Oppenheimer Café is now open until 9 p.m., giving students a new evening hangout alternative to Diversions. A bustling terrarium by day, the Café is transformed at night into a softly lit space at the south end of the Harned courtyard. Inside, the hanging light fixtures reflect endlessly off the glass facets of the building, making for a starry night even on cloudy evenings. As usual, a cooling breeze flows from the fans above, and the doors sit propped open to let in air and undercaffeinated customers.
Located inside the science-oriented fortress of Thompson and Harned, Oppenheimer has exploded in popularity since its opening in 2006. Lines often reach to the doors during peak hours, with multiple employees cranking out drinks at a rapid rate. The late hours are also attracting plenty of customers, with sales records showing from 90 to 100 students per day served between the hours of 5 and 9 p.m. This is up dramatically from the first day of school, when the Café served only 25 customers over the course of an evening.
Although the Café seemed subdued on a recent Thursday evening, word of the new hours appears to be spreading among students with a variety of academic interests.
Andy Bingle, a Politics and Government major, explained some of the advantages to working in Oppenheimer: “It’s such a pretty part of campus. It feels like you’re outside, even though you’re not.”
“I’m really happy it’s open later,” Bingle continued, but he also noted that the limited food selection was a problem. The Café does not re-stock food items in the evenings, leaving even less substantial food choices than are available in the morning hours.
Paige Phillips, the Café and Cellar Coordinator, said that the Café is “looking at a tracking system” in order to balance issues of food waste with the need to serve hungry customers late.
One major change this year is that the food service in Oppenheimer is now catered in-house. Most to-go items are made at the S.U.B. each morning and brought to the Café for sale during the day. This process is meant to ensure quality, variety and tastiness.
“The Diner is making all our sandwiches fresh… We can customize what we need by the day,” Phillips said.
Previously, food had to be brought in from an outside catering company.
Science majors are also excited about the expanded service; Andrew Clark, a Biochemistry major, said that the later hours are a bonus as he “ended up being here late more often than not.”
He also praised how quickly Oppenheimer turned out drinks, saying, “They are very efficient.”
Westry Page, an employee of the Café, said that in the future the Cafémay host an open-mic night, and that the supervisors seemed “pretty open” to the idea of live music in the evenings. Although the Café plays music from a set of speakers in the corner, a live quartet would certainly make for an even more relaxed atmosphere. It would also give students another venue to show off their talents in an informal setting on campus.
If you haven’t checked out Oppenheimer yet, go. Try out a new study spot, a new drink or just enjoy reading your favorite campus newspaper at a location outside the normal routine. And if you are a morning regular, try sticking around for a while after the sun sets.
As to the possibility of even later hours, Phillips said, “We’ll see. People are utilizing the space…it’s a nice, quiet study hangout—it’s very unique.”