Hot drinks, cool cafés

The first cold snap—well, really the first not-200-degrees-in-the-shade-snap—brought memories of hot chocolate at the ice skating rink, warm cider at Halloween, and the steam on my face from mugs of hot coffee around early campfires on chilly mornings.

Woah, Nellie. We’re in the middle of University Square, where the closest thing to a campfire is the Sterno under the s’mores at Cosí.

The campus is a place that has more hot drink choices than all the ice skating rinks in Philadelphia combined.

Like how about the caramel apple ciders at Cosí and Starbucks at $2.35 and $2.45 respectively? Yum.

Oh, that’s the tall size, with a capital T that rhymes with P that stands for petite and also for promenade, because I took one around the University Square cafés, and here’s what I found.

Bucks County Coffee

I wasn’t planning to mention the pumpkin spice coffee—one of the specialty blends that gets cycled in and out of the daily choices. “People are going nuts for it,” said one of the two women behind the counter, who insisted on going nameless. But then a colleague, unbidden, said it was amazing and asked if I’d tried it.

Here a cup of joe ranges from $1.40 to $1.70, the lattes start at $2.55, and a cup of undoctored cider ranges from $1.75 to $2.25 for the largest. And then there are milk steamers and hot chocolate, both for not much more than a standard cup of coffee. The pastries include tarts and layer cakes.

Bucks County has its steady fans who like to hang there. Inside is smokeless, but outdoors, front and back, you may pull out your Marlboros.

square.gif3430 Sansom St., 215-387-6722, Monday to Friday 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Avril 50

For 98 cents you can get a small coffee here—one of the 65 varieties that owner John Shahidi serves up, five gourmet choices per day. The teas—about 100 choices—are another option, some for 89 cents, and some varieties for more. Inside there’s no seating, but when the weather’s fine, sit in the chairs out front, pull out your Gauloises and read one of Avril 50’s 3,000 publications from all over the world while you savor your espresso, at $1.35 for a single, or your cappuccino, at $1.75. for a single. Need to up your caffeine? Try one of the 300 chocolates on the side.

square.gif3406 Sansom St., 325-222-6108, Monday to Friday 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Starbucks

Aaah, this is the home of the caramel macchiato, foamed milk with espresso, vanilla and caramel, for $2.80 for a “tall.” Or the white chocolate mocha, starting at $3.20.

A standard cup of coffee matches the prices at Bucks County. And the hot chocolate starts at $2.20, the chai at $2.70. Starbucks, which is smoke free, has its regulars who don’t seem to mind the wooden seats.

square.gif3401 Walnut St., 215-387-1914, Monday to Thursday 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Cosí

For seating, Cosí’s got it all—comfy chairs, hard chairs, indoors, outdoors and an indoor smoking area (upstairs). And the hours are for youthful nightowls who can sleep after their dose of caffeine. The hot drinks look and sound a lot like Starbucks’ and Bucks County’s, with a similar assortment of teas, chai, steamers and espressos at prices either the same or a few cents apart. This place has food as well as the standard biscotti.

square.gif140 S. 36th St., 215-222-4545, Monday to Thursday 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Friday 6:30 a.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday 7:30 a.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday 7:30 a.m. to midnight.

Farther afield

Intermezzo, at 3131 Walnut in the Left Bank, 215-222-4300, has friendly patrons and Peet’s coffee, which starts at $1.50 a cup. Plus it’s got comfy seats, good for staying a while, and Internet connections, good for your laptop. Too lazy to travel off-campus? There’s an Au Bon Pain at Huntsman Hall, 215-573-0605.

Originally published on October 31, 2002