Once one has made the choice to purchase a drink at CoHo, having resolved in the rightful way the irreducible question of which Stanford café to visit, the problem remains of which seat to occupy while sipping one’s beverage, working, and appreciating the multifarious sights and sounds of that bustling modern agora. I’ve hence made a guide to the fifteen tables, three bars, four couches, four armchairs, and two outdoor annex areas of CoHo, replete with the relative benefits and disadvantages of each, all with the goal of clearing up any confusion that may persist about the best seats in the house.
I should preface this list with a note on terms: “West” here refers to the side of CoHo closest to Treehouse and the Faculty Club, i.e. the oft-termed “back side” of Tresidder; while “east” refers to the side closest to Dinkelspiel Auditorium, the so-called “front side” of Tresidder.
The wooden bar closest to the register presents certain advantages, but it cannot be enumerated among the first rank of tables of CoHo. Electrical outlets are plentiful, and a spot at the bar affords one a good view of the landscape of CoHo, making it easy to spot friends across the room. On the other hand, the red fake-leather chairs sit uncomfortably low to the ground, and their brass wheels stick on the uneven floorboards. One’s knees knock against the bar uncomfortably; one seldom leaves a stint sitting at the eastern bar without a backache. It is additionally by nature a solitary spot: one cannot be joined by one’s friends at the bar. This may sometimes be an advantage but, keeping in mind the basic fact that CoHo is nothing if not social, is often in fact a disadvantage.
Another standby during times of high traffic in CoHo. Located behind the piano in the far corner underneath the neglected, tacky “Poetry Wall,” the seats at the eastern bar are the most cavelike in CoHo. Access to outlets is moderately good. The lighting is exceptionally dim, even in the height of summer, and the solitary nature of the bar setup along with the orientation — facing away from the bustle of CoHo — makes it a productive if rather lonely location. If you’re looking for somewhere dark, solitary, and productive, why not head for the West Stacks? Facing away from the other tables also makes it hard to use the western bar as a placeholder spot while waiting for a better table to open up.
These are the most popular tables in the house, and are dependable if in some ways peculiar and not truly first-rate. I here describe the nine four-seated tables which lie between the two elevated areas to the east and west, with the northernmost tables lying directly underneath the two televisions. The tables are fairly large and made of slabs of wood covered with a thick, clear lacquer and capped on each end with strips of metal. They are capacious enough to seat four, maybe six in a pinch. I must say this: how many lovely conversations have taken place at these tables, into the final hours of each night at CoHo, with a glass of beer, a pile of unread books, and two or three dear friends. Yet the natural-wood chairs would seem more at place in a Lake Tahoe cabin than a café, and the vertical wooden bars that run along the length of each side of the table painfully abut one’s knees such that it is difficult to sit close to the table without discomfort. The most coveted of these tables are surely the ones which lie directly underneath the televisions, because of their location adjacent to the electrical outlets which line the northern wall. When not accompanied by several friends, one often encounters with these tables the vaguely uncomfortable situation of sitting diagonally across from a stranger. Two strangers sitting diagonally across from each other at one of these tables means, by unspoken contract, that the table is full. The charm of accommodating a fair-sized group of friends is thus in the end somewhat diminished by the oddly rustic aesthetic, as well as social and ergonomic concerns.
Two-Person Tables by the Western Door
These are fine tables indeed. Free of the threat of being joined by a stranger, their small circular tops and elegant chairs reminiscent of those in Lane Reading Room (minus, thank god, the squeakiness) are also aesthetically superior. Only two major disadvantages attend these tables: most of them have no access to an electrical outlet, and the small surface area of the tables means that at most only two may sit and work comfortably. I should note that there are those who consider the wooden-topped square table in the far western corner to be the best table in CoHo. It is true that it combines several advantages not shared by its peer tables — namely, a larger surface area and prime access to an outlet — but it also possesses two great deficiencies. Firstly, the only view it affords is of the dusty storage area in the far northwestern corner of CoHo, and even this is occluded by the triangular column near the eastern door. As a great portion of the pleasures of CoHo lies in surveying the social landscape, this cannot be but a great black mark against the merits of this table. Secondly, its position near the western door means it is exposed to arctic drafts during the winter months, as for reasons unbeknownst to me the eastern door is stolidly kept open even during the most frigid of January nights. This makes it quite difficult to concentrate under these circumstances, though of course this is less of a disadvantage during the balmier months and during the day. I reserve, in conclusion, the title of best table in CoHo to the two marble-topped two-person tables near the piano.
