Penn students are swarming to the corner of 34th and Walnut in droves—and it’s not because they’re on their way to DRL. Franklin's Table Food Hall is open, and you better be prepared to run into just about everyone you know there. The excitement for the new venue is palpable, and anyone who walks by can clearly see how the modern and sleek yet approachable decor sparks people's curiosity. Through the glass walls, you can see that the space is packed at any time of day.
The dining hall features offerings from the best of Philadelphia’s restaurant scene. From omakase sushi to artisanal ice cream to fresh pressed juice, the vendors at Franklin Table are an expensive (and slightly controversial) upgrade from the food court’s former occupants like Taco Bell and Quiznos. Though very exciting, the hall can also be very overwhelming—luckily, we’ve broken it down to make it easier for you to decide what to try first.
The throngs of people surrounding the vendor make it difficult to discern where the line begins. A short glass barrier separates the waiting customers and the chefs who make the pizzas from scratch. They toss the dough, sprinkle on toppings and slide the pies in and out of the wood–fire oven with mechanical efficiency, providing plenty of entertainment for the crowd. The 11” personal–sized pizza is served to–go style in a box. The pepperoni pizza is richly flavorful with a touch of spice and chewy, puffy crust. It’s as greasy as good pizza should be but also fairly light, so that you may even have room for dessert. Although it costs a hefty $15 approximately, the high quality pie is shareable and worth the splurge.
The sole dessert–only vendor in the food hall, Little Baby’s Ice Cream offers four rotating ice cream flavors and four non–dairy flavors to satisfy any sweet tooth. Be sure to ask to try the flavors before ordering, as some of the names are either obscure or misleading and don't describe the actual tastes. ‘Birch Beer Vanilla Bean’ is reminiscent of a cold root beer float, and a bite of ‘Smoked Cinnamon’ is like a gulp of an iced chai latte. ‘Acai Bowl’ lacks the acai flavor it advertises, instead boasting a potent coconut flavor that’ll transport you back to spring break. All in all, you can’t go wrong when it comes to picking a flavor; they’re all certain to impress. A cup of two scoops goes for $6.
It’s a meat lover’s paradise, the perfect comfort food addition to a food court that seems to be teeming with vegetarians, judging by the 20–person line in front of Goldie. They’ve jumped on the digital kiosk bandwagon with two large touch screens on which you can customize the type of cheese, sauce, and toppings for your chosen burger or sandwich. Not in the mood for a traditional burger? Get the fried chicken sandwich for $9—the pickles serve up a sharp zing to contrast with the savory chicken and the rather sweet potato bun.
Giving Metropolitan Bakery a run for its money, High Street Provisions will be Penn’s new favorite lunch spot. From the creators of High Street on Market, High Street Provisions brings the same great baking as its nationally–renowned predecessor. Besides the cookies the size of your face and the ooey–gooey grilled cheeses, its lighter offerings should not be ignored. The overnight oats ($5), topped with lightly–sweetened (and lightly–spiced) jam, is the perfect pick–me–up on the way to and from class.
Say farewell to your favorite halal cart: Goldie will have your heart after one bite of their falafel. Crunchy on the outside and pillowy soft in the center, the falafel at Goldie’s is nothing short of perfect, as should be expected from the culinary genius behind Zahav. Order the falafel salad to leave room for the tehina shake. The decadent dessert is made from sesame seed paste, a liquified version of the Middle Eastern dessert halva. With deliciously filling offerings, Goldie won’t leave you missing meat, as (surprise!) the entire menu is vegan. Both salads and sandwiches from Goldie run around $10, with the famed tehina milkshake running for $4.50.
In the back corner of the crowded food court, students huddle around the counters of DK Sushi as chefs swiftly wrap salmon rolls and plate bento boxes. The name DK is a reference to its beloved outpost, Double Knot. At its location in the hall, orders are placed on tablets and cranked out in the matter of minutes. While DK Sushi does not have the same sophisticated ambience of its sister restaurant Doubleknot, they share the same deliciously fresh flavors. DK Sushi offers high quality sushi in a low quantity of time. When one sushi roll ($6–$8) won’t satisfy, try the Chef’s Box ($16–$26) for a little taste of everything: nigiri, edamame, rolls, and sashimi over rice. Plus, it is big enough to split with a friend and save on the cost. For those who look to sit, savor, and splurge, the Omakase Menu transports you to Japan even in the middle of Penn’s bustling American campus.
Finally, a delicious way to eat (or drink) your fruits and veggies. The Juice Merchant offers a variety of different healthy concoctions from energy shots to smoothies. The opening of Juice Merchant also marks the must–need arrival of trendy açaí bowls on campus—but be warned, the whips and bowls are only sold before 12 p.m. For those banana whip fanatics, they offer their own variety with mix–ins like granola and peanut butter. Despite the value of delivering your daily dose of vitamins, the drinks might be better as a weekly treat: prices run around $8.