We finally arrived at the home of my Chipotle obsession. Having grown up in the Chipotleless South, it was a revelation to discover the food that would carry me through college and many years afterward. They really knew what they were doing when they opened that first week of the semester and distributed as many free burrito coupons as any freshmen could spread around his or her dorm hallway. We were all hooked on their burrito crack by the time we had to start paying for it the next week. Couple that with it being the most reliable place to spot a MD basketball player around town, and it is understandable why that place seemed to always have a continuous line out the door from open to close.
Things haven’t changed too much. The line might be a little shorter and a little slower than I remember, but this store’s long rectangularness still has that same effect of causing everyone in line to ogle those with seats and those with seats to constantly watch the shape-shifting line. It does have some new neighbors in the College Park Shopping Center (snappy name don’t you think) it shares with other College Park mainstays such as Rugged Warehouse (still can’t believe it continues to occupy that prime real estate) and Great Clips. A new Jason’s Deli now occupies the beloved corner spot where Wawa used to make everyone’s late night sandwich dreams come true. I hear Jason’s is
good from lots of people, but it will be nothing but a disappointment if it isn’t lit up and open at 3am. Around on the other corner there is now a GameStop which replaced the Potomac Video store where I think I rented a few Frank Capra movies for my history of cinema seminar.
So as you might be able to tell, College Park as a town does not really reflect the UNC/UVA/Michigan/Berkeley of the Mid-Atlantic image that our campus leaders are always telling us we are striving for, as much as it pretty accurately depicts a place on fringe of D.C., PG, and Montgomery counties. The best depiction of this is on Route 1 just north of the main entrance to campus where good-old, crappy #1 Liquor is still holding strong to its principles while every other failing business around it has been demolished in favor of gigantic high-rise, luxury apartment complexes being marketed as an oasis for downtown commuters. Excuse me, Mr. Recession-era Developer, no one is dumb enough to spend lots of money to live in College Park in their 20’s and drive down Rhode Island Avenue as part of their downtown commute. Have fun keeping those places maintained with really rich college seniors partying in them.
All this said, I love College Park and the University of Maryland more than I can say. There’s just enough grittiness around to keep you grounded from the undergraduate fairly tale it seems like students lead at liberal arts schools in rural Maine. Maryland’s campus is simply beautiful though, and I have yet to unbiasedly find a major university with a more impressive layout throughout. The consistency of the architecture and the open green space is something that I always know will surprise and impress people when they first visit campus. It was what won my heart the same day I compared it with UVA’s renown campus. So please enjoy the home of the Terps:
- Today’s menu: Chicken burrito bowl, pinto beans, corn salsa, green and red tomatillo salsa, cheese, and lettuce.
- Flavor: A+ (Maybe it was that it had been awhile due to traveling, weddings, and other typical summer interruptions. Maybe it was because it was the first meal of the day for all four of us at 4:30 in the afternoon. Or maybe it was just nostalgia on my part, but this did seriously taste like the best burrito bowl I have eaten during our quest. )
- People-watching: B+ (College kids during the first weekend back on campus are so entertaining to observe with their plaid shirts and experimental haircuts. It doesn’t get any easier to pick out freshmen who are actually wearing their keys on lanyards around their neck, the way I did for about a week before I learned better.)
- Popularity: A- (Chipotle still seems to reign supreme amongst the many other fast casual options in College Park. The line was short when we arrived at 4:30, but quickly grew to its typical long length stretching all the way to the door in this long and rectangular design.)
Location Tip: It truly is an amazingly loud and off-the-wall place to go see a basketball game. It is really worth coming up with the cash to see a big ACC game there at least once if you like basketball at all. Soccer games have become quite an event in their own right. The Dairy serves ice cream with the highest fat content in the country according to the FDA. It is delicious, and it is probably for our own health and welfare that the operating hours are so limited, check before you go. Lastly, try maybe auditing the Simpsons course through the American Studies Department.