In our never-ending effort to steer clear of traditional study spaces, we bring you our next installment of Cafe Reviews. This time, when we say off campus we actually mean off campus (except for the one that’s three blocks away). And brace yourself: two of these places don’t have internet, which will mean you’d only be able to study.
The Coffee Bean:
After making a thirty-block walk on a brisk reading day morning to Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, you’ll probably feel really refreshed. Unless you take the subway, in which case you’re probably still groggy from your ten-minute ride downtown on the 1 to 86th. Walk into the 86th and Amsterdam location, and the cafe’s warm, bright, and modern atmosphere will greet you instantly. The selection of coffees, teas, and fresh pastries is enormous; anything you could possibly want will flash before you on bright LCD monitors. If you’re any sort of coffee aficionado, err on the side of ordering tea; the tea selection is amazing and delicious, whereas the coffee is pretty ordinary (this will not stop me from ordering coffee, though). On the bright side, ordering is fast and easy, leaving you with ample time for studying. If the airy top floor is crowded, noisy, or full, venture down the stairs to booths and tables, perfect for hunkering down for a couple of hours to study. Wi-fi is free, and no one is going to make you get up if you sit there for hours with a single espresso. There are tons of outlets too, so you can actually work for several hours at a time. But be warned; it’s not a very quiet atmosphere; people chat, soft rock plays in the background. It’s a great place to do practice problems or papers, but reading dense sociology articles might be a bit trying. Overall, the atmosphere at Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf is worth leaving the Columbia bubble for a few hours of off-campus work.
Irving Farm Coffee:
Tucked away on 79th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam, this little coffee shop appears to be a safe haven for students. On entering, a series of people staring intently at laptops greets you. There is a bar and kitchen in the middle of the thin space, and in the back are more seats and tables with calming feng shui, like a tree print. Most of the tables are small, for one or two people. Perfect for hunkering down to work without the awkward “sorry, can I sit here?” There is room to spread out your stuff and you do not feel crowded by people or tables.
Drinks and food are overpriced, of course, but they have a nice selection of both–and stamp cards for your tenth drink free. Soups and sandwiches are pretty standard, but their salads are magnificent. Big, mouth-watering bowls of well constructed greens. Cold drinks are served in cute little mason jars. The space is clean. The staff is super friendly and helpful, carrying your drink/plates to your table if you can’t hold everything. The crowd is a comedic mix: students looking for a break from campus and middle-aged women gossiping about what to get their kids for Hanukkah and whose kid’s teacher is the most difficult to contend with. It’s fantastic people watching.
Sadly, there is no wi-fi at Irving Farm Coffee, which initially might instill a general feeling of “FUCK YOU, IRVING COFFEE.” When you tire yourself of playing with your phone, though, the lack of internet forces you to, you know, actually write that paper you’ve been “working on” all week. Turns out you get things done a lot quicker when you’re not checking your email every 2 minutes. It is a fantastic place to hunker down and work on projects/studying that don’t necessitate the web. Plus, the seats in the back are hidden from the counter and kitchen, which means you can guiltlessly stay as long as you’d like, without worrying about glares from staff for taking up seats.
Normally, I love to study at the Hungarian Pastry Shop. I can roll out of my bed on 115th and Amsterdam and be at 111th in about five minutes. Convenience aside, attempting to study at Hungarian during finals season is not recommended. On a good day, about three-quarters of its tables are occupied in some way, but now, unless you’re ready to head out for an 8 AM study session, you might have an easier time finding a seat in Butler (unless you’re willing to sit outside). If you are able to snag a seat, as there are lulls in Hungarian’s crowds, grab it. But prepare to have any number of people completely invade your personal space for any number of hours. I normally study in Hungarian because I can get unlimited refills of coffee for under $3, and even though their brew is nothing special, caffeine is caffeine. The low lights make me feel like I’m doing something more meaningful than ArtHum reading, but they’re not the best for doing written work. There’s also no Wi-fi and virtually no outlets, meaning that if you have reading to do, it’s the perfect place to do it; Facebook is no match for Hungarian. You’ll also probably feel a bit like Jack Kerouac, just without the liver cirrhosis-induced death (hopefully).