The Palate-Pleasing Possibilities of Ponderosaby Rossiter Drake, Nate Cavalieri and Tyler Kord
While some may not consider Wellington to be too far outside the Bubble, it is home to one of the classiest restaurants in northern Ohio. A typical trip to Ponderosa is like paying 10 bucks to eat at Stevenson. It's all you can eat, it's greasy as hell and it's guaranteed to make you surprisingly ill. But two things it offers that can't be found at Stevenson are local rednecks and families out for a "nice" meal.
What some call "the big Pondo" transcends your average dining hall experience. Sure, it is true that when you walk into the place you have to snag your own tray, wait in a cafeteria-style line to get served by the hairier-than-average food service worker, and the food itself is of the same sub-grade-D variety that our beloved campus dining system serves on a daily basis. Sure, the options for vegetarians are almost unheard of, and your request for the vegan entrée might be met with a "whatchu talking about, hippie?" Sure, the crusted food residue on the silverware might prohibit one from being able to see his or her reflection. And while these details might just as easily be lifted from a lunch at Dascomb, the dining experience at what some call "the Happy Pondo Hut" is much greater than one that could be purchased with flex dollars.
What the "Pondo Palace" represents is something that can't be found anywhere else. It's easy to overlook it, as every mall in America is now surrounded by middle-class pleasure domes like Applebees, TGI Friday's, Chili's and the Olive Garden. But the "Pondo Place Where Pleasure is the Taste" isn't trying to be some kind of authentic American Restaurant, filled with sports memorabilia and autographed photos of Shadoe Stevens; it is simply one of the original, family-oriented chain restaurants. Thus, the customer is spared from tacky antiques and waiters covered in buttons with stupid catch-phrases like "Kiss Me, I'm From Toledo!" Anybody can go to the "Pondemonium Emporium" and get the exact same thing they got the night before: steak, a baked potato, mountains of mashed potatoes with stuffing and as many ice cream sundaes as they can keep down without hugging the "Pondo Porcelain."
That's not to say that any of the dining options are particularly "Pondo-licious." In fact, a typical evening at the "Plentiful Pondo" is something like a game. You walk around the buffet, slowly surveying the "food" at your disposal. "Wow," you think. "How much saturated fat can I pile onto my tray before my stomach finally rises up against me and stages a painful rebellion?" You then proceed to pile your tray with no less than three plates full of beef, fried chicken, potatoes, gravy, ribs, macaroni and any other food products that are guaranteed to clog your arteries within minutes of digestion. Add to that the requisite desserts - and there are plenty to choose from - and you have a meal fit for a grotesquely obese king. Undoubtedly, you will attempt to finish the whole damn thing, foolishly believing that your money will have been wasted if you can't pile one more helping of fried "Patented Pondo Pork Chops" down your suffering throat. And make no mistake - you will leave the restaurant in pain, the kind of pain that makes a grown man whimper like a toddler who's just lost his mommy in a crowded shopping mall. But that's just part of the "Ponderific" experience. You immerse yourself in a den of down-home country cooking, surrounded by folks who look at you as if you've just stepped off the stupid bus, and you eat as if your life depended on it. Why? Because you're no longer in Oberlin, and you want to treasure every second as if it is your last - even if the food tastes like last month's leftovers and the little man inside your stomach is screaming "No mas!"
In short, an evening at the "Pondo Pad of Perfection" will have you saying "I want some mosa Pondorosa," if not for the food, than for the taste of true-blue Ohio culture, and the delight of simply being outside the Bubble.
Copyright © 2000, The Oberlin Review.
Contact us with your comments and suggestions.