By Chelsea Tanimura | When I entered Cereality on a December afternoon, I had an empty stomach but a head filled with doubt. All week long the campus was abuzz with speculation about this Seinfeldian cereal boutique that had just opened at 3631 Walnut Street. The novelty will wear off, said some. It’s unique. It’s found its niche, insisted others. I couldn’t choose which side to take: The materialist in me wanted the business to succeed, yet there’s no denying that I’m a proverbial poor college student. So far I’ve been able to satisfy my cereal needs by spending $2.89 on a box of generic Raisin Bran every other week. Pecuniary concerns aside, I feared that eating at Cereality would make me view a home-poured bowl with disdain. After all, once you’ve tried on $300 jeans, you can’t help but notice that bargain-bin pairs just don’t fit as well.
As it turned out, I forgot all of these issues the moment I walked into Cereality. The hominess of the décor combined with the relaxed attitude of the employees had a disarming effect. A big-screen TV in the corner played cartoons and a steady stream of Eighties R&B completed the cozy atmosphere of the place. It seemed that the menu had also been designed with geniality in mind since it offered to let you have cereal “Your Way,” “Our Way,” and “A Whole New Way.” A standard “Your Way” bowl costs $2.95 and contains two scoops of cereal, one topping, and milk. They allow you to take as much milk as you want from a large stainless-steel dispenser; you have a choice of whole milk, two-percent, or skim, and I heard that they have soy milk as well. The magnetic plastic letters decorating the dispensers were a nice touch. I should also add that the cereal is served in a nifty Chinese take-out box.
I’d decided ahead of time that I would order a specialty item just because I was curious to see how imaginative people could get with cereal. I didn’t feel like choosing anything from the “Our Way” section of the menu since those were only cold cereal and topping combinations that Cereality had created. I found the selections under “A Whole New Way” much more appealing because they took cereal out of its ordinary context. I asked for a Bran New Day Slurreality ($3.95) since I had read about it in The Daily Pennsylvanian; it was basically a strawberry-banana smoothie with a little bit of Quaker Bran. I immediately wished that I had ordered a 2-Chai-4 Slurreality instead, since it contained Apple Jacks, one of my all-time favorites.
While waiting for my smoothie, I examined their assortment of toppings. They were pretty much what you would find at any ice-cream shop with the exception of Lucky Charms marshmallows, which were a stroke of genius. Who hasn’t wished for more of those crispy little gems of colored sugar on their cereal? Next to the topping counter stood a touch-screen “Invent a Blend” station that let you create your own cereal-combination profile. I received my smoothie and sat on a shiny black plastic swivel chair. I would have sat on one of the comfortable looking sofas in the front of the store, but I don’t like being conspicuous. There was also a long table surrounded by green high-backed chairs, but these were mostly occupied by middle-aged people with laptops. The scarcity of college students surprised me, but then I remembered that finals week was about to begin.
I had worried that my smoothie would have chunks of oat bran floating in it, so I was pleased that my first sip was lump-free. However, I had thought that the bran cereal would give my smoothie an earthier flavor, but it tasted just like melted sherbet. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t anything different either. While I drank my smoothie, I overheard another customer ordering the “Devil Made Me Do It” cold-cereal blend. Glancing at the menu, I saw that it consisted of Cocoa Puffs, Lucky Charms, malt balls and chocolate milk-flavored crystals. Chocolate milk-flavored crystalswhat was that all about? Do they make milk chocolatey? Do they dissolve readily? Are they crunchy?
Getting answers to these questions is probably the only reason I will return to Cereality. The Froot Loop art on the walls is great and I like being able to watch cartoons while I eat, but I’m sad to say that plain old corn flakes from Fresh Grocer still give me more bang for my buck.
Chelsea Tanimura C’06 is a work-study student at the Gazette.
©2005 The Pennsylvania Gazette