Go ahead and break your allegiance to your regular coffee spot to try out these five big-chain alternatives, which serve up both great deals and local flair.
The Cheese Shoppe, 234 E. Calder Way
Don’t let the Cheese Shoppe’s cave-like location deter you — this quirky cult favorite is a coffee lover’s paradise in the center of downtown. Newcomers may feel strange not running their purchases by a cashier, but it’s OK — for a medium coffee, just leave $1.50 on the counter, and make change if needed from the pile of cash already there. Then grab a cup, choose from the daily roasted brews and serve yourself. Ask one of the friendly employees for a recommendation. (And, yes, they also sell cheese.)
Best Leisurely Sipping Spot
Blue Chip Café, Business Building
If you’re not dashing between classes to snag your caffeine fix, try the Business Building’s Blue Chip Café. It opens out on the building’s stunning main lobby, which could make any Penn Stater wish she’d majored in finance.
And since this is the Business Building, it’s only appropriate the café offers up daily deals — for example, Thursday’s $1.50 Grande Starbucks Coffee. (Other daily promotions feature smoothies, Tazo teas and hot cocoa, according to the café’s website.) Then plop down on a sofa and enjoy the view.
Best Nighttime Caffeine Stop
Irving’s, 110 E. College Ave
‘Tis the season for some late nights, and Irving’s has you covered. While many local coffee shops close before nighttime, Irving’s stays open until midnight Monday through Thursday. That, along with its cozy, purple-walled interior, makes Irving’s a fantastic spot for homework. (Or just pretend to work as you people-watch College Avenue.)
Price-wise, Irving’s is only slightly cheaper than Starbucks. But its 90-cent bagels make it a huge draw, with over 10 varieties to choose from.
Best Campus Convenience
The Gallery Café, Zoller Building Breezeway on Curtin Road
Got a class in Forum? The Gallery Café is a neighboring coffee spot that often goes overlooked. Its soups and sandwiches set it apart from the average Starbucks-selling campus café. Check the blackboard inside for the soup and sandwich of the day.
Best Local Fix
Saint’s Café, 123 W. Beaver Ave
There’s a reason this place stays packed, and it’s not just because their specialty drinks are cheaper on average than Starbucks’. Rather than a grab-and-go joint, Saint’s is known for its serious coffee-shop vibe — book reading and long conversation included. Go guilt-free with organic options and locally made products.
Photo by Nina Abbott