Out of Lamont and Into Cafés


As we saunter up to the counter of a certain café, heavy books in tow, caffeine levels rapidly dropping, we wave to the other regulars who are slumped in their deep, cozy chairs. The ever-present barista greets us at the register. Fantasizing about our chosen libation, we open our parched lips to order. From far away we hear the cold voice speak the damning verdict: “Sorry, we don’t open till three.”

Rebuffed, we look around again. This time, we realize that the peers we had previously perceived as erudite scholars are actually overworked, under-showered, and far too concerned about their “Justice” grades to actually ponder life’s philosophical complexities.

By now, hopefully, you’ve figured out that we’re talking about Lamont Café. No matter why Harvard’s caffeine addicts show up there (perhaps they consider themselves too intellectual for this plebeian assemblage, or simply want their coffee in the morning and are too good for the dining hall?), it’s clear that Lamont is not best serving their needs.

Luckily, there are other options, many of them closer to most of the Houses than Lamont.

So this midterm season, if you find yourself with a dire need for a jolt and/or change of scenery, try one of the spots we’ve listed below. We’ve ordered them in descending order, from most likely to inspire the next Great American Novel to most likely to inspire the next B+ “Justice” paper.

1. Café Algiers:

The enormous hole in the ceiling could represent the shocking lack of awareness about political crises in North Africa, the absence of authenticity at the heart of the postcolonial text, or the (thankfully) missing, obnoxious economics concentrators. There are many small tables for private time with your source pack amidst the clamor of conversations in innumerable foreign languages. For a unique experience when you get that coffee craving, try the unusually sweet Mocha Arabica, which comes in a generously-sized metal pot. Sit as long as you like, but leave an hour to get the check after you ask for it; otherwise, you might be studying longer than you intended.

2. Petsi Pies:

Go past Louie’s Superette and straight on till morning to find this eclectic bakery, tucked away on Putnam Ave., near Mather. Tuck yourself away in one of the mismatched chairs and enjoy a wrinkly but tasty scone. Despite its proximity to several river Houses, few Harvard students seem to be aware of its existence, making this townie gem as unlike Lamont Café as possible.

3. Café Pamplona:

Better known to humanities concentrators as the place your TFs are most likely to waylay you as you’re rushing to turn in a paper due at 4, this café is charming in more relaxed situations. The outdoor tables may resemble those on the streets of Paris more than in the squares of the Basque Country from which the institution takes it name, but they make a lovely place to sit on these sunny Indian Summer days. The guava and cheese sandwich may seem like a strange combination, but its contrasting flavors satisfy pretty much any craving.

4. Finale, Burdick’s, and the Barker Center Café (Three-Way Tie):

What’s wrong with each of these places? The first is too swank, the second is too crowded, and the third is too close to class for comfort. They all do have their advantages, though: Finale’s Illy coffee is dependable and the desserts are legendary. Burdick’s hot chocolate is wonderfully thick and rich, in contrast to the insipid mixes of water and sugar that pass for cocoa at other establishments. Finally, the Barker Center Café offers free coffee in the early hours of the morning and the kind companionship of super-cashier Dottie all day. The ’90s soundtrack cannot be beat, either. But we generally recommend going elsewhere.

­—Staff writers Aliza H. Aufrichtig and Marianne F. Kaletzky can be reached at and