Esther Reichek

Following its re-opening on Sunday, customers at the Silliman-based, student-run café, The Acorn, can now choose from a variety of toasts in addition to their wide array of sustainably sourced coffee.

Located on the fourth floor of Silliman, The Acorn has been a place to chat and study for Sillimanders and others alike since its grand opening in 2017. Gabi Limón ’20, Michael Borger ’20 and David Glaess ’19, the café’s founders, sought to create an inviting space for the Silliman community that also delivered sustainable and affordable coffee. All the employees at the coffee shop are Silliman students, and coffee drinks, such as the $2.75 latte, are made with beans from Eleva Coffee, a non-profit that partners with local farmers in Ethiopia, Guatemala and Nicaragua. But with its new daily toast menu, The Acorn hopes to deliver far beyond the original promise of good coffee and good community. The new options launched at the cafés re-opening celebration Sunday.

“Our menu changes every year. This year is more ambitious,” said Sam Feldman ’22, The Acorn’s co-manager.

The options for toasts, four dollars each, will include two savory and sweet variants, as well as a “build your own” option. Both savory toasts are avocado-based with various seasonings, while the sweet options include nut butters and fruits. In the past, The Acorn has served a baked good of the day, but this year marks the first time that more filling fare will be available.

Feldman, who manages the café with Mitchell Harpenau ’22, said that The Acorn is looking to broaden its customer base by improving the café’s social media presence and announcing the shop’s opening with flyers all over campus.

“We have a lot of regulars who are not in Silliman,” Feldman said. “They discover that it’s such a great place to get work done. Get people here once, and usually, they come back.”

Alongside the menu expansion, the number of staff has also increased. There are now 19 student baristas, each working between two and four hours a week. All Silliman students had the opportunity to apply at the start of the school year, regardless of prior experience. Individual trainings took place during the week before opening.

On the eve of the opening, new baristas Natalia Pinela ’22 and Melanie Heller ’23 were excited about their future at The Acorn. Pinela had never worked as a barista before but was inspired by spending a lot of time at the café last year. Heller had experience as a Starbucks barista but is new to Silliman.

“I really like the whole mission of The Acorn, being affordable and a space for students. I’ve always been really into coffee,” Pinela said. “You can get such questionable cups of coffee around here, and I just really appreciate that they try to give you a great cup of coffee each time.”

Heller was enthusiastic about the flexibility of the job. Though she was hesitant to commit to a campus employment opportunity, she expected that it would be easy to balance her work at The Acorn with the rest of her responsibilities.

Even as The Acorn evolved, many well-loved components of the café’s aesthetic and experience have stayed the same. Comfortable furniture and indie artwork donated by recent Yale graduates still twinkle under string lights, and the space opens into the equally cozy Good Life Center. Students are still free to sign up to use the café as an event or performance venue online.

At around noon on Sunday, The Acorn was filled with the buzz of conversation. The line was short but fairly steady. In the back room, which features larger tables and workspaces, a group of students worked through a problem set.

In addition to the regulars, a group of non-Silliman first years welcomed the toast and coffee as a unique alternative to other cafés in the area.

“The [avocado] toast is heartier than Claire’s. And the coffee is good for this area. I prefer it to Blue State,” Chloe Shafer ’23 said.

The Acorn is open on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.

Esther Reichek |