This year, when it comes to dining options, the talk usually revolves around the gloriously renovated Sadler Center or the hummus bar at the Commons Dining Hall. But there are those of us who have been around long enough to remember the bleaker times — back when Marketplace was the best dining option on the meal plan. Yes, the Mongolian station is exciting and new, but we should all pay some homage to an old favorite. At the end of the day, who doesn’t love some Zoca?
Since the first day of class freshman year, my friends and I have found our way to a long table in the back every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 1:00 p.m., without fail. Here are a few lessons and insider secrets we’ve learned along the way.
1) Establish a spot and avoid trouble.
The Marketplace has many televisions, so it’s always best to sit near enough to see what’s going on, but far enough away so the noise doesn’t overpower your conversation. The televisions play anything from the mid-afternoon news to BET, so pick your spot strategically.
As a side note, if the staff ever appears to be congregated around their favorite soap opera, do not, I repeat, do not attempt to change the channel. You will never be graced with the gift of free guacamole again.
2) Hide your bacon, stuff the broccoli.
Sadler and the Commons take an all-you-can-eat approach, and you’re telling me that if I get a simple salad for lunch, I have to pay extra in flex dollars because there’s too much broccoli in my container? I have a friend who hides the bacon on his bacon-turkey-cheddar sandwich every single day because he refuses to pay the extra charge. My goodness, just let the people eat.
3) Crack a smile in the Zoca line.
Known for suspect ground beef and what my friends like to call “kill your arteries nachos,” the greasy, cheesy goodness of Zoca rarely disappoints. But I would have to say that the primary hallmark of the Zoca assembly line is the staff’s sternness. No tomatoes on a quesadilla. No more than one type of salsa on your nachos. And certainly no guacamole with your veggie burrito unless you want to pay extra in flex.
All hope seemed lost until, one fateful day last April, the unthinkable happened. The quesadilla maker started to smoke and burn. The Zoca lady threw the flaming quesadilla from the hot press into the trashcan, and proceeded to douse the charred lunch in Diet Coke. It all happened so fast. What to do now? The next student in line took a step forward.
“Hey baby, what can I get for you?”
“I’ll have one of the fire burritos specials,” he said.
The Zoca lady erupted in laughter reached out and gave him a hug and some extra cheese. Never underestimate the power of a good laugh. The ladies at the Marketplace are usually just looking for some fun as much as we are.
4) Make friends with the staff.
Gloria and I became acquainted freshman year in the sandwich line. By my sophomore year, she was telling the other members of Marketplace staff to make sure there were plenty of vegetarian options. During Passover she made me a special “matzah pizza.”
But what’s been better than the food is the friendship. She tells me stories about her life and advises me to “behave over the weekend” when I see her on Friday afternoons. The other day she remarked, “Girl, I remember when you first came here. Wow, were you clueless!” Thanks, Gloria.
Next time you roll up to Marketplace for lunch, take these humble tips into consideration. Who knows what may happen. If you’re there on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday at 1:00 p.m. and have any questions, look toward the back for that loud table of about 15 upperclassmen. We can help you out.
Ariel Cohen is the Confusion Corner columnist and likes her nachos nice and cardiovascularly dangerous.