I have grown to love Wesleyan and its bustling campus, but I often find that the constant activity of the Wes student body makes heading out to the library and, by extension, completing work, a bit of a chore. Fear not. The Middletown community has wide array of venues that are all, in their own ways, well suited for the work grind and, if you desire, some quality study fuel.
Sweet Harmony Café and Bakery
Location: 330 Main St.
When on-campus stress gets just a little bit too real for my taste, I seek out Sweet Harmony Café and Bakery for a calming change of scenery and a dose of relief. This is because Sweet Harmony is exactly what its name implies: comforting, ridiculously cute, and, above all, good for the soul, like my Nana and her famous chicken paprikash.
Upon entering Sweet Harmony (or Sweet Harms, as my friends and I affectionately call it), a warm color palette evokes overall soulfulness and grandma-like warmth. Yellows, oranges, reds, pinks, and other such cheery hues figure prominently in the mural adorning the dining space and show up pretty much everywhere else throughout the eatery’s decor in order to welcome you into a stress-free happy place of pastries, coffee, and soft jazz.
The people working the Sweet Harms counter only add to this hypnotically calming atmosphere, and when I say “people,” I am mainly referring to the café’s owner. Essentially putting the “sweet” in Sweet Harmony, the café’s hostess is as infectiously content as that ambient soft jazz and giddily calls customers “sweetie” or “baby” in her charming Southern twang.
The whole Sweet Harms experience is, of course, rounded out by the food because, after all, grandma-like warmth is nothing without a satisfied tummy. My go-to order usually consists of a specialty latte (flavored with syrups and sauces that are made in-house) and a freshly baked muffin, items that both come in an impressive number of varieties. Really, you can’t go wrong with any selection because everything on the menu—namely the omelets (which, if ordered correctly, come with the godliest of whole wheat toasts), cookies, salads, and sandwiches—is on point.
Klekolo World Coffee
Location: 181 Court St.
Klekolo World Coffee is up there with Sweet Harmony as one of my favorite off-campus work locations. Of course I first fell in love with the local café for its coffee and espresso, which, in my opinion, are the best and boldest Middletown has to offer and serve as a welcome change from the duller, get-the-job-done brews sold on campus.
After many visits, however, I have grown to appreciate Klekolo not only for its product, but also for its lovably wacky vibe. As previously mentioned, Sweet Harmony is wonderful for its predictably calm and comforting atmosphere, but Klekolo wins over my heart by way of its lack of predictability.
Klekolo’s demographic is arguably more diverse than Sweet Harmony’s. In addition to attracting a regular deluge of families, commuters, and Wes students, the café also appeals to a healthy mix of bikers, elderly couples, cat ladies, cat gentlemen (because women are not the only people who find solace in felines), and other miscellaneous free spirits.
The café’s sound system is similarly untamed, playing an array of ambient music genres ranging from R&B, EDM, indie rock, classical, and, in one unfortunate instance, screamo. I’ve always guessed that this is the result of a kind of oligarchy-type situation in which the playlist is controlled by whoever happens to be on barista duty, but whatever its cause, the musical irregularity complements the joint’s eclectic vibes and keeps you on your toes.
Klekolo’s zaniness may not seem all that conducive to serious studying, and it’s true that Klekolo, as a study venue, is not for the faint of heart. In order to be productive in the one-of-a-kind café, you must (a) regard espresso as your lifeblood and (b) be equipped to use distraction as fuel and inspiration. If you fit these criteria, I would highly recommend implementing Klekolo as your go-to off-campus workspace.
Location: 169 Main St.
There are a few reasons why Wes students deem Brew Bakers a worthy work space. Some are drawn to the eatery’s interior, which is bright, spacious, and an overall welcome change from the more traditional library settings on campus. Others, who tend to function better when surrounded by activity, benefit from its steady flow of customer traffic. I, however, choose to get my study on at Brew because of their muffins.
Before working, it is crucial for me to get into the proper state of mind, but sometimes reaching said state of mind can be a hardship. During these times, eating a muffin is sometimes all I need to get where I need to be. This mode of action really only helps, however, if that muffin is exceptional, and Brew Bakers muffins, incidentally, fit that bill with perfection.
Though the Brew Bakers menu features a wide variety of tempting drinks as well as lunch and breakfast fare, their muffins are the only things that I would really write home about, which is saying a lot because I sincerely would write a whole letter based on an eating experience. So, needless to say, they have gotten me through some pretty rough study patches.
During bouts of writer’s block, the Brew coffee cake muffin has often provided me with cinnamon-y inspiration. If stuck in an information absorption jam, the sweet and citrusy lemon poppy has been similarly reliable, hitting me instantly with the zing I need. Considering the many instances in which these goodies have saved the day, I have honestly come to believe that they possess medicinal properties.
As I’ve mentioned, Brew Bakers is a viable off-campus study location for many reasons, but take my word for it one can only reap full benefit of the venue with one Brew muffin, any Brew muffin—toasted and buttered to perfection—in hand.
Brew Bakers Café
Location: 506 Main St.
The essence of Brew Bakers Café, or, as I like to call it, Brew Bakers 2.0, is best described in terms of familial relationships. If Brew Bakers (1.0) is the mother, Brew Bakers 2.0 is the daughter who denies with all her might that she is anything like her mother but ultimately cannot escape their inherent similarities, however valiant her efforts are.
Located on the opposite side of Main Street, Brew 2.0 definitely has unique qualities that make it a nice alternative to Brew 1.0 and the other Middletown cafés. The second Brew Bakers is smaller, quieter, and features a more book nook kind of quality that altogether makes it more suitable than the first addition to work that requires a greater level of concentration.
On my first visit, I also bonded with one of the baristas (the potential for pleasant customer-server interactions is also a pro of 2.0) over the fact that the Brew 2.0 playlist of Motown hits is far superior to the music featured in the mother café (which, like the non-muffin food, is nothing to write home about).
Ultimately, Brew 2.0 is undeniably similar to the original Brew Bakers. So, if you are tired of campus and need to buckle down to get some reading done, stop by Brew Bakers Café for a muffin and maybe a coffee (the iced Silly Mellili latte is quite yummy) and let it work its magic.