Going to college in a small town can seem somewhat intimidating, especially for students from big cities. I thought I would write a guide to Oberlin to show that our small town has everything you could need. Although I am writing this during COVID, I want this post to reflect a non-Covid time, so some businesses may have different restrictions at the moment.
First off, food. Even though Oberlin has some great on-campus food options, sometimes you aren't feeling it. Below is a list of the local restaurants and what they serve:
Lupitas: Lupes, as the student body lovingly knows it, is the local Mexican restaurant. Their quesadillas are to die for, and one of their most significant selling points for the over 21 population is their $1 margarita nights on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The Feve: This is Oberlin's local burger place. They have fantastic pretzel bites, and their mac and cheese bites are to die for. Everything on their menu is amazing, and I couldn't possibly recommend one burger over another. For those of drinking age, The Feve also has $5 long islands on Wednesday nights.
1833: 1833 is a restaurant owned by the college, and is attached to The Hotel at Oberlin. I would say this is the more upmarket restaurant in town, serving seasonal menus that feature local producers. Some of my favourites are the crispy Brussel sprouts and the grilled chicken Alfredo, but I have not heard a bad thing about anything on the menu.
Kim's Grocery and Carry-out: Kim's is a solid favourite with the student population. An Asian market and takeout restaurant, their most significant selling point is their $5 bowls. Personally, I'm not a fan of Asian cuisine, but everyone I have ever spoken to lives and dies by Kim's.
Mandarin: Mandarin is the local Chinese restaurant in town. I also haven't been here, but I have been told their lunch special menu is fantastic value and tastes amazing.
Aladdin's: Aladdin's is the local Middle Eastern restaurant in Oberlin. They have great pitas, and their soups are also a great choice, especially if you're feeling a little under the weather. I have shown up to many a friend's dorm room with a tub of soup from Aladdin's when they weren't feeling well, and it is always well received.
Lorenzo's Pizza: Lorenzo's is another staple of Oberlin. Their pizzas are amazing. One of my favourites is their chicken parm pizza, which may sound strange, but I promise it will not disappoint. For those unable to eat an entire pizza, they also offer pizza by the slice, at $3 a slice.
Thini Thai: One of the newer additions to the Oberlin food scene, Thini Thai has some great offerings. I have yet to try them, but I have heard excellent things from other students. Although slightly pricey, this restaurant appears destined to become an Oberlin favourite. I've had many friends recommend Thini to me, and I will be sure to try them sometime in the future.
Another essential aspect of every college student's experience is the elixir of life, caffeine. Oberlin has three main locations to get your fix.
Slow Train and The Local: This pair of cafes is owned by the Oberlin College Men's Soccer Head Coach, Blake New, and his wife, Jessa Klotz New. The atmosphere at both locations is fantastic and is the perfect place to study, in a non-COVID time. I have spent many hours in Slow Train with a coffee and a few friends trying to finish an assignment or just chilling out. Both serve the same menu and have different vibes to suit customers of all types. But the real selling point of the pair, at least for me, is the bagels. Their bagels are always warm, served with whatever toppings you like, and they're always amazing. When I'm in town, one of my staples is a hot chocolate and cream cheese bagel from the Local. The only reason I choose the Local is it's slightly more central to town and is often on the way to where I'm going, and I have very little self-control.
Blue Rooster Bakehouse: Blue Rooster is known for its cakes and baked goods. I love their cupcakes and slices. They also serve some great coffee and have freshly baked bread available for purchase.
Although the college has a great meal plan, sometimes you need snacks, or if you're an upperclassman living off-campus, you need food to cook for yourself. Below are the two main options for groceries within Oberlin.
IGA: The IGA is a great place to stock up on essentials, and is within walking distance of the college if you do not own a car. Located on East Lorain Street, it is about a 15-minute walk from campus. They sell all the foods you could need to get you through the semester, from snacks and cooking supplies (for when you decide to try and bake in the dorm kitchens and have no equipment), to toiletries and school supplies.
Walmart: I'm sure you're all familiar with this brand, so I'm not going to explain the concept of Walmart. Fortunately for Oberlin students, there is a Walmart about a 10-minute drive away. For those students without a car of their own, this journey is not one I would recommend on foot, but if you can find a friend with a car, it can be a great place to stock up on supplies.
Ben Franklin: Ben Franks, as the student population refers to it, is your one-stop-shop for supplies. They sell all the school supplies you could need and some snacks and general life supplies. I often head straight to Ben Franks when I need small things for my dorm room, like command strips and cleaning supplies or even a trash can. They also have a bookstore attached that sells some super exciting books, if you're ever looking for new reading materials.
Oberlin Bookstore: The bookstore is a great place to stop for both school supplies like notebooks and is the best place to find all those pesky textbooks you need to be a great student. The bookstore also sells all the college merchandise you could desire. From Oberlin sweats to mugs, everything is for sale at the bookstore.
USPS and UPS: The concept of both of these businesses is self-explanatory, so I won't bore you with explaining how mail works. For those with Amazon returns, the UPS store is your stop if you get a wrong item and need to send it back. USPS is also an excellent place for international students to mail things home at affordable rates. I am often down at USPS sending presents to friends and family, or picking up a package that the college mailroom cannot keep.
Watson Hardware: Although not always a place needed by the student body, knowing there is a hardware store in town is useful for some students. I have been in here multiple times for various reasons, and the staff here are more than willing to help with any problems you might have. I had an ESA cat, which I talk about in this post, who found a way inside the heater in my room. I went down to Watson's with my heater's measurements, and they provided me with suggestions for mesh and even cut it to size for me.
Oberlin Town Library: Although the college has a great library, sometimes you're looking for material they don't offer, or you're looking for just some fiction reading to do in your spare time. Oberlin's library is a great place to find exactly this. You can get a free library card and borrow up to 50 material items at a time, for up to 6 weeks. They also have a great children's section, which helped me when I took an introductory Spanish class and read children's Spanish books to help with my learning.
Huntington and Northwest banks: This one is more useful for international students than domestic students, but Oberlin has two bank branches in town, perfect for opening a new USD account. Both banks have ATMs available for use and staff willing to help you set up an account.
Ginko Gallery: This local art shop is a favourite with students. Ginko offers a wide variety of art supplies and art pieces by local artists and creators. Their most significant selling point, though, especially in the fall, is their foster kittens. Liz, the owner, has a room behind the store where she fosters kittens from the local cat shelter Community Action to Save Strays (CATSS). This space is available for students to walk in and interact with the kittens, which can house up to 30 kittens. These bundles of joy are always the best part of my day.
Apollo Theater: Even though Oberlin is a small town, it still has a movie theatre that shows some of the latest movies. The Apollo is an excellent place for a social hangout, where you can catch the latest blockbuster or enjoy films by independent artists.
CVS Pharmacy: Oberlin also has a CVS right within walking distance of the college. So if you have any prescriptions that need filling, or need something from the local drug store, CVS is the best place to get everything you need.
Oberlin is a great town to be in, and I have never felt the need to go outside of Oberlin for anything. Everything I need is often within walking distance, or if I need a trip down to Walmart, I have friends willing to let me tag along on a drive down there. However, downtown Cleveland is also only 45 minutes away by car if you need a bigger scene. I love Oberlin, and I enjoy getting to support local businesses, especially during this ongoing pandemic.
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