All of the 2007-2008 school year, Stanford lived without this old friend. After several decades as a popular hangout for Stanford students, the CoHo was clandestinely closed in the summer of ‘07. There were murmurs of outrage, a few alumni lamentations, and silent confusion among the students. The cramped, worn-in coffee shop had been done in simply and quickly while students were off working and traveling.
Plus, the few who did or would have cared were understandably distracted by the sparkling new “Axe and Palm,” which was designed to fill the CoHo’s place. The polished new Old Union was a noble attempt at campus centralization: a new eatery, lots of seating, and new areas for studying. But the more students experienced the Axe and Palm, the less they liked it. Its interior was sterile and the food was bland. As a result of these shortcomings, student nostalgia for the CoHo grew. By Winter Quarter 2008, over 830 students, staff, and faculty had signed a petition demanding that the CoHo reopen. The Administration took notice. By May, there were firm plans to have a summer re-launch under the guidance of the owner of another popular student hangout, the Treehouse.
The new CoHo, which finally opened late last June, manages to retain the dilapidated charm of the original, but with the obvious influence of a skilled restaurant owner. While the old CoHo relied mostly on beverages and its delicious crepes, the new CoHo has a wide range of fresh food in addition to beverages. The atmosphere is still grungy and cramped, but the walls have been repainted, a nice bar and several televisions have been added, and caricatures of famous Stanford alums adorn the walls. Some of the best sketches include Tiger Woods, Chelsea Clinton, Herbet Hoover, Phil Zimbardo, and even a current ASSU Senator, sophomore Shelley Gao. Indeed, the coffee shop has kept the artistic coziness that once made it so beloved but has added some sparkle.
The beverages are relatively standard but the food is great. The coffee drinks are fresh and pleasant but ultimately no better than the brew at Olives or Moonbeans. The sandwiches and pastries, on the other hand, are excellent. The chicken salad croissant is a tasty combination of buttery croissant and mild, cool chicken salad. The chicken breast sandwich is a heartier dish, featuring a large white chicken breast, tangy mayonnaise, pesto, lettuce, tomato, and onion. In comparison, the sandwich wraps are a bit more disappointing. They are overstuffed with lettuce and lack the punch of the CoHo bread selection.
The salads meanwhile, vary in quality. The Caesar salad is filling but generic. The other sorts of salads—a beet salad, a standard house salad—are unique and light in a refreshing way. The pastries, without exception, are mouthwatering. A wide selection of sweet baked goods are prepared fresh daily with the help of a Palo Alto bakery. The selection includes various types of Danishes, sugar twists, fruit tarts, and cookies. If you have a sweet tooth, this selection is certainly the best on campus.
In the end, though, the decades-old appeal of the CoHo remains the social atmosphere. An undergraduate cannot stay too long at the CoHo without running into a friend. It is a comfortable place for students to sit and chat. The music is never distracting, the smell of coffee is always in the air, and customers can camp out for hours at selected tables. As a bonus, the CoHo also hosts live performances of jazz and rock on a weekly basis. The performances are typically both excellent and crowded.
The CoHo has fortunately retained its enduring appeal and added some good sandwiches, pastries, and artwork. After a year without seeing your old friend, it is time to pay him a visit.