Marble-Topped Tables Near the Piano
These are surely the premier seats in the house. There are only two marble-topped tables, perched on the elevated stage area where the jazz players play on Monday nights. Their elegant metal frames and simple wooden chairs with red fake-leather seats recall faintly the tables of Paris cafés, but the true draw is their privileged position above the whole tapestry of life in CoHo. Seated at one of these rare crows’ nests with an iced latte, one surveys CoHo as a king surveys his kingdom. No one may pass through without one’s notice. The drawbacks, I admit, are the distraction that comes with this openness to the world of CoHo, and the relative lack of outlet accessibility — though I note that in a pinch, a power strip by the piano and the outlet by the eastern bar can, respectively, serve well patrons at the two marble-topped tables. The small surface area makes them difficult to accommodate more than two at once, but I’ve always been more than willing to rest my laptop on my lap in order to have two friends join me.
Long Wooden Table at the Northeastern Corner
This uniquely long table is good mostly for accommodating groups too large to fit anywhere else in CoHo. Unhappily, it is nearly always occupied at one corner or another. I always forget that there are no available outlets and then am frustrated to recall this fact once I have already sat down. One is perennially awkwardly seated across from strangers, overhearing conversations from down the table. Not a coveted spot, but not abysmal.
Bar Near the Panini Machine
The narrow bar, fronted by frosted glass, which runs along the food preparation area of CoHo, is one of the worst spots in the house. It’s rendered unusable by great stacks of catering boxes during the day, and combines loneliness, uncomfortable chairs, and an utter lack of outlets with a frustrating narrowness that makes it difficult to do any work at all. Suitable only for moments when jazz night crowds have taken every other seat in the house.
Green Couches on the Eastern Stage
These grimy L-shaped couches at the far end of the stage are the province of couples, grad students, and SLE alumni, usually dressed in loose-fitting, drab clothes. I have never seen much charm in these couches, possessed as they are by a kind of tranquilizing squalor. Surely no one has ever done much work on these couches, and I like to sit across from my friends as I talk to them. Others may, I suppose, feel otherwise.
Brown Armchairs and Couches by the Western Bar
These cracked brown-leather chairs and couches are slightly more conducive to work than the opposite couches, as one can maintain a more upright posture while seated upon them, but I always demand a surface when I frequent a café. Where does one put one’s drink? Looking down at a laptop in one’s lap hurts the neck. And it is hard to hold a conversation when seated at these or any couches. Thus it seems unclear what, exactly, their purpose is.
Eastern Red Picnic Tables
Outside near Dinkelspiel, these are famous for SLE don Jeremy Sabol’s “office hours” and little else. Oppressively sunny or oppressively cold, no support for one’s back leads to backaches for anyone possessed of less than scrupulous posture.
Western Lacquered Outdoor Tables
Situated outside on the “back side” of Tresidder near FedEx, identical to the tables inside but furnished with lacquered benches and wicker chairs, it is difficult to find a good time to sit at these tables. The lack of back support is a drawback, but then there are the wicker chairs, yet even on sunny days it is often rather chilly in the shade. A pitcher with several friends in the afternoon is the main purpose these tables fulfill, and, it must be said, they fulfill that purpose with great aplomb.
Correction: The Review, in a paroxsym of directional confusion, mistook east for west and vice versa throughout this piece. The article has been updated to reflect geographic realities.