November has been an exhausting month—it’s the final stretch after the midway point of the semester, where you are forced to focus on immediate assignments while planning your final projects. A small scope of that, for me, includes working on revisions for my poetry portfolio that I will submit at the conclusion of the semester’s workshop, all while working on a multi-module presentation, two final essays for my Travel Narrative course, and copyediting for Hair Trigger.
To prevent myself from cracking under moments that seem overwhelming, I learned that taking a break, even a two-minute breather, is essential. I also learned that it is important to know how to refuel. Fortunately, most, if not all, Creative Writing courses take place at the 33 E. Congress Building, which offers plenty of ways to relax and refuel due to an abundance of restaurants and local chains that are within an a one-block vicinity.
One small gem that I discovered during my first semester at Columbia is the Cuban restaurant Cafecito, located directly across the street from the 33 building. Although it may appear to always be busy, the service is pretty quick. Cafecito’s specialties include coffee, sandwiches, and platillos. Given the distance and the quality of the food served, Cafecito quickly became the joint that I frequent on days where I need to take a quick break from my intensive work, whether it be in the graduate lounge of 33, or at the Library.
Cafecito’s tight space works well for me: it’s just enough to eat a sandwich, take my mind of life for about 20 minutes or so, but without lingering on my phone or daydreaming afterwards. The small space means that people are always looking to sit-down, and you will be asked if you are done if you are caught lounging around; furthermore, the small space also means that it can get very noisy, which I personally find to be uncomfortable after a while.
The best part though is their coffee: the cafecito, a straight expresso shot, with a pinch of sugar. This coffee is no joke and is perfect for those days in which you need to find an immediate source of energy—whether it’s right before the beginning of a night class, or putting the final revisions on that one poem immediately after your break.
Now, sometimes a longer break from writing and copyediting, etc. is needed. That’s where Blaze comes in for me. While Panera can be a good place to lounge and eat, it is often very crowded and congested—Blaze tends to be a bit more lax. There is practically always a free seat and table available, even when there’s an abundance of people. The environment is suitable for eating and daydreaming, watching videos on your phone, or hanging out with a classmate or member of your cohort—and be temporarily removed from school tasks. Unlike Cafecito, this a place where you can sit for twenty minutes to eat pizza and then leave, or a place where you can sit for an hour and half and do nothing but catch up on that one TV show you missed before getting back to into that essay.
There is, however, one place that has been my clutch since the very beginning of my first semester as a graduate student at Columbia: Dunkin’ Donuts.
This is the place to go if you’re looking to grab a quick drink right before your night class starts—or if you fear that you will crash amidst a two and a half hour class. Dunkin’ Donuts has been a lifer saver on Tuesdays, when I head to Columbia for my Travel Narrative class after working an eight-hour shift. It helps elevate me from a level of over bearing exhaustion to just simple tiredness.
Honorable mentions: Panera Bread, Panda Express, Spanglish Mexican Kitchen.