While juggling textbooks and travel mugs, the pursuit for good study spots in Smith Union or in the basement of Hawthorne-Longfellow Library can often prove futile. For this reason, many students head off-campus to cafés in Brunswick where the reading chairs and latté-to-foam ratios are perfect.
Bohemian Coffee House, Wild Oats Bakery and Café, and the Little Dog Coffee Shop are three favorite study hotspots for Bowdoin students, but differentiation between their atmospheres and products may demystify the experience.
Bohemian’s proximity to the Polar Bear—a mere 7-minute walk, according to Google Maps—is an important factor to Christine Walder ’15.
“The Bohemian Café is just along the way for me from where I live, so it’s convenient. It’s also close to campus,” she said.
Although many students pass it on their way to Hannaford, many have never really seen Bohemian.
“It’s a really weird location. It’s in that strip mall in front of Hannaford,” said Tristan McCormick ’13.
Inside, Bohemian exudes a relaxed playfulness. The walls are a warm yellow, contrasting with its dark plum ceiling. Potted green plants hang throughout the room, and patrons can sit at high-tops in addition to tables. There is a separate sitting room with doors that offer comfy couches and shelves of board games. Local art is often displayed on the walls, currently showing photographs by Peter M. Robbins.
In contrast, the white walls, high ceilings, and framed catalog-type prints of food at Wild Oats create a more open feel. Wild Oats is in the Tontine Mall, a 10-minute walk down Maine Street.
“I like all the people that work there. Everyone’s very friendly,” said Walder.
Some of the tables have decks of Trivial Pursuit cards for guests to play. When you go to order your coffee, sandwich, soup, or baked good, you feel as though you are present in the kitchen.
However, the popularity of Wild Oats with Bowdoin students causes some to turn away.
“Really, the only issue is that sometimes there are a lot of Bowdoin people,” said Walder.
A little further down the road, Little Dog’s atmosphere preserves it as a retreat from the Bowdoin Bubble, McCormick explained.
“There might be ten Bowdoin kids there, but we all have our own place,” he said.
“It’s better than being in Smith where you’re always running by people you know. Sometimes it’s really crowded, and they play music in the background,” he added. “During finals, there will be a lot of students there. I like seeing other students studying too.”
A large, open window lets you peer out from dark, leather couches and chairs on to Maine Street. The walls inside are burgundy, adding to the calm, sophisticated aura. The open kitchen makes the experience seem more informal. Local artwork by Catherine M. Scanlon is currently on display. There are children’s games and books available as well.
The white canine outline advertising Little Dog is 13 minutes from campus, the farthest of the three.
“It’s kind of far away if you’re walking,” said Walder.
Unlike McCormick, the size of Little Dog is a downside for Greg Rosen ’14.
“It can get pretty crowded because it’s a small space, and the tables are pretty small,” he said. “You don’t have space to spread out like I would in the Union or in H-L occasionally.”
Although their environments differ, the three cafés have similar dedications to the quality and variation of their products. Bohemian and Little Dog have a host of baked goods, while Wild Oats is more of a deli.
“I generally don’t eat at Little Dog,” said Rosen. “I just go there for the coffee and the space. If I do get food, it’s most likely at Wild Oats.”
As of yesterday, Bohemian had nine different coffees brewed, Wild Oats offered eight, and Little Dog had 12. However, their prices are very different. At Bohemian you can fill your travel mug with coffee and buy a bagel all for $2.50. The same snack will cost you $3.40 at Wild Oats and $3.14 at Little Dog.
The change in prices might motivate some students’ decisions.
“At Wild Oats, I like the fact that you get free refills on coffee,” said Rosen. Refills cost $0.95 at Little Dog, and over $1 for most Bohemian sizes.
Wild Oats is the only one that has a deal for Bowdoin students, offering a 10 percent Bowdoin student discount on Sundays, and accepting One Cards for payment.
-Michael Colbert contributed to this report.