Like your sweet aunt who never judges, Pitchforks has seen you at your best and worst.
Tucked in the basement of McClendon Tower, the 24/7 eatery—known professionally as Cafe Edens and unprofessionally as "Pitch"—supplies Duke students with the greasiest of munchies, the most effective of hangover cures and the best of comfort foods for long nights of studying. I spent five hours of my Saturday night at Pitch, writing for it the ballad that it deserves.
When I walked in at 9:57 p.m., all but one table was occupied. Seeing a group of Cameron Crazies finishing up their post-game victory meal after watching the team beat Virginia, I circled their booth like a hawk. I needed an outlet.
Once I was seated at the booth, I saw senior Jake Ukleja and junior Rani Duff come down the spiral staircase. They were setting up a pregame and needed chasers. We bonded over our mutual love for Pitch before they scurried off with the promise that they’d be back later that night.
At 10:45 p.m., my best friend Tan Vashist, a junior, joined me at my booth. She ordered a plate of tots and committed to observing Pitch with me for a few hours.
“Whenever I’m at Pitch, I always run into people I know, and it’s the smushiest reunion,” she said.
The restaurant was still bustling with people decked out in Duke gear at 11:21 p.m. when junior Azim Dharani plopped down in our booth. We had run into each other that morning at the venue and eaten breakfast together. I had told him earlier that I would be back between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m., and he came to see if I was bluffing.
“I wasn’t sure if I wanted food, but I wanted to see if you were actually gonna be here,” he said.
As Tan and Azim ate their food—Azim had realized that he could not enter Pitch without ordering—we talked about what late-night Pitch meant to us.
“Once, Rose and I sat on the floor of Pitchforks at 3 a.m. talking about how we’re not white,” Tan said. I laughed at the memory. “I feel like Pitch is a place to debrief and analyze everything, like the morning during a hangover when you analyze what happened the night before, or at 3 a.m. coming to a revelation about race.”
“With my girlfriend gone abroad, the rain and it [being] cold out, I just need Pitch,” he said.
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I looked around the room for signs explaining Pitchforks’ magnetic draw.
Hung on the only yellow wall was an oddly small and flimsy-looking sign stating “Café Edens,” Pitchforks' official name, used only by uninitiated first-years and the official Duke Dining website.
Compared to the architecturally intricate Richard H. Brodhead Center for Campus Life, Pitchforks is a humble basement with a couple of tables and chairs. The space is frank in its simplicity and function.
The unfussy setting allows the people within it to characterize the space.
By 12:15 a.m., basketball game-goers had cleared out and the nightlife began rolling in.
At 1:30 a.m., a sudden surge of people who entered Pitch. The line extended from the cashier to the soda dispenser. As our booth began crowding with people who either knew me or Tan, Azim decided that it was time to retire to his dorm.
The circle of people around us grew with mutual friends. By 2 a.m., the restaurant was so crowded that employees had to shout names several times for people to hear that their food was ready.
Tan noted the diversity in people and conversations that had shuffled in and out of our booth. By 2:45 a.m., most of my friends had left. Fighting fatigue and an oncoming migraine, I felt a strange contentment. In those five hours, I bonded with best friends and reunited with old friends. Soaking in each other’s presence, we indulged in both the deepest and most nonsensical of topics.
I felt so present. Perhaps Pitchforks is one of the few places where Duke students spend time, purely for the sake of spending time.
The restaurant was just as crowded at 3 a.m. as it had been hours before, but I was exhausted and ready to leave everyone to their Saturday night business.
See you in the morning, Pitch.