.50), including a "Control Freak' option, where the OCD in you can go to town checking off options like grilled eggplant and mandarin oranges, and specifying whether you'd like chopped, plum or beefsteak tomatoes.
Luckily for the weak-willed, there are plenty of distractions and options for those who aren't inclined to weep with joy at the mention of California romaine. The menu is a three plus page tour de force of sandwiches and entrees in about a size three font, so there is no need to harbor that self-conscious "I know, I always order the same thing" complex here. The regular menu ranges from a hearty charbroiled burger ($7.50-8.00) to matzoh ball soup ($3.50-4.00), and the daily specials feature unexpected extras like a Thanksgiving platter and chilled gazpacho ($3.75-4.50). The mammoth-sized portions ensure a good deal for your dollar and almost guarantee leftovers to take home, unless the plate in question is one of their incredibly rich and artery-clogging desserts.
With their outdoor patio, generic house beats and black-clad staff, Marathon Grill is a haven for the terrycloth-sportin' trendsters of the Penn population. And make no mistake, Marathon will make a killing off of Penn kids, and Penn kids alone. The restaurant may boast a looming "Serving the neighborhood" sign overhead, but a look at the McDonald's across the street suggests otherwise; the crowds at the two eateries couldn't be more different. Nonetheless, Marathon is a welcome addition to the campus scene. At the very least, now we won't have to fight to the death for our Cosi salads.