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Searching for New Brunswick's best pumpkin spice latte

Friends Cafe is decked out in autumnal decoration, making it all the more fun to sip pumpkin spice lattes in. – Photo by @friendscafe_nb  Instagram

As the crisp autumn air settles in and the leaves of Voorhees Mall on the College Avenue campus don vibrant hues, it's that time of year again when students can indulge in a classic seasonal treat — the pumpkin spice latte (PSL).

Seasonal beverages such as these evoke warmth and nostalgia, offering a familiar taste that provides an escape from the pressures of academics. PSLs' limited availability and uniqueness allow for a customizable, exciting experience for students who may feel homesick and stressed toward the end of the semester.

But where can you find the best PSL in New Brunswick? To hold you over until Thanksgiving recess, get ready for a caffeinated adventure to some local cafes where you can savor the aromas and flavors that define autumn at Rutgers.

Hidden Grounds Coffee

Nestled in two locations on Easton Avenue, Hidden Grounds Coffee is beloved by caffeine-deficient Rutgers students. Both sites offer a cozy environment, a menu of mouth-watering baked goods and a creative array of hand-crafted beverages. 

The cherished spot owes its existence to owner Spoorthi Kumar, who, after working in various corporate roles, decided to follow her dreams and open a specialty coffee company.

Kumar established the first Hidden Grounds Coffee location in New Brunswick in 2013. Within the last 10 years, her business venture has expanded to seven locations within New Jersey and Brooklyn.

While Hidden Grounds at 106 Easton Avenue lacked fall-festive decorations, the autumnal additions to its menu brought the season to life.

Pumpkin spice cold brew joins Hidden Grounds Coffee's usual lavender, caramel and New Orleans variations. "We actually didn't wanna introduce pumpkin spice cold brew, but it's just too damn good," reads 106's menu. Hidden Grounds Coffee also offers an apple cider donut along with pistachio, sweet caramel, rose and cinnamon sugar flavors.

While a 12-oz PSL with oat milk comes out to $6.80, the price is well worth it, given the drink being seasonally aromatic, smooth and packed with fall flavor. This warm, autumnal beverage is the perfect pick-me-up for a Friday morning at Alexander Library on the College Avenue campus.

Friends Cafe

On the outskirts of New Brunswick, Friends Cafe is the go-to location for a Sunday morning debrief for Rutgers students. The friendly environment is complemented by a vast menu of pastries, breakfast and lunch foods and specialty beverages.

Inspired by his wife's passion for baking and extensive knowledge of the food industry, Mohammad "Mo" Fakhrzadeh leased a run-down spot on the corner of Robinson Street and Central Avenue.

Despite the difficulties of the pandemic, Fakhrzadeh opened Friends Cafe in 2021. Cleverly inspired by the hit sitcom "Friends," this family-owned bakery and cafe is a comforting and nostalgic environment.

The festive curb appeal of Friends Cafe adds immeasurably to the overall experience. While fall flavors taste great, they are even better to consume visually. The seasonal ambiance and festivity of the cafe help students relax and celebrate the season's beauty and warmth.

While its seasonal menu is, to an extent, limited, its pumpkin pie syrup is incredibly unique. A medium pumpkin pie latte with oat milk came in at $5.50, a relatively affordable price for a specialty beverage. The drink is spiced, velvety and cozy. While far from home, this beverage can evoke feelings of comfort and nostalgia.


Located in the heart of Easton Avenue, Fritz's is a fast-casual restaurant operating out of a renovated historic house and offers a pleasant breakfast, lunch or dinner spot. Fritz's has an innovative, house-made menu of desserts, sandwiches and soups, with extensive vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.

Jonathon Guarino, a Rutgers alum, and Robin Varga are the proud co-owners of Fritz's and long-time New Brunswick residents. Since opening its doors in 2015, Fritz's has given Rutgers students a warm and festive taste of home.

Fritz's achieves incomparable interior festivity — every corner was tastefully and warmly autumnal, as was its menu. The fall espresso menu is reasonably priced at $5, hot or iced. White pumpkin, maple cinnamon, Nutella and salted caramel pumpkin pie combine traditional and seasonal sauces and flavors for festive lattes. The restaurant also offers seasonal desserts and "linner" (lunch plus dinner) options as well, including a pumpkin-flavored Snickerdoodle, cheesecake bar and soup.

For only $5, the white pumpkin latte, swirled with airy foam and robust espresso and sprinkled with vibrant sugared foliage, is brilliantly decadent, festive and satisfying. After a long lecture, Fritz's white pumpkin latte and friendly environment is something every student needs to get them through the day.

Embarking on this festive, flavorful expedition through New Brunswick can offer a warm escape from academic and professional stress. Supporting local, cozy spots like Hidden Grounds, Friends Cafe and Fritz's will surely get Rutgers students to the other side of Thanksgiving recess.

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