New places, old standbys

The summer break always seems to bring some changes to the campus dining scene, whether it’s new management at an old standby (Han Wool), rumors of something new down the pike (Dock Street Brewery on Baltimore Avenue?) or the closing of a favorite eatery.

We’re not sure if Tony Luke’s belonged to the latter category, but we were surprised to hear that the South Philly fixture had terminated its lease with Penn Dining as of May 31. On our visits, Lukes always seemed full of hungry students getting their fix of Whiz-drenched cheesesteaks and roast pork sandwiches. Rhea Lewis in Business Services tells us, however, that, “the concept did not translate as well to campus as either party had hoped.”

Taking Tony Luke’s place on the 3700 block of Spruce Street is Savory, a casual café with tables, couches, a deep orange accent wall and an altogether mellower vibe. On the menu are hot and cold pita sandwiches, “gourmet” hot dogs (with add-ons like bacon and salsa), kettle chips and soft serve ice cream. Fans of former campus fave Bitar’s will be pleased to see the Middle Eastern restaurant’s pita bread on Savory’s menu, along with falafel, grape leaves and hummus. Campus success story Insomnia Cookies (www.insomniacookies.com) has also teamed up with Savory, and you’ll find a selection of their cookies on offer.

We tried a couple of the hot pita sandwiches—cooked panini style on the super sized griddle—and found them disappointingly inconsistent. Chicken pita with guacamole and tomatoes was a tasty (if modestly sized) treat, and the contrast between crispy pita and silken avocado made for something a little better than average. The veggie option, with tofu, arugula and tomatoes hit the trashcan after the second bite due to greasy pita and clammy tofu straight out of the packet. We’ll be back, though, to check out the pasta offerings (including gnocchi and tortellini) and those fancy dogs.

As restaurants come and go in that spot, we can’t help noting that through all the transitions, next door neighbor Beijing continues to serve up excellent Chinese fare day in, day out. We like to hit this popular campus stalwart early or late for lunch since the crowds can be daunting. Lunch specials (all less than $7.50) cover the standard Chinese choices—your Grandfather chicken, your Kung Po, your sweet and sour shrimp. But you’ll also find pine nut tofu and peppercorn shrimp, and our vegetarian friend tells us they’ll adapt dishes—like Singapore noodles with shrimp and tofu instead of pork—to make them meatless.

Professional and courteous, with food that’s consistently fresh and wholesome, Beijing gets it right and the throngs keep returning.
Let’s hope Savory can get it right and become another reliable campus lunch spot to add to the list.

Originally published September 21, 2006.

Originally published on September 21, 2006