Breaking news: the dream of the ’90s is alive in our very own Barker Café. On Oct. 16, hipster Harvard students and professors were finally relieved of their pent-up anguish and at last given a quality coffee stop besides the distressingly mainstream Lamont Café or pricey Square establishments. With its student discounts, gourmet quiches, and undeniable ambience, Barker Café aims to offer a relaxing, unbeatably cool atmosphere befitting Winona Ryder wannabes and esteemed scholars alike.
Let’s set the scene. You walk into the Barker Center in desperate need of an afternoon pick-me-up. Once you hit the moose antler chandelier in the lobby, you hear the faint sound of nondescript elevator jazz emanating from the rotunda. In a trance, you’re drawn in, following the bitter smell of Counter Culture coffee brewing. You enter. Welcome to beatnik paradise.
The Barker Café serves a smorgasbord of unique gourmet cuisine HUDS just can’t seem to emulate. Hummus dishes, cheddar squares, ratatouille…it’s like a trip to a quaint bistro overlooking the Seine. Miniature French pastries and scones are temptingly displayed in a glass case, unfailingly offered to each customer by a slightly glum barista, fittingly dressed in all black. Warm, dim lighting brightens the perfectly distressed leather couches and wooden tables, breeding an enigmatic aura conducive to an afternoon of anonymous studying.
Despite this cool aloof vibe, jovial spirits abounded in the Café during its grand opening. Students in plaid shirts and Wayfarer reading glasses cheerfully indulged in giant chocolate chip cookies, and professor Diana L. Eck, gleefully exited the café exclaiming “Coffee is delicious!” over the jarringly loud jazz techno background music.
Of course, as with all new businesses, a few things could be improved upon in the Barker. While pre-made sandwiches with pretentious ingredients are a drastic improvement from HUDS’s suspiciously green falafel, the baguettes are overly refrigerated, so all customers must channel the table manners of John Belushi in Animal House when taking a tough bite of their sweet potato, goat cheese, and pesto sandwiches. Moreover, coffee shop music should be soulful, mellow, and, most importantly, as unnoticeable as possible. The supposedly “carefully crafted Spotify playlists” completely reject that sentiment and instead opt for a mix of blaring trombones and electronic beats that sound like a Louis Armstrong record reproduced by will.i.am. A softer soundtrack would drastically up Barker’s sought-after cool factor.
Décor-wise, the café should invest in an interior designer, or, better yet, a feng shui expert. The neutral parchment-colored curtains leave a lot to be desired, and the couches are oriented in such a way that only allows for groups to sit next to each other, rather than across from one another, reminiscent of a first date from hell. Most confusingly, the clock is situated to the side of the room approximately six inches above the trash can. Barker employees may want to throw a little art on the wall to add some colorful flavor, rethink furniture placement, and, of the utmost importance, find a better place (almost anywhere) for that clock.
After a few minor repairs, Barker Café will be a worthy space for future Jack Kerouacs to brood over a steaming cup of black coffee and a cranberry scone.