Having lived off campus for three of my four years at Cornell, my experience with the university’s meal plans is somewhat limited. Although I do look back fondly on freshman evenings at the Robert Purcell all-you-can-eat feeding trough, the Points system is just better suited to the off-campus student.
Points (or Big Red Bucks, as no one calls them) are the best things since free samples at the grocery store. For me, it’s essentially $400 of lunch money billed directly to my parents each semester. It’s like grade school all over again, but this time with bad sushi. Thanks Mom and Dad!
The Points thing is fairly self-explanatory, and I never really investigated the other options Cornell offers for food purchasing. I’d seen the City Bucks signs up around town, but figured it was just another way to funnel your money through the university. Why add extra money to your meal plan just so you could get pitas and pizzas with your ID card?
Then a friend directed me to the full list of participating City Bucks restaurants, which includes places like Stellas, Madeline’s, and Willow. Then I understood. Sure, you can get a meal at all of these places, but you can also get one other thing — extremely drunk. And not only do some of these places serve drinks, some of these places serve very expensive drinks that an average student might shy away from given their minimum wage computer lab job. If used correctly, City Bucks can be a city-wide bar tab with your parents’ name on it. No one likes asking his/her parents for extra money, especially when the question that usually follows is, “Where’d all your money go?” With City Bucks, your parents can support your drinking habit without even knowing it. You bursar it, your parents see the bill, and they think they’re feeding you.
With your newfound alcohol support system in place, you can set out for bars you never thought you could afford. You can order drinks that don’t come in plastic cups and/or don’t have “Lite” in the name. Here are some of your best bets.
Whenever Stella’s is mentioned in the midst of a “it’s 11pm on Saturday, what should we do” conversation, the matching remark is always “it’s kind of expensive.” With City Bucks, this is no longer your concern! Sip mixed drinks with names like “Metrosexual,” “Disposable Socialite,” and “Guggenheim Sunrise” while absorbing the cave-like, I-wish-I-were-in-NYC atmosphere that’s just snobby enough to make you feel elite and ridiculous at the same time. Stella’s also makes a very tasty homemade Bloody Mary.
On the other side of town, Maxie’s makes fabulous passion fruit Hurricanes which are as sweet and pink as cotton candy, but also include enough rum to convert even the most dubious critic of “girly” mixed drinks. They also make Jolly Rancher-esqe apple martinis — unfortunately you get cut off at three.
Willow, next to Fall Creek Theater, has real artwork on the walls, low lighting, and a cheese plate listed as dessert. It’s a perfect venue for playing dress up, and practicing for all those fancy business diners you’ll have as a successful stockbroker. The cozy bar makes excellent martinis, which come in curvy-stemmed glasses.
Madeline’s is one of the best places to go if you like to snack while you drink, but are sick of pretzels and oyster crackers. At this ritzy place you can order edemame, or crab to excite your palate. Plus, their desserts are delicious –the chocolate cr