This year, LaunchX has expanded to several campuses including the historic location of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly Love is home to bustling activities throughout the day for Launchies to participate in when they’re not busy with starting, marketing, and advancing their companies. Benjamin Franklin’s American home is also, as many Launchies have already been delighted to experience, a variety of world-class cuisine and dining options. One thing that sets LaunchX apart is that participants are not tied to any meal plan, meaning they can eat Vegetarian on Monday, Mexican on Wednesday, and Philly Cheesesteaks (Philadelphia’s specialty!) on Friday! In my first week at LaunchX, I tried all of these options and they weren’t even our #1 picks! Read about all of our top food picks at LaunchX UPenn below!
Vegetarian - sweetgreen
Currently living at Harnwell Hall, 58 Launchies taking on the world quickly sought out food options. With participants from around the world, we decided to explore sweetgreen, a local vegetarian option which offers made to order salads and warm bowls. We quickly found out that a meal there was just the answer to jet lag, anxious anticipation, and social stimulation of our first day.
Most members selected the Chicken Parmesan Pesto salad for $10.30. Although it came at a price, we appreciated sweetgreen’s corporate social responsibility in partnering with local farmers, sustainably selecting ingredients, and donating to non-for-profit organizations. Nicole Dai remarked her go-to salad of the Chicken Pesto Parmesan “was the best salad that [she’s] ever had!” She especially enjoyed the “spinach”, complimented by the “chicken and warm atmosphere” of the location. Catherine Zhou, also opting for the Chicken Pesto, had a slightly different experience listing “the salad was too spicy”, though later pointing out “it’s a great place to have a healthy meal.” For any vegetarians thinking about attending LaunchX at UPenn, have no fear! There are a great selection of food opportunities available for you (at a price).
Mexican - Chipotle
The quintessential choice for college students and Cal natives, the Chipotle location at UPenn is located just a block away! Most people opt for a burrito bowl, such as rising senior, Harvey Z. who stated “that they’re quick and you can select what you want.” A secret tip that has spread through the cohort is to always request a burrito on the side - it’s free, tasty, and allows for more space for the other ingredients in the bowl! If you’re truly frugal, skip the fountain drink in favor of water. There’s no cost to it and it will refresh you amongst the humid Philadelphia weather.
Local Cuisine - Abner’s Philly Cheesesteaks
If one is in Philadelphia and doesn’t try a cheesesteak, did they truly visit the city? Nirav Saini, who is a vegetarian, says “there are tofu alternatives”, however, for the majority of LaunchX students, visiting a cheesesteak establishment is a right of passage.
We chose Abner’s Philly Cheesesteak, a restaurant that is walking distance from the dorms. Greeted by an oldies vibe and bare-bones fare, most students enjoyed their meals. It is clear that Abner’s is intertwined with the Penn community - after all, it’s employees wear Penn shirts and there is a satirical sign on the wall stating “free cheesesteaks” when Penn basketball scores 100 points. Despite Abner’s admirable delivery of its specialty, we overall agreed that the restaurant could improve its vegetarian options. French fries were the only vegetarian food; no salads were available.
Honorable Mention: Coffee - Starbucks
Though not officially a restaurant, Starbucks most definitely deserves an honorable mention for its modern atmosphere, venti frappuccinos, and crucial caffeine, all which allow LaunchX students to work at their best! Located just steps away from Harnwell House, the Starbucks has become a gotomeeting spot for several teams. It serves as a reminder that even in a city where the only difficulty when finding something to eat is deciding where, you can always return to your classic favorites. By the second week, employees were already familiar with the LaunchX student body. In fact, one remembered student’s names, listed “LaunchX” as the name on what of the orders, and even gave one student a free frappuccino.
Honorable Mention: Snacks - amazon
An unexpected bonus of living at the Harnwell Dorms near the Covenant Sculpture is that we are located footsteps away from the Amazon@UPenn Locker. Here, you can ship any Amazon Prime item and pick it up as soon as the same day. With Prime free shipping, Amazon has become a go-to place to order snacks, miscellaneous items, and microwaves.
#1 Dessert Pick - Federal Doughnuts
It's Sunday morning and 90 degrees outside. What are Launchies up to? If you said working on our startups, you may be right, though we like to relax too! It has become a tradition to go out to breakfast at Federal's Donuts, an eclectic location that has spawned published books, merchandise, and national praise. Several launchies checked it out and tried flavors spawning from strawberry lavender to cookies and creme. Despite the shop's name, donuts aren't the only thing they offer! Others picked up cold brew coffee and made-to-order fried chicken sandwiches. Head to Federal Donuts for a sweet good time.
#1 Food Pick - Honeygrow
Last but not least, the overwhelming favorite food pick of LaunchX students is the Philadelphia based restaurant Honeygrow. Despite its high prices, launchies remarked that it was “fresh, fast, and flavorful”.
Honeygrow supports local farmers through ethically sourced food such as naturally raised beef and local artists through the designs on their food containers. Started in Philadelphia in 2012, Honeygrow combines great food with a casual fast-paced enviornment. Be sure to check out Honeygrow if you enjoy making customized salads, stirfrys, and fruit cups (called the "Honeybar") as unique as you! Also, don't miss out on their drink selection, including soda and lemonades made with "pure cane sugar."
Based on the great food picks above, us Launchies are delighted with the vast array of cuisine available. We can’t wait to try everything else Philadelphia has to offer in the coming weeks!
As a Launchie, I encourage you to try out all of our favorite food picks whether you find yourself in Philadelphia, or whether you become a Launchie yourself at the University of Pennsylvania campus next year!