Getting a good meal on campus can require a bit of creativity, particularly on weekends. Midway through last year I was getting pretty tired of greasy dining hall food, long waits at the CoHo, bland Tex-Mex from Treehouse, and even the panini offerings at Coupa. Despite the welcome addition of Ike’s, I still longed for a nice spot without a big line where I could just sit down, soak in the ambiance, and enjoy some quality California organic fare.
The Cool Cafe at the Cantor Arts Center has filled the void. Accessible by a quick stroll through the world’s second largest collection of Rodin sculptures, including his monumental Gates of Hell, this delightful lunch locale is one of Stanford’s best places to eat on campus.
Here you will find tasty sandwiches, fresh salads, rich soups, a great selection of sodas and juices, and delicious deserts. My typical order is a grilled chicken sandwich with bacon, avocado, lettuce, and chipotle aioli on a baguette, a Martinelli’s sparkling apple juice (we all want to act like we’re six), and one of their chocolate brownies. All of the food is delivered to you outside or inside by waiters. The menu is displayed above in good ol’ handwritten chalk, so you make up your mind pretty quickly as you stand behind the counter.
The biggest cons from a student’s perspective are the prices, but you can easily get a solid meal there for under $12, especially if you bring your own drink in a water bottle. In addition, the cafe is just a great place to hang out and get some work done. The patio is gorgeous in sunny weather, which this winter has occurred with remarkable regularity, and there is just the right amount of background noise to make you feel like you’re somewhere lively but peaceful. Children often amuse themselves in the field that extends from the cafe steps, and old couples will crane over the tables discussing the ways in which they are trying to enjoy their remaining years. The whole experience is a wonderful reminder that there is a world outside Stanford, but without shoving it in your face or forcing you to go through the hassle of driving and parking. Stanford’s WiFi is also easily available, so you can work the way you would anywhere else on campus.
The cafe is open Wednesday–Sunday from 11:00 a.m.–3:30 p.m.. Its hours on Thursdays extend to 8:00 p.m., and it is not open on Mondays or Tuesdays. It can get crowded from 12 noon – 1:00 p.m., but otherwise you should have no trouble acquiring a table outside.