Cafe@Baker opens after nearly two-month delay

The cafe opened to positive reactions from students, while student workers report sparse foot traffic thus far.

by Aryanna Qusba | 4/21/22 5:05am

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On April 11, Cafe@Baker opened in Baker-Berry Library, becoming the second new dining option to begin operating this term after The Fern opened on March 28. The cafe occupies the space where King Arthur Flour operated until closing in May 2020. According to Cafe@Baker manager Chris Robbins, the new eatery offers pastries and beverages, including at least six types of KAF specialty baked goods each day.

The opening comes after nearly two months of delays. Cafe@Baker was initially scheduled to open on Feb. 21, but Dartmouth Dining decided to delay plans until the College lifted its indoor mask mandate, Robbins said. The College lifted its mandate in mid-March, and the cafe opened shortly after.

So far, students have reported positive reactions to the opening.

Grant Foley ’25 said he was excited by the new dining option, adding that he likes “the smell of the baked goods and the general aromas” of the cafe, which he also uses as a study spot. Before the cafe opened, Foley said the space was “quiet and scary,” but the opening “makes [the general ambience] a lot better.”

Director of Dartmouth Dining Jon Plodzik said he thinks the new Cafe@Baker has a unique feel, adding that he wants dining to be “more than just the food.”

“It’s about the whole package, the whole experience,” he said. 

Although Foley responded positively to the opening at large, he expressed disappointment that the cafe does not accept meal swipes. Similar to The Fern cafe in Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society, Cafe@Baker only accepts DBA, DASH and credit.

While Plodzik said that Cafe@Baker might not be as popular as the Novack Cafe since it does not accept meal swipes, he said that he hopes that professors and students not on meal plans will be willing to spend their own money at the cafe.

Cafe@Baker student worker Gregor Mattedi ’22 said a lot of students have yet to discover the new cafe, leading to sparse foot traffic. For example, Emilia Hopp ’22 said she did not have to wait in line for her coffee or croissant, contrasting her experience with KAF, which she said had “lines all the way out the door during rush hour.”

The lack of crowds also differs from Novack Cafe, which has experienced overcrowding throughout the year according to Robbins, who also works as the manager at Novack. He said he hopes an additional dining option in the library will reduce Novack lines.

“Our students work really hard to keep those lines moving,” Robbins said. “Anything we can do to take the pressure off of them a little bit is certainly appreciated. Also, we have a single espresso machine downstairs. That just can’t keep up. [Having a second espresso machine in Cafe@Baker] takes some pressure off that machine.”

Still, Plodzik noted concerns over staffing shortages at the new cafe, noting that the current staff is already working “six days a week.”

“We’re at a bit of a tipping point on staffing,” he added.

In addition to KAF baked goods, Cafe@Baker offers savory and sweet hand pies, quiches, muffins and scones. Whereas Novack serves Starbucks products, Cafe@Baker’s drinks are provided by Mocha Joe’s Coffee and Rishi Teas, Mattedi said. 

“I got a chocolate croissant from KAF,” Grace McInerney ’25 said. “It is better quality than the Dartmouth baked goods. The sweet stuff they offer is really good.”

Robbins said he is particularly excited to work with Rishi’s Teas, a socially conscious company that “does a lot of social work to make sure their people are paid properly.” Rishi imports organic teas directly from gardens across the world, promoting an environmentally and socially conscious mission, according to the company website

Beyond Rishi’s Teas, Plodzik said he hopes to introduce tea bars on campus, where students can blend their own tea to “create a special kind of flavor profile.” He also said he is interested in “a 24-hour venue store” in his continued effort to expand the student dining experience.

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