Columbia has a wealth of libraries, abandoned classrooms, dorm rooms, and various corners in which to study for finals. But after the 5th day in a row wandering around Butler for 45 minutes trying to find a seat, even the most impressive library can get a little dull. Sometimes you need to practice your liberal-arts-hipster-cafe-typing abilities, and Bwog is here to help you. From the most crowded wobbly tables to the best atmospheric (read: dim) lighting, we’ve assembled a (somewhat) exhaustive catalog of all the cafes in the neighborhood and their relative merits for actually getting any work done. Our first installment rates two of the biggest names in hip cafe squatting, and an undercover star: Starbucks, Oren’s, and Aroma.
The awkward window bar at Oren’s is usually used for bag deposits while preparing a coffee sleeve or for an extended phone conversation before class. Once in a blue moon you glimpse an older gentleman with a paper espresso cup reading the Times or grading papers. The shocking truth is, that cramped little corner is one of the best spots to study on campus. Well, between 112th and 113th. That’s in a coffee shop. Ok, it’s not that conducive to *real* studying, but that’s not what we’re talking about.
Take-away message: do not go to Oren’s if you need to learn, memorize, and internalize information, or complete any written work. Go to smell various ethnicities of coffee bean while feeling surrounded by people who look a lot busier than you are. If there’s a lull, you might be able to get a few pages of a pleasure book read. The real genius of this study spot, though, is that everyone else will wonder how the hell you’re getting any work done in there.
Aroma on 72nd and Broadway is, for all intents and purposes, perfect for camping. No, it is not Butler, and yes, it is kind of a real place with real people. But everything else is ideal. Let’s talk, for instance, the upstairs level. There are tables with comfortable chairs, tables with uncomfortable chairs, if you’re into that, and couches for if you’re really not into the uncomfortable chairs. And each is equipped with an outlet. I know. In this way Aroma is a little like a mullet, except the opposite: party in the front, work in the back. The first floor of the “Espresso Bar” is generally reserved for social gatherings that more often than not include tourists, Upper West Side moms and the strollers that come with them. There are no outlets on the first floor, and large communal tables instead of individual hives, but this is probably for the better because it means that when you come down for your fifth cup of coffee you get a little breath of life. Or, you don’t go down there, in which case you’re probably being more productive than you would be if you went down to Butler Café and ran into your entire floor, and Raj. And this is where we really get to it. The food. The food, the coffee, and the free Wifi. No, you don’t need to purchase anything to get on the Wifi, but Aroma makes food that is actually good and (usually) cooked in front of you, so that when you’re on your fifth trip to the bar you don’t feel that gross. And they give you chocolate with every purchase. Like, even when you buy a banana. So take the 1 down to 96th, and then take the 2 or the 3 to 72nd so you feel like you’re really “getting off campus,” and go do what you would do in Butler except in the real world. And with chocolate.