Move over, G-Heav — the Bass Library Cafe is the next big thing. Providing sustainable food and comfy chairs until 1:30 a.m. on weeknights, this conveniently located establishment is an exciting new star in the world of midnight (or mid-afternoon) snacks.
The cafe, which opened Tuesday, is proud to offer a wide variety of entirely local and sustainable comestibles. YSFP director Melina Shannon-DiPietro beamed as she listed the various sources for the cafe’s ingredients: The strawberries in the jam are from Hamden, the delicata squash is from a farm in Glastonbury and the honey comes from a man named Vincent Kay who drives his 400,000 bees around Connecticut every year so they can pollinate different orchards. The roast beef is grass-fed, the sodas are made with sugar instead of corn starch, and the pastries contain organic eggs.
But don’t come expecting gluten-free sugarless vegan spinach cookies. According to Shannon-DiPietro, the cafe operates on the principle that “sustainable food should taste really good. It’s not all lentils and Swiss chard.”
The cafe fare, which includes baked goods such as custard-filled donuts and chocolate chip cookies, certainly isn’t limited to leafy greens. But the taste part isn’t quite there yet on a few items. A roast beef sandwich with “mojo mayo” ($7) contains enough garlic and vinegar to completely overpower the tasty organic meat. And the grilled chicken sandwich with roasted peppers and a spicy Yemenite sauce called zhoug ($7) was just not as flavorful or as exciting as it sounded.
Fortunately, Shannon-DiPietro — who recognizes that there are still a few kinks to iron out — actively seeks student feedback about the food. There are comment cards on the drinks counter, and a focus group is in the works. Shannon-DiPietro also makes an effort to speak to students individually, and she takes the input she receives very seriously.
“The tarts still need to be tweaked,” she explained apologetically after a conversation with a Yale Farm intern.
Despite a few downers, though, much of the cafe’s food needs no improvement. A salad of chicken, delicata squash, red onion, peanuts and arugula leaves ($7) was delicious and nutritious. Their walnut and jam scone ($1.95), with a vaguely muffin-like texture and a sweet dab of jam in the middle, was even better. And their dark hot chocolate ($2.75), which can be ordered plain or with a hint of chili, is the real European deal — inspired, according to Shannon-DiPietro, by Thomas Jefferson and Nietzsche, “who both drank hot chocolate in the morning.”
These slightly off-beat offerings embody another important goal for the Bass Library Cafe: Shannon-DiPietro wants to go beyond classics like iced coffee and sticky buns ($2.10 and $2.65, respectively) and serve more creative fare. Unlike every other coffee shop in the world, the cafe will not sell mozzarella, tomato and basil sandwiches, she promises. Instead, the cafe offers a sandwich with white beans and caramelized onions, as well as tarts with apple, onion and cheddar or pear, sage and ricotta. A unique and worthwhile purchase is the Bread Board ($5.50), which comes with a loaf of bread from New Haven’s own Judie’s European Bakery and a cup each of butter, strawberry jam and a delicious mixture of butter and honey.
True, $5.50 might seem like a lot to spend on bread and jelly. But students who are wary of price tags like $3 for chai tea or $7 for a sandwich should remember that they’re not going to do much better at Gourmet Heaven or the store soon to be formerly known as Koffee Too? Besides, unlike the food at Bass Library, the number 13 at G-Heav is probably shipped from across the country and processed six ways from Sunday.
“All our ingredients are organic or sustainable, so it’s almost a different product,” pointed out Shannon-DiPietro.
But despite all its tastily sustainable perks, the BLC (abbrevs anyone?) is a prime studying locale mainly because — unlike other food-serving establishments — libraries do not require their patrons to actually buy anything. Of course, most visitors probably will end up with at least a cup of coffee, especially those taking advantage of the cafe’s late-night hours. But if you’re looking for somewhere to bond with your course packet guilt-free while others munch around you, you can’t get much better than the Bass Library, and if you start to crave some local cannoli, you’ll be in the right place.