For the Record: Dining around campus

Years before the arrival of popular upscale restaurants, Penn students didn’t need to go very far to find a hangout for drinks and a bite to eat.

White Castle Hamburgers (pictured in 1947) was a popular spot for students, as well as neighborhood residents. Conveniently located near 37th Street and Woodland Avenue across from the Quad dorms, the restaurant, with its slogan, “Take home a bag full,” written above the door, offered 15-cent sandwiches.

Adjacent to White Castle, the Valley Forge Luncheonette boasted “beer on draught” and “toasted sandwiches” on signs painted on the sides of the building.

Penn purchased the White Castle property in 1947, and acquired the Luncheonette building several years later. The Wharton School’s Vance Hall is now located on the site.

With relatively few dining options around campus at the time, the décor and ambience of the restaurants didn’t matter as much as the  establishment’s location. For students, it was a chance to choose where and when they wanted to eat.

Another restaurant where students could grab a quick meal was the Penn Luncheonette at 34th and Walnut streets, known affectionately as the “Dirty Drug.”

In the 1960s and 1970s, Penn’s dining scene began changing as the University expanded and more students began living on campus.

Some restaurants were forced to move to make way for new University developments. The 3401 Walnut Street complex replaced businesses such as the Penn Luncheonette, Pagano’s, and Smokey Joe’s with a suburban mall-style food court and shops and restaurants on the first floor; Penn academic departments and University offices are located on the upper floors.

At that time, many food vending trucks arrived on campus, offering quick meals such as cheesesteaks and pizza, as well as vegetarian, Indian, and Chinese food for just a few dollars.

For more information about this and other historical events at Penn, visit the University Archives online.

White Castle