College and COVID-19: 5 off campus spots to hang, study or grab a cup of coffee

By Molly Conron '22, Staff Writer

By Molly Conron ’22, Staff Writer

College is no easy feat, and when you factor a global pandemic into the mix, things can get stressful. In the days before COVID-19, there were a plethora of places to which students could escape the chaos of their day to day lives to spend the afternoon unwinding, getting work done or hanging out with friends in a laid-back, comfortable off-campus environment.

Nowadays however, students are feeling especially overwhelmed, and may lack a safe space in which to unwind that is separate from their day to day surroundings. Whether it be due to strict protocol for those who live on campus, or a lack of knowledge about what places are permissible to visit, many students have been feeling trapped and aren’t utilizing local cafes and coffee shops as places to socialize, study, or simply find a change of scenery.

Life as a student during this time doesn’t have to be so dismal — in fact, there are several local spots that are safe, socially distant and welcoming to those who are looking to spend a few hours, perhaps with a friend, a project or a good book and of course, a great cup of coffee. 


Cafe Sasso

  • Roughly 10 minute drive from campus
  • Parking may be difficult, but the neighborhood is both small and extremely walkable, so it shouldn’t be a huge problem
  • Located at 739 Park Ave., Rochester, NY 14607
  • Hours : 8  a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
  • Reasonable prices – a sandwich and coffee will probably run you about $12 or so

First on the list is Cafe Sasso. Located in the heart of the Park Ave neighborhood, this spot offers a lively taste of what the city of Rochester has to offer. Cafe Sasso offers a wide selection of delicious food options including bagel sandwiches, salads and paninis. Of course they have a variety of coffee and teas, available both hot or iced, as well as smoothies and juices. However, what I found to be the most unique about their menu was the creative array of cocktails- for those of legal drinking age of course- with both hot and cold choices. In addition to their great menu, Cafe Sasso also offers a charming and eclectic atmosphere, as the walls are decorated with hundreds of pieces of local art, much of which is quite out of the ordinary to say the least. My favorite piece has to be the drawing of Jeff Goldblum as a dinosaur, which I feel really exemplifies the quirky ambience that Sasso strives to achieve. While the space itself is relatively small, there are plenty of options for seating. However, I would recommend visiting on a weekday if you are keen on space, peace and quiet and keeping a reasonable distance from others, as this is a popular spot and can get decently crowded due to the size. Nonetheless, Cafe Sasso is a great place to visit, and an awesome introduction to the plethora of places to eat and shop along Park Ave.


Java’s Cafe

  • Approximately 10 minutes from campus
  • Located at : 6 Gibbs St., Rochester, NY 14604
  • Open for Coffee 7 a.m. to  9 p.m. daily, Sandwich side open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Java’s Cafe, located downtown — right next door to the Eastman School of music — is a fantastic spot to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee while studying. It is fairly large, so there are plenty of spots to sit while distanced from other customers. A 10 minute drive from Fisher, this place is likely my new go-to for studying off-campus or out of my apartment. What I loved most about Java’s was the atmosphere it provided. Much like Cafe Saso, Java’s is decorated very eclectically, providing a unique look that I’ve never really seen before in any coffee shop. There are paintings all over the walls, sculptures hanging from the ceiling, statues and taxidermied animals standing in the corners and windows.They also play music in order to keep the vibe in check. I’m sure the selection changes depending on who is working, but when I was there the sound was very much 90s alt, which I was a fan of. In addition to their unique decor, Java’s also offers a great selection of coffees and teas, creative house-made drinks and a great lunch menu. Food items are reasonably priced and good quality, so you get your money’s worth. The only downside to Java’s Cafe in my opinion is the parking situation. Being located downtown finding a good place to park proved to be very tricky, and unfortunately might result in a parking ticket if you aren’t careful — I learned that the hard way. However, if you are better at city parking than I am, or know the area well, it shouldn’t be a problem. Overall, I highly recommend Java’s cafe, as it is full of young people, decorated well and sells great food and coffee. It is an eclectic and comfortable place to study, socialize or spend some quality alone time.


Spot Coffee

  • Roughly 10 minutes from campus
  • Located at: 200 East Ave., Rochester, NY 14604
  • Hours: Mon to Sun 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

 Spot Coffee is another local venue, situated in downtown Rochester. Originally started in Buffalo, Spot is a local chain that I frequented growing up. Upon learning that there was a Rochester location, I had to go and scope it out. The first thing I noticed about this location was the size. With a ton of open space,  high ceilings, abundant natural light and a second level, there is more than enough room for those who prefer a safe and socially distant coffee shop experience. The inside is clean and bright, with artwork showcasing the city of Rochester which adds a great deal of color and charm. However, the real star of the show at Spot is its menu. They have a decent selection of soups, salads, coffees, teas and even pizzas. But what makes everything so special is the quality. Spot has some of the best coffee shop food I’ve ever had, hands down. Everything is fresh, well put together and tastes GREAT. There are quite a few healthy options to choose from as well. I will say, their sandwiches are priced slightly higher than at some of the other shops I have mentioned, but honestly, for the amount of food you’re getting and how great it tastes, I’d say it’s worth spending a few more bucks. Before you head down, beware that parking is sometimes difficult and you will more than likely have to pay, but that’s just a part of spending time in the city. Overall, Spot Coffee  is a fantastic place to study, grab a meal and hang with a friend or two.


Village Bakery Cafe

  • Maybe five minutes from Fisher (Pittsford Location)
  • Hours: Monday to Friday 6 a.m. to 4p.m. Saturday and Sunday: 4 p.m. (may differ due to COVID-19 restrictions)
  • Located at: 5 State St., Pittsford, NY 14534

Village Bakery cafe is a great place to go if you’re looking for a quick, fresh and healthy lunch. They have four locations throughout the greater Rochester area. Personally, I have only visited the Eastview location, but because of its proximity to Fisher, the Pittsford location will get the spotlight here. Located adjacent to the Erie Canal and in the heart of the Village of Pittsford, Village Bakery Cafe makes for a great spot to grab a quick breakfast or lunch before heading down to take a walk along the canal. They have a great menu with tons of options including soups, sandwiches and baked goods as well as a good selection of drinks. The atmosphere is clean and modern, with a distressed farm-house type of look which makes great use of a blue and white color scheme. There is ample space to sit down, whether it be to enjoy yourself or get some work done. As it is a chain, the Village Bakery Cafe is certainly much less eclectic than many other local spots, such as Sasso or Java. However, its proximity to Fisher and the Canal, as well at the excellent menu make it a winner in my book.


Glen Edith Coffee Roasters

  • 10 minute drive from Fisher
  • Hours: 8 a.m. to 2p.m. daily
  • Located at: 23 Somerton St. Rochester NY, 14607

Glen Edith Coffee Roaster is another small, local coffee shop located in the heart of the Park Avenue neighborhood. In fact, it is situated right behind Cafe Sasso. Glen Edith has a minimalist look, much like Village Bakery, with clean, bright colors and that trendy distressed farmhouse aesthetic. While their menu was certainly the weakest of the bunch, I chose to include Glen Edith for its location and ambiance. The shop is quiet, laid back and well-lit, making for an excellent place to get some work done. There was a fair amount of seating, and it didn’t look to be super busy, which is a plus for those who might be worried about safety and social distancing. The coffee was good, but their menu was very minimalist, so it is a good idea to walk in knowing what you want right off the bat. Additionally, they have a selection of various baked goods available for those who are looking for a quick bite. Overall, Glen Edith is a great spot to spend time at and is located in an awesome area.

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