Where a new Bwog Staff Writer attempts to review the new cafe in Avery Hall that everyone somehow forgot about.
Let’s face it. America is a corporate country, and our university is no haven from this reality. Directly outside of campus, you can find a plethora of various chains, from Shake Shack to Starbucks. And in recent times, this effect has spread even to the institution itself. Say you want some coffee around NoCo. What are the options? Joe’s Coffee. Huh. What about around the Furnald Lawns or near Mathematics? Joe’s Coffee. That’s odd. Is there nothing else? Well no, there are actually quite a few other coffee shops. That is to say, there’s Blue Java. Like, a whole lot of Blue Javas. Personally, having Columbia’s coffee culture simply be a battleground between our brewed versions of Coca-Cola and Pepsi does not sound like a healthy market
As I pondered this rather depressing state of affairs, I stumbled across a sign. Next to Avery Hall, a chalkboard advertised Cafe Wallabout, located in the aforementioned building’s basement. It even had a helpful arrow, pointing in the opposite direction of the cafe. No doubt this was a test, to make sure that only the pure of heart and steady of will could make it to the promised land. I was ecstatic, and curious to try how this new challenger compared to the competition.
So, at that point for the first time, I walked in. The initial fact that surprised me was the excess amount of space. Aside from being larger than most other coffee shops at CU, it was practically empty. This differs depending on the time of day, of course, but I have found that it is rarely packed. There isn’t that much seating, but the tables are quite separated, in contrast to the clustered arrangement that can be found in places such as NoCo. If you come in at the right time, I suspect this would be an excellent place to get some studying or reading in.
Let’s get to the most integral part of this review. Is Cafe Wallabout itself any good? In total, I have gone there four times, three of those in total capacity as a Bwog critic. Starting with the side character, the food: the cafe passes the test. There are a large number of various pre-packaged snacks, with a freezer and multiple shelves. Overall, their selection was similar to that of the Blue Java in Uris Hall and certainly better than any of the Joe Coffees, which offer only a couple pastries and a pricy selection of their own bottled drinks. Concerning their sweet and savory pastry selection, I found that the choices were somewhat limited. Despite that, the two I tried, a ham and swiss croissant and a chocolate chip cookie, were more than decent. The croissant seemed fresh, and although it wasn’t warm, it was well made and had an excellent taste. The cookie was great and is one of the better I have found on campus. The cost of all this isn’t too bad either; the cheapest pastries will set you back about $3, to anywhere from $6-8 for the more expensive options. It’s also noteworthy that Wallabout plans to expand its food selection in the near future. There are already new breakfast tacos as an option (which I did not have the chance to try), and according to posters around the cafe, they are open to suggestions on what new choices to add to the menu.
Finally, the star of the show — the coffee. To try to get an unbiased opinion, I tried both the hot and iced variants of their lattes (my go-to orders), with no sugar or syrups mixed in. Both of the drinks come in one size, with the hot latte costing $4.50 and the iced setting you back $5. These prices are quite similar to those at Joe’s Coffee, and as far as I can tell, the container sizes at Wallabout are noticeably larger. If you only care about how much coffee you’re getting, the cafe is already a good choice. And if you happen to care about the taste, Wallabout is worth trying. The hot latte I got didn’t perfectly fit my taste, being a little colder than I would have liked and with not much foam at the top, but I would give the experience as a whole an OK rating. The latte had a good bitterness to it and the taste wasn’t bad. Of the two types, I preferred the iced latte. It had a little more milk than I initially expected, but this grew on me, leading to a second trip to buy it again. I certainly preferred this to the almost watery lattes found elsewhere on campus. The taste isn’t something special, but it is quite smooth, and drinking it is pleasant. I definitely would not have minded if they increased the amount of espresso, though.
In short, Cafe Wallabout has an adequate selection of decent food that is still expanding, and coffee that is cheaper (and in my opinion better) than that at Joe’s Coffee. With small lines, you can also get your snacks and drinks relatively quickly. The coffee as a whole is not better than all of the other options off-campus (with formidable competition like Hungarian Pastry Shop available) and, but is better than most shops on university grounds, and is located in a convenient place. So if you’re in the mood for some cafe fare, or are on the eastern part of campus and need some caffeine, I’d suggest giving Wallabout a shot!
Images via Yacob Melman