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The Clerk Sent Two Reporters Undercover to Each Late-Night Café. What They Found There Will Shock You.

In honor of the opening of the new library café, photographer Maxwell Cox ‘23 and I embarked on a mission to determine which of the three after-hours restaurants on campus will give you the most bang for your buck. Over the course of a single evening, we sampled our way from the North Dorms to the Whitehead Campus Center, sacrificing sleep and study time to provide you, our loyal readers, with guidelines for selecting the perfect midnight snack. Here, without further ado, are the results. 

At Lunt Café, our first stop, we purchased an OGTBH sandwich ($3, cash only), along with a Sex smoothie ($3, cash only). Millennials (and journalists) that we are, we snapped a couple pictures before digging in—phones eat first, after all.

Though the Sex had a nice consistency, neither too watery nor too thick, I felt that the presence of orange juice was somewhat overpowering, functioning less to pack a sensory punch than to drown out other, more subtle flavors. On the other hand, the OGTBH—an acronym whose latter half doubles as an ingredient-by-ingredient description of the sandwich itself, e.g. “Turkey, Brie, and Honey”—managed to strike the perfect balance between sweet and savory. Consisting of two slabs of ciabatta bread topped with brie slices and slathered with honey, it makes for an ideal comfort food, reminiscent of something your mother might’ve made for you when you were in elementary school. Be warned, however: the OGTBH makes for extremely messy eating, so avoid it like the plague on dates.

Rating: 6/10

Our next stop was uncharted territory for both of us: the Lutnick Library café, which occupies a tiny corner of the ground floor. There, I ordered a raspberry mocha ($3.40, OneCard accepted) and Max a Cocovibe-brand sparkling, watermelon-flavored coconut water ($2.50, OneCard accepted). (Max had the opportunity to choose between watermelon and pineapple flavors, sparkling and non-sparkling styles, and sweetened and natural aftertastes; the place is like a Subway for this one beverage).

Though Max and I were initially skeptical about the quality of the mocha, it proved the breakout star of the night. Tinted a pretty rose-gold color—no doubt a calculated effort on the part of coffee company Vega to attract millennial-age customers—the raspberry in the mocha was understated but unmistakable, adding a hint of fruity sweetness to what was otherwise a pretty standard coffee. “I think this is my favorite item so far,” I said to Max, who had far more mixed feelings about his own order. While not awful by any means, the coconut water’s combination of bubbles and watermelon flavoring made for a strange drinking experience.

Rating: 4.5/10

To cap off our stint as food critics, we headed down-campus to see what the Coop had to offer. There, we bought a saran-wrapped behemoth of a cinnamon muffin ($2.60, OneCard accepted; seriously, you should’ve seen the diameter of this thing) and ordered a steak quesadilla from the grill ($6.25, OneCard accepted). Settling down to wait for our order to be called, we started in on the muffin. Though a perfectly adequate pastry, it didn’t really stand out to us in any way; the highest praise we could muster was “This would make for a decent breakfast if you’re running late to class.”

The quesadilla, however, was another matter entirely. Surface crosshatched with dark streaks from the panini press, it arrived some five minutes after we’d ordered it, accompanied by small plastic cups of salsa and sour cream. (Though you can also add a variety of vegetables—including pickles, tomatoes, peppers, and onions—to your quesadilla at no extra charge, we advise against it, as the produce on display is commonly brown and/or wilted). I found the crunch of the tortilla an excellent contrast to the softness of the melted cheese, which solidified into a malleable crust as it cooled. The addition of a dollop or two of salsa, meanwhile, added a tang of spice that only upped the flavor index; in Max’s words, “I feel like the salsa is a must for full enjoyment.” Somehow, Max and I found room in our stomachs to devour (nearly) the entire thing; it was that good.

Rating: 7.5/10 

While polishing off the quesadilla, we had the chance to reflect on each of that evening’s dining experiences. Max felt that the starchiness and heaviness of Lunt food relegated it to the category of “once-in-a-while thing” rather than dietary staple, an assessment I am inclined to agree with. We concluded that the library café, while the purveyor of some truly stellar coffee, suffers from a serious lack of fresh options—indeed, the only actual food on display was a couple pre-packaged sandwiches and fruit salads, some protein bars, and a few bags of chips. Ultimately, the memory of the quesadilla, by then reduced to a scattering of crumbs and a few strings of cheese on our shared plate, loomed large enough in our minds that we awarded the gold star to the Coop. 

Photography by Max Cox ’23. Illustration by Kate McCaney ‘23

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