Silliman’s Acorn cafe re-opens
After months of inactivity during the pandemic, the student-run café reopened on Sunday for in-person service.
Asha Prihar, Contributing Photographer
On Sunday, Sept. 26, the dials of the once dormant La Marzocco machine fluttered again. The Silliman Acorn announced its reopening with the same sights and sounds that made it a destination since its 2017 debut –– the piping stream of hot espresso and the purr of shooting steam.
Looking onto the dome of Woolsey Hall and neighboring the Good Life Center, the Acorn is a student-run café on the fourth floor of Silliman College. Founded in 2017 by Gabi Limón ’20, Michael Borger ’20 and David Glaess ’19, the Acorn strives to offer students a welcoming environment for work or relaxation while providing affordable drinks and snacks. It is also a popular student job — Yalies can work as baristas for $13.50 an hour. While it was closed for most of the pandemic, the Acorn opened for contactless coffee orders once a week, thanks to the efforts of Henri Cornec ’24. On Sept. 26, the Acorn reopened for service seven days a week.
“This year, we want to return to a real coffee-shop schedule,” said Cornec, a manager at the Acorn.
In addition to returning to normal service, Cornec explained that he and his team also have other goals for the Acorn this year. Cornec — who arrived at Yale with experience cooking and bartending in Frankfurt, Germany — highlighted expanding the menu and focusing on the ingredients as two of his aims. He specifically pointed to the Acorn’s pumpkin spice latte, which baristas will make with real pumpkin. Cornec is also looking to tap into his bartending roots by hosting mocktail evenings on weekends.
Jocelyn Wexler ’22, a student in Silliman, told the News that she has been coming to the Acorn since it opened in 2017. Wexler said she was drawn to the café because of its prices, convenience and inviting atmosphere.
“A latte here is about the same price as [drip coffee] anywhere else,” Wexler said. “It’s great. I’m a huge fan.”
The Acorn helps students on both sides of the counter. Lawrence Tang ’25 jumped at the chance to work at the Acorn because it pays well and is relatively low-stress. Tang, who previously worked as a barista at a bubble tea place in the Washington, D.C., area before coming to Yale, said that he wanted a job where he could “interact with the Silliman community and meet new people.”
Tang heard about the Acorn from a Silliman mailing list and decided that working there could offer him that chance. He also said that the expectation of working four to six hours a week seemed reasonable to him, compared with other campus jobs.
“I’m happy the Acorn is open,” Tang said. “Come visit us.”
Though the Acorn is popular, according to Cornec, visitors from other colleges can be rare. Cornec told the News that students often think the Acorn is “just a Silliman thing.” In fact, the cafe is open to all Yale students.
One of the chief challenges the Acorn managers — Cornec, Camille Chang ’25 and Melanie Heller ’23, a sports reporter for the News — face is attracting students from across Yale’s campus. Cornec said that many students who knew about the Acorn and frequented the space prior to the pandemic have since graduated.
“We need to get the Acorn back out there,” Cornec said.
As part of that effort, the Acorn will start to serve homemade croissants on Sundays, and is looking to further expand its menu in the future. Additionally, Cornec and his team are looking to extend the cafe’s hours.
The Acorn at Silliman is currently open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.