MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS —Freshmen college students have an overwhelming challenge in attempting to make a home for themselves in this giant metropolis — a challenge that usually begins as a solo mission.
Whether you're looking to escape dormitory life or trying to get into the spirit of the city, you need places to sit, chill, think, watch and even study.
DNAinfo New York has put together a list of the best places to hang out solo, near to Columbia University.
121 La Salle St. at Broadway
Furthest uptown on our list is this tiny treasure of a coffee shop that brings unexpected pleasures from downtown to the Morningside Heights neighborhood. David Jang, co-owner of the 1-year-old shop, said that the cranberry scones and sticky buns he imports daily from SoHo’s Balthazar Bakery are his top sellers.
“As far as coffee, we do cappuccinos really well. Our iced coffee is really good,” he added.
Culture Tea Bar
3111 Broadway between La Salle and 123rd streets
Just steps away from Kuro Kuma is this charming and unassuming tea shop. Featuring a wide range of herbal, black, green and bubble teas and delectable pastries made on the premises, Culture Tea Bar is an intimate space in which students can read up on their Proust while noshing on sandwiches and other small dishes for under $10.
536 W. 112th St. at Broadway
This spot, which is off the beaten path of Broadway, is a haven for students looking to buy and sell their textbooks. But the two-story shop has plenty to offer when class isn’t in session. Owner Chris Doeblin said that two to three times a week, starting in October, the independent bookstore regularly hosts readings by Columbia faculty. Even if undergrads aren’t coming in regularly to pick up extracurricular reading, the author events are a great opportunity to socialize outside of the collegiate setting.
Spices and Tease
2580 Broadway at West 97th Street
Starbucks is so over. The perpetually jammed coffee shop-cum-study space is such a go-to spot that jockeying for a table there is approaching a blood sport. Instead, try out the independent coffee and tea shop Spices and Tease.
“Usually students don’t come here, but we have Wi-Fi and tea and coffee so I feel like it’s a good location to hang out,” said employee Jennifer Hashimoto, 24, of Harlem, who is also a student a Fordham majoring in media and communications.
“Before I worked here, I would come here to chill,” she said. “It’s quiet. It’s not as busy as Starbucks.”
The Classic Columbia Hangout Spots
You’ll never be the only person sitting alone at one of these three coffee shops. The Hungarian Pastry Shop at 1030 Amsterdam Ave. and 111th Street has been beloved by generations of students for its grungy charm. The coffee and pastries come highly recommended and the quiet atmosphere makes it the perfect place to tackle some of the course syllabus.
French bakery La Toulousaine at 946 Amsterdam Ave. and 107th Street boasts some gorgeous pastries and very affordable fresh breads. If you're in the mood for a savory treat, a quiche, croquet monsieur or a hot dog will fill your stomach and fit the bill, as all of those items cost less than $6.
Rumors abound that the Joe Coffee at 550 W. 120th St. at Broadway is the busiest of all eight Joe locations in the city — even beating the Grand Central Station store. On the second floor of the new science building on Columbia’s campus, this shop’s floor to ceiling windows allow guests to lazily gaze at the traffic outside instead of at their textbooks. It’s a see-and-be-seen kind of place, and the coffee’s not bad either.