How to Eat at Pennsic

A list of possible options for your consideration...

There are essentially three main ways to eat at Pennsic - pretty much any thing you can think of is going to be a combination of these three methods: bring and cook it yourself, join a meal plan, or buy from vendors. More on each option in a second. Before that, I urge you to consider the most important thing of all regarding eating/drinking at Pennsic. MAKE SURE YOU DO IT.

Many people have poor appetites due to the heat - I've found that happens more when you are dehydrated. The average person walks a lot at Pennsic - by my estimate I'm walking 8-9 miles in a typical day. This will especially be true if you do a lot of shopping, spend time at Midrealm royal, run to the camp store for ice, or spend much time in the bog (where a lot of parties are) at night. With that in mind, you need to give your body fuel and water. It is critical to avoid feeling bad and being crabby. My wife and I joke that Pennsic is our annual test of our marriage, as we tend to do more than we probably should, and push our limits. I heartily encourage budgeting some time to do nothing - you can't possibly do everything anyway, as there are more activities going on at once than 10 people could do so you have to pick and choose. And that's just the official activities. But in any case, even if you are fully booked with activities continuously, DON'T FORGET TO EAT!

Bring and Cook It Yourself

This option involves bringing and cooking your own food. There are many ways to go about this - some families bring primarily shelf-stable/canned goods that they can assemble into quick meals easily. Some even go so far as to can their own foods to make them shelf stable, or bring things that they can eat directly from the can without heating. Others bring a cooler (or possibly multiple coolers) of frozen/refrigerated foods. Depending on how tightly you pack frozen goods, and how often you open your cooler, things can stay frozen for quite some time. Keeping food safely at temperature (making sure there's always plenty of ice in your cooler) is very important if doing this.

One method that seems to work especially well is preparing meals ahead of time, and using a vacuum sealer to seal it into freezer safe bags - then you can heat it up in boiling water without opening the bag, open it, and dispense it onto your plates/bowls without making a ton of dishes. Speaking of dishes, it's important to do yours promptly, especially if sharing cooking facilities with the rest of your camp. Make sure you know what your camp is doing regarding cooking utensils, pots, pans, camp stoves, etc. - make sure you know if you should be bringing your own, or the group has a set that they share, etc. If sharing a kitchen, please remember to be considerate of others.

Many people bring food from home, but some also will shop (even multiple times) from grocery stores in the area - there are multiple options about 20 minutes away. There is also a lovely market on site, which sells some raw meats, fruits, vegetables, canned goods, dry goods, etc. It's a little bit more expensive, but it's also convenient, if they have the things you need.

Participate in a Meal Plan

Much like how there are many options for cooking your own food, there are just as many for meal plans. Most common are meal plans that cover dinner only, but plans that include breakfast and or lunch are also arranged sometimes. It is very important that you understand what you are getting into - some meal plans, you simply pay your share of the cost, and the cooks provide the agreed-upon meals. Other meal plans have each person or family picking a meal or meals to cook and sharing the responsibility for bringing/cooking the food.

Dishes are another consideration on meal plans. Sometimes, dish duty is shared among the participants, such that everyone gets their turn at doing dishes. Other times, there is a dish person - perhaps a teenager doing it for extra spending cash or someone who didn't want to pay for the meal plan, but wanted to participate. Dishes may be the responsibility of the same person or family who cooked the meal, or may rotate like on other meal plans.

Timing is another question to consider. If dinner is to be at 6:00 PM exactly, and you will be responsible for making it, it's critical that you be back in camp in time to cook and you know how long it will actually take to cook - accounting for using different equipment than you are used to from home. If someone else is cooking, it is still important to be there on time, or make arrangments to have a plate held for you. Some camps have compulsory meal plans, so consider carefully before deciding to camp with a group that requires it.

Eat Out - You Are On Vacation After All

I've historically been the "eat out" sort at Pennsic. There are a variety of really good options for food on site, provided your budget allows for it. In any case, you can use the restaurants on site to augment your other plans. But what are the options? Beast and Boar is essentially meat of the day plus sides. They've got more but that's their core business. Medieval Munchies has pedestrian burgers, chicken fingers, and pierogies. There's an australian gourmet burger shop. Delights of Kathay has asian noddle/rice bowls plus egg rolls. There's a smoothie place. And a bread bowl (soup or salad in a bread bowl) place. There's not one, but two coffee shops. Odyssey coffee has plain coffee plus cappuccino and strawberry slushies. Inner Vagabond (which I may have heard was gone) was turkish coffee, middle eastern deserts, snacky foods (pita/tabouleh/hummus). Oh and you can't forget the Hersheys ice cream stand (in the food court area, with another service window over at the barn), which includes a few flavors I've only seen at Pennsic. And then there is the mug - more on that in a second.

Prices are like fair/festival pricing, but a dollar or three cheaper on most things, so it doesn't feel like you are being taken advantage of, plus there's stuff you wouldn't find at a typical fair/festival and portions tend to be a bit bigger.

The Mug. Each year, Beast and Boar / Medieval Munchies has a collectable mug (different each year) that, for $30 or $35 gets you free refills of your mug at both restaurants. Between the two, they usually have tea, lemonade, pink lemonade, and fruit punch, piped through a clever spigot that is essentially a garden spigot you have to turn on. Dinner combos at Beast and Boar include a drink, so if eating there a lot the mug is less helpful. Since the two restaurants that take the mug are on a major walking path that I'm on constantly, I usually get the mug each year and keep it with me, filling it every time I go past. The mugs usually sell out sometime during the middle weekend, so if you want one you have to be sure to get it when you can. If arriving later you might ask someone in camp to get yours earlier in the war.

Most if not all restaurants are open both lunch and dinner, and with the exception of Beast and Boar have all the same stuff each day. There's enough variety to get you through about a week of meals with limited repeating, but if you are going the full two weeks, you may find there's a bit too much repetition. Beast and Boar publishes a signboard with the dinner specials for the next few days. Their ribs are good and if you like lamb, their lamb is good too - most dinners show up more than one night during war and you can plan ahead. There's frequently buskers in the main food court area at dinner to enjoy.

Written by Antonio Bellini, for whom Pennsic is one of his favorite things ever.

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