Better than the original?
Barnes and Noble Cafe
Meal: Brunch? / Weekend / Morning
Compare to: Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, Crescent Moon Cafe
If you can’t find a Starbucks within the desired 3 mile radius of your house, you might want to try the cafe at Barnes & Noble bookstores. If you’ve never been, it might surprise you to know they ‘proudly brew’ Starbucks coffees and for all intensive purposes I just treat the whole place as if it were a Starbucks. OMG – another Starbucks!
Akin to its brother-in-brand-name, the Barnes & Noble Cafe is warm, inviting, and usually chock full of coffee patrons reading B&N books they’re probably never going to buy. Good idea to get them in the store though. The entire cafe section is well defined, and sans a severe vision impairment, you’ll notice it as soon as you enter the bookstore. I would note that there is very rarely a free stroll to the counter; you might have to wait a minute or two to get served.
The Cafe has a full, if not larger, assortment of sandwiches (panini mainly), pastries (brownies, cookies, tarts), and some other fun stuff like gourmet pretzels. We’ve had the pretzels in the past and found them a bit disappointing (the panini-maker thing that they smush the pretzel in to heat it ended up stripping the cheese on top and we essentially got a plain pretzel) but I’m a very big fan of their expresso brownies. Yum! Prices are naturally on the pricey side for these treats, but they’re not out of the realm of what you’d pay for this stuff in any other cafe.
The coffees are carbon-copies of the Starbucks equivalent, with the same name and everything. In fact, after trying a Java Chip Light frappuccino at the B&N Cafe, it was considerably better than some I’ve had at Starbucks itself. They’ve always been well blended with no annoying monster chunks of ice looming at the bottom of the cup (which has happened twice at Starbucks). Autumn likes the peppermint mocha latte (seasonal) and it seems very good from the bit I’ve tasted. She stated that there is no discernible difference between the official starbucks variety.
The interior is the only real downgrade to an authentic Starbucks. Although you’ve got the same free wireless internet access (we’ve yet to test), there are no couches or other amenities. You’re kind of herded into uncomfortably-close tables and when it’s busy I’m not sure how anyone can really get any piece and quiet there. I love the people who have the dual-laptops on the table. Bring a friend to B&N, but don’t bother with your makeup because they won’t be able to see you behind a wall of two LCD laptop screens. Isn’t that what IM is for?
The service, in my opinion, is a bit better than Starbucks. There are usually 4 staff actively making drinks and preparing food, so the long(ish) lines dwindle pretty quick. Everybody is typically very friendly and you should have a pleasant experience forking over the $4+ per coffee creation. If you have both stores (a B&N and a Starbucks) within a reasonable distance, try the B&N Cafe next time and you might be surprised.
– Same high-quality drinks as Starbucks
– Larger selection of food
– Friendly, faster service
– Interior a bit smushed, no cozy couches
Guru’s Score: 4.0 Chews
Subjective rating: We like it!
Have you been to Barnes & Noble Cafe? If so, please add your rating!
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