the cover story of the washington city Paper’s September 29 issue (“Shell of a Town”) is about the two College Parks: the university campus and especially its adjacent city. Here’s writer David Morton’s main point: “But whatever the [campus] president’s success might be on the academic front, Maryland will never rank among the heavyweights. Stocking the student body with mathletes has done little to address College Park’s greatest shortcoming: It has the locational charm of a highway rest stop.”
Yes, downtown College Park is far from charming. Too many bars and chain restaurants, and perhaps too many students in them who are insufficiently adventurous to go elsewhere.
Within a 20-minute walk or a six-minute drive from campus, however, are so many international/ethnic restaurants (as well as grocery stores and nightclubs) that such so-called real college towns as Ann Arbor, Berkeley, and Westwood can’t begin to compete. In College Park itself, there are Afghan, Chinese, Egyptian, Korean, Israeli, Japanese bubble tea, and funky vegetarian restaurants, plus a ’60s throwback coffee house. Just west of campus, the variety includes Grenadian, Guatemalan, Indian (three of regional excellence), Jamaican, Pakistani, Salvadoran, and Vietnamese. Perhaps I’ve forgotten a few, and I didn’t even list very good Ethiopian and Mexican restaurants another mile away.
In what other college towns, I wonder, can one take a 10-minute walk to an Egyptian restaurant and watch the World Cup on TV from an Arabic cable network? I did, and it was wonderful! The next day, to be evenhanded, I had a kosher meal at the Israeli restaurant. The City Paper article points to some of the area’s negatives but missed much of the glory.
University of Maryland faculty member College Park, Md.