When I first visited Appleton, it seemed to me that there were more coffee shops than bars along College Avenue. Now that I’m older and wiser (read: 21), my perspective has changed a bit. Nonetheless, it’s absolutely true that downtown Appleton has plenty of locations for coffee junkies. I’m virtually incapable of doing homework without a cup of coffee sitting in front of me, so my study schedule revolves around the various coffee shops along the Ave. Rather than ranking them in order of preference, I’ll present them here based on that schedule. After all, I’m a college student; what’s more important than caffeine and studying?
1. MONDAY-FRIDAY MORNINGS/ EARLY AFTERNOONS AND
SATURDAY AFTERNOON: BREWED AWAKENINGS
Brewed has the best breakfast on the Ave, hands down. Their muffins are amazing; from the vegan options to the pumpkin cream cheese, they’re all perfect. That’s not to say that Brewed doesn’t cater to us carnivores—every summer I have intense cravings for their BLTs, which are as close to perfect as bacon on toast can get. Brewed also serves the best skim lattes in Appleton.
Their Wi-Fi can be spotty, so it’s best working here when you have reading to do or aren’t on a strict deadline. I personally find Brewed’s laidback feel better for doing lighter class readings. I can easily get through hundreds of pages of an eighteenth-century novel in a single sitting as my latte slowly gets cooler and cooler. And when you’re looking for a good place for dessert, nothing beats the gelato here!
2. MONDAY-SATURDAY EVENINGS AND SUNDAY MORNING/EARLY AFTERNOON: COPPER ROCK
If I had to choose my favorite coffee shop on the Ave, it’d be Copper Rock. Thankfully, I don’t have to choose. I do find myself here more than at any of the others, even if it is the furthest from campus. Even blizzard conditions have never stopped me from making the trek. I typically study here at night, because it’s open until ten through the week and until midnight on Friday and Saturday. Sunday is the only unfortunate day, as it closes at 5 p.m., but I’ve been known to stop in here on Sunday morning and then head down to Harmony or Starbucks at closing time.
If specialty lattes are your thing, Copper Rock will be your personal heaven — each season they feature new flavors. I wait all summer for school to start and my opportunity to get a cinnamon apple latte. Last spring they got really creative and served everything from a lavender mocha to a bluebell — blueberry and vanilla — latte. Their soups are fabulous, too, and a great alternative to campus food that doesn’t kill your wallet. I recommend the chicken and pepper chowder for Sunday mornings or early afternoons when you roll out of bed, erm, not quite feeling your best.
Though I find the positives to outweigh the negatives here, Copper Rock may not be the best option if you can’t work well through noise. In the evenings and on weekends, this is the neighborhood hangout for a host of Appleton high schoolers. Unless you can work through any sort of clamor armed with nothing but your iPod, you might want to stay away during these peak hours.
3. SUNDAY LATE AFTERNOON/ EARLY EVENING AND MONDAYFRIDAY AFTERNOONS: HARMONY CAFÉ
Harmony’s Mission Statement reads, “The mission of Harmony Café is to provide a safe and peaceful place to celebrate diversity of people, ideas and activities.” It’s a nonprofit organization, donating its proceeds to the Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin. It’s really a great place, and worth checking out no matter who you are.
Harmony is hugely popular for Lawrence students and professors alike, but for some reason it’s not my favorite. I don’t like the coffee there as much, and the food tends to be a bit pricier. However, it’s basically on campus — just on the other side of Colman — which makes it great for times when I have a short break between classes or before work but don’t feel like staying on campus. I’m not big on Harmony’s atmosphere for study purposes, as it can be dimly lit, and during special events space can be limited.
You’ll typically find me at Harmony on Sundays after I’ve chosen to sleep in. My times there almost always coincide with the weekly “jam sessions” of the Green Apple Folk Music Society. I’m all for some bluegrass circa 1800, but it can grate on your nerves when trying to finish the work you’ve put off all weekend. Plan accordingly.
4. SUNDAY EVENING: STARBUCKS
I don’t really need to explain this one. Everyone has their own opinion on Starbucks, and I lie somewhere in the middle. I typically feel bad not patronizing local businesses when I’m able, but I still haven’t found a coffee shop that makes a better pumpkin spice latte. That being said, you usually only find me here on Sunday evenings, when the rest of College Ave has virtually shut down. For those of you who bank with Chase, take note that a Starbucks card is one of the best things you can get with your debit card rewards.
5. ANY TIME: WARCH CAMPUS CENTER CAFÉ
It’s technically called Pat’s Coffee Central, but please, don’t ever call it that. One of the first things you’ll learn on campus is to not use the technical names for things in the Warch if you don’t want to be the most obvious freshman on campus. To be safe, don’t even call the campus center “the Warch.” Terms like “campus center,” “the café,” “downstairs” — to refer to Andrew Commons — and “the room with all the couches” will suffice.
The most important thing to note about the café is that it is always open except when you need it the most, which is when you’re pulling an all-nighter. Take a power nap, wake up at 11:55, and you’re stuck working through caffeine withdrawal symptoms. But really, it’s right there, and it’s open until midnight seven days a week. How cool is that?
You can even use your magical money card — otherwise known as Culinary Cash — for anything and everything there. Sure, you or your parents or your financial aid ultimately pay for that meal plan, but now all you have to do is use it. Pretty sweet.
One of the worst things about the café, at least as a study spot, is that virtually everyone on campus stops there at least once a day. It’s a great place to meet with professors or to work on a project, but be prepared for distractions. If you want or need to work uninterrupted but still want to stay on campus, bring your coffee to Strange Commons, the library or — if it works better for you than for me — your room. It may not be the greatest coffee in Appleton, but it’ll do. Don’t be surprised if, around finals time, you find a mountain of cups piled around what used to be a desk.