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Inside Beat

Where to get your caffeine fix around College Avenue

Simply Chai is one of the many coffee shops off of the College Avenue campus that would make for great socially distanced coffee dates.  – Photo by Simply Chai / Facebook

As college students, many of us can’t function without at least a cup of caffeine in our daily routines, and with midterm season rapidly approaching, you’ll probably need a couple.

With the rising coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases and no end to indoor dining in sight, going out to get coffee safely can be a challenge. 

But if you’re on Rutgers–New Brunswick campus for a study sesh, you’re in luck! The College Avenue campus has a bunch of cafés that can satisfy your cravings without close contact. 

Here are some of the best places on campus to grab – socially distanced – coffee or tea with your friends or significant other:

Starbucks Coffee – George Street

You can’t ever go wrong with Starbucks, especially not with their holiday drinks that were brought back recently – my personal favorites are the Caramel Brulée and Chestnut Praline Lattes. 

The café offers a huge variety of teas and coffees for every mood, as well as some fire bakery items, making it my personal go-to when I’m looking to get s*** done. 

Pro tip: If you’re looking for a real caffeine rush, order your lattes with the blond espresso instead. Not only does it taste delicious, but it also has more caffeine per shot compared to a standard caffeine espresso shot.

Many Starbucks, including the Starbucks at The Yard @ College Avenue, offer mobile ordering, so you can order from the comfort of your phone and avoid close interaction with employees. The Yard's Starbucks has very limited indoor and outdoor seating, making it harder to socially distance from others.

If you’re looking for a place to grind out some work and ditch the constant crowd of college students inside, I would highly recommend walking the extra half mile to this location. Not only is this Starbucks further away from the noise of the College Avenue campus, but it’s also much larger too, so you can easily socially distance while enjoying your favorite beverage.

Hidden Grounds Coffee

If you’re tired of the mainstream chains and are looking to try a new café, then Hidden Grounds is the place for you. 

Located next to Surreal Creamery on Easton Avenue, this modern café has both the quality classics, like Caramel Lattes and freshly brewed drip coffee, as well as some more daring combinations, like the Lavender Honey Latte and the Golden Milk Latte with turmeric.

And for those who hate coffee, Hidden Grounds offers a variety of chai and brewed teas as well, making it the perfect place for both the experimentalists who aren’t impressed by Pumpkin Spice Lattes as well as the “tried-and-trues” who prefer the basics. 

To minimize contact with employees, customers can order regularly at the register and pay using Apple Pay or Google Pay, or they can order from their phones with the mobile app and come in for pick up.

While the shop doesn’t offer outdoor seating, if you’re comfortable with sitting in the limited indoor space, this small spot has a great ambiance with an indie vibe and is a nice getaway from the hustle-and-bustle of the more popular chains on campus. 

Simply Chai

Calling all chai lovers! This desi-fusion café at the heart of Easton Ave has put itself on the map for its delicious selection of chai beverages, cold brews and handcrafted lattes. 

As the sister branch of Hidden Grounds, Simply Chai has a similar menu. But, this cafe stop has a few unique additions, like the Cadbury Chocolate Chai Latte and bakery items, like Gulab Jamun and Ras Malai flavored donuts, that aren’t offered at the original location.

If you’re more of a coffee person like I am, fear not: The café offers a myriad of espresso-based drinks that are just as good. I personally really enjoyed the Sweet Caramel Cold Brew, and as someone who takes their cold brews seriously, this drink ranks surprisingly high in my list of favorites. 

The café minimizes contact with others by allowing ordering from one of the in-store devices and paying with either a card or touch-free from your phone’s virtual wallet. Unfortunately, if you’re looking to be completely contact-free, Simply Chai doesn’t have an app or an order-ahead option online, only delivery through Uber Eats or Grubhub.

But, this café does offer limited outdoor seating, so if you’re looking to get some work done, be sure to swing by during the day to grab a seat and enjoy a tasty drink.

Chai Chenak

If you’re not interested in flowery chai, don’t care for coffee at all and just want a solid cup of chai that feels like home, Chai Chenak is your best bet. 

Located a few blocks further down George Street from Starbucks, this Pakistani restaurant-café keeps it simple and close to its roots – the menu offers five traditional chais, including the classics like Kashmiri Chai and standard “Doodh Patti” Chai, as well as the renowned Peshawari Qahwa green tea. If you dine-in, each order is served in a teapot, allowing you to pour out as much as you want, with a biscuit on the side. 

Unlike other shops, this restaurant offers a decent amount of indoor and outdoor seating as well as takeout and delivery options. They also have a wide variety of delicious Pakistani street foods, entrees and desserts too. 

Unfortunately, you can’t mobile order, so if you’re interested in staying contact-free, make sure to call ahead of time to order or place your order through Uber Eats or Grubhub.

As restrictions tighten up in the state, grabbing coffee with friends or your boo is going to become harder, so hit up those people you’ve been meaning to hang out with and check out one of these places while you can. 

With all the hectic energy of this semester, we all deserve a break, and COVID-19 shouldn’t stop you from getting your caffeine fix. Make sure to bring hand sanitizer wherever you go, practice social distancing if you’re going to sit inside of any of these cafes and most importantly, wear a mask! These few simple rules will not only protect you but can help save lives.

Happy (COVID-19-free) caffeinating!


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