In the latest edition of Bwog’s profiles of the friendly faces around campus, Claire Sabel, Guide to the Weekend Editor and Stuffed Sandwich enthusiast, journeys into the bowels of Avery to chat with Steve of Brownie’s Cafe
For a break from the standard Butler fare, many students venture underground to Brownie’s, the cafe below Avery Hall which caters to sleep-deprived Architecture students. Brownie’s is owned and run by Steve, not Columbia Dining Services, which accounts for its superior coffee and affordable bagels.
“I love, love the students,” Steve enthused. ‘There’s a very positive, upbeat energy, and I try to convey that to my staff too.” Before Brownie’s moved to Avery three years ago, Steve worked as a caterer, and his business now also functions as a catering service to the University and beyond. He describes it as a “fun, unique extension of the school. Conversation begins in the class-room and continues in the cafe.” He appreciates the diversity of student body, particularly the international students that the School of Architecture attracts. Accordingly, the Brownie’s menu caters to a variety of tastes.
Not only does the menu reflect variation, but the environment itself constantly evolves. The installations in the café space frequently change, reflecting the output of the numerous conferences and programs that Avery hosts. ‘Public Housing: A New Conversation’ currently graces the walls. Thought-provoking and slickly presented, several installations have completely taken over two of the cafe’s main walls. Just as Low Library and Butler reflect the aims of the Core Curriculum, so does the cafe’s design facilitate study in design, architecture or urban studies.
Steve shares many interests with the students he serves. Brownie’s catering clients are mostly architects, and their houses make interesting places to work. Steve describes the minimalist atmospheres of their houses as “spaces which are blank canvases,” an aesthetic he often contemplates.
Steve is from New York, and grew up in New Jersey — he even once thought about transferring to Columbia. But settling in to life at Columbia was tricky. “It’s an art to learn when to be ready,” he explained. “We don’t have a class schedule, so we had to really get a feel for when classes will end, for the ebb and flow of the traffic.” But rest assured, Steve runs a smooth operation, and loves what he does: “I strongly believe in serving people, and doing it nicely.”