Photos by Doug Coombe

Photos by Doug Coombe

The Campus Café Scene

by Davi Napoleon, ’66, MA’68 | November 2019

Gone are the days when the only snack to be found on campus was a cup of bad coffee and a candy bar from a vending machine. Today, anyone in search of good food can stop at one of 19 campus cafés and markets, where the offerings include soups, salads, and sandwiches, not to mention every type of tea and coffee. Michigan Alumnus visited five cafés to check out the scene. (Given the upcoming holiday season, visit dining.umich.edu to verify opening and closing hours of all the cafés.)

Darwin’s

Darwin's

Location: The first floor of the Museum of Natural History, steps from the mastodon exhibit

Food: Cleverly billing itself as “food evolved,” Darwin’s is an ideal place to stop for a light breakfast or lunch. You will find everything from egg-and-cheese muffins ($4.50) to a garden vegetable soup ($4.25) and a hefty ham and pear sandwich with brie ($6.95).

Scene: Darwin’s attracts students and faculty who have classes in the building as well as museum visitors. It may be the only campus café with highchairs. The reimagined museum is so new that many of its exhibits were only just installed this month. Despite this, the café is teeming with people and it can be hard to get a seat.

Hours: Weekdays, 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Weekends, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Maizie’s Kitchen and Market

Maizie's

Location: The main floor of the Michigan League or, as the MDining website boasts, “in the heart of Ann Arbor’s theater district”

Food: Maizie’s has many food options, a necessary amenity for the hotel guests upstairs at the Inn at the League. Peet’s Coffee offers a selection of pastries and hot beverages all day long, while a weekday rotation of dishes from local restaurants, such as Chela’s, Palm Palace, and Satchel’s, spices up the lunch choices. The café also has a kitchen with chef-prepared breakfast and lunch creations. The Wake Up Combo ($6) includes a breakfast sandwich and small coffee. Midday, an ever-changing menu of entrees arrives, such as herbed shrimp, beef stroganoff, and eggplant parmesan ($7).

Scene: An active hub, especially at lunchtime, Maizie’s is filled with students, faculty, hotel guests, and, more recently, construction workers engaged in projects nearby. The well-lit, recently renovated space has sleek slate floors, faux-marble tables, and numerous plugs for laptops.

Hours: Daily, 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

UMMA Café

UMMA Cafe

Location: The rear of the first floor of U-M’s Museum of Art (UMMA)

Food: Beyond sandwiches and salads, the menu at UMMA Café includes an array of specialty beverages, like a green tea latte ($3.70); lavender vanilla house soda ($2.55); and cold-brew coffee ($2.05). Pair your drink with a macaron ($1.50) or slice of lemon Italian cake with almonds ($5), and this is the perfect stop for an afternoon tea break after touring the museum.

Scene: Opened in August, the UMMA Café extends the experience of visiting the museum, thanks to the café’s vibrant décor. Primary colors dominate, and art shares the shelves with espresso cups. The natural light from three walls of floor-to-ceiling windows also makes for excellent people-watching.

Hours: Daily, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Café 32

Cafe32

Location: The ground floor of the School of Dentistry, with the entrance just off the Museum of Dentistry

Food: Café 32, named for the number of teeth in humans, offers smoothies, soups, and pre-packaged sandwiches. Healthy options include a chicken and wild rice soup ($3.85) and a mango smoothie ($4.45) as well as some sweeter treats like a toffee-crunch shake ($4.65).

Scene: Many patrons at Café 32 wear blue scrubs and white coats, as this is a venue most frequented by students, faculty, and staff, although dental school patients have also found this hidden gem. The café offers only a few tables, but food is allowed at the tables in the museum area.

Hours: Weekdays, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Bert’s 

Bert's

Location: The ground floor of the Shapiro Undergraduate Library just off the main entrance

Food: Beverages abound at Bert’s, from three types of frozen lattes ($4.20) to four types of smoothies ($3.85) to Italian and French soda ($2.30). Bert’s also stocks pre-packaged sandwiches, salads, snacks, and hot soups.

Scene: This café is open later than any other on campus and is always bustling with students and faculty. Tables are often occupied for longer periods of time, with students studying together or meeting with professors.

Hours: Monday to Thursday, 8 to 1 a.m.; Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, Noon to 5 p.m; Sunday, 11 to 1 a.m.


Davi Napoleon, ’66, MA’68, is a theater historian and freelance arts journalist. Her book is “Chelsea on the Edge: The Adventures of an American Theater.”  

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