Graduate work can often be isolating; whether it’s long hours in the lab, in the library or in your home office pouring over books, experiment results or excel sheets. Sometimes a change in your work space is much needed and simply being surrounded by other people can make your long hours of study more bearable. Luckily the Graduate Reading Room in Stauffer Library will be renovated in time for the next school year, so we can look forward to another on-campus space to fill that need. In the meantime, Kingston’s coffee shops also offer us many beautiful off-campus study spaces worth checking out! The second year of my PhD was spent working on my field exams which involved reading through hundreds of books on Victorian art and to make this process more pleasant I rotated between cafes and got to know them well. This gradifying post highlights some of these spaces (in no particular order), let me know in the comments if you have any other suggestions!
1. The Elm Cafe, 303 Montreal Street
Slightly off the beaten path north of Princess Street on Montreal, this coffee shop is a hidden gem. Though there’s a regular hum of customers coming in and out, The Elm is far enough from Queen’s that it has a quiet cozy community vibe where everyone seems to know each other. The availability of plugs, tables, variety of food options largely sourced from local suppliers, and extremely welcoming staff make it a very pleasant space to study. They also host a number of community events here from open mics, to poetry readings.
2. Coffeeco, 322 King Street E.
Located right across the street from Kingston’s City Hall, the huge windows at the front of this coffee shop make it an ideal place for people watching, particularly when the market is all set up or now that the winter ice rink is in place. The exposed brick, industrial lights and large wooden table for groups, make this a very welcoming space to spend a couple of hours to study. Perhaps one of the greatest drawbacks is the absence of outlets, but maybe that will make you procrastinate less on your laptop, or encourage you to get through your readings with fewer distractions. For those of you who live further away from campus, Coffeeco has another location at the Kingston Centre that’s worth checking out.
3. Crave, 166 Princess Street
Known as Kingston’s largest independently owned and operated coffee shop, bakery and kitchen, this cafe has everything you would want in a study space. Walking in, there’s pre-made sandwiches, salads and pastas on your left and mouth-watering baked goods (including enormous freshly made cinnamon buns) on the counter to your right. The further back you go, the cozier the place is, ending in an electric fireplace at the back flanked by comfy seats, and decorated from above with string lights. Full of plugs for your laptops and phones, internet and incredible food, this cafe has become a favourite among students. You get the feel of being around other hardworking students, without having to be in the library which can get so depressing (especially around exam season). Perhaps the one drawback of this coffeeshop may be that it’s so busy with students that it’s often hard to find a spot set yourself up in.
4. Balzac’s, 251 Princess Street
A relatively new addition to Kingston’s coffee scene opening this past year, Balzac’s may be part of a chain but is definitely still worth mentioning. Just like Coffeeco, the massive windows on a busy street make this cafe another great one to people-watch when you take a break from your readings. Though their tables are relatively small, making it harder to spread out your books, the bright and airy vibe makes up for it. I’ve spent many hours here chatting with friends, writing essays, doing light readings, and find this one of my favourite coffee shops to be productive in. Their coffee is extraordinary and they do have a few baked goods to choose from if you need some nourishment to keep you going.
5. Common Market, 136 Ontario Street
Another one of my favourites, this coffee shop is right across from Lake Ontario. Not only does it serve coffee and freshly made sandwiches, but they also have a number of gourmet grocery items that are difficult to find elsewhere (like Slicker’s Apple Pie or Marshmallow Campfire Ice Cream flavours). The exposed brick, wood tables and hearth, and friendly staff make this another welcoming spot to write your dissertation in. Stay late on certain nights of the week and you may find yourself in an Open Mic night or just enjoying some local live music.
6. The Juniper Cafe, 370 King Street
Located on the first floor of the Tett Centre, this coffee shop is a little further West than the ones mentioned so far. It faces Lake Ontario, and in the warmer months has tables on their outside patio that give you an incredible view. The Juniper Cafe was the most divine menu of food options, and would be a great place to meet friends for a meal to catch up or just to go by yourself with a laptop or a book and spend a couple of hours. The decorations are eclectic with strange vintage pieces throughout that’ll make you smile. There are several galleries within the Tett building as well, so take a break from your studying and check out Modern Fuel or the Creativity Studios!
7. The Brew, 87 Union Street
The Brew (located in the JDUC building) is the second location of the larger Common Ground coffee shop (found on the second floor of the ARC). If you need your coffee fix somewhere closer on campus, this one has convenient seating right behind it, and offers your drinks in two sizes: Class size and Exam size.
8. The Alibi, 293 Princess Street
Last but definitely not least, here’s a coffee shop that often flies under the radar as few people know that the dimly lit bar The Alibi doubles as a coffee shop during the day! There is plenty of seating, a range of drink options, a kitchen in case you’re hungry for some food options, and a soothing atmosphere to mark papers in, dive into your research, or have your group meeting.
If you stick around all day, you may be there at 4pm when the Alibi switched into a bar, and you can celebrate your day of hard of work with a pint of local craft beer. The Alibi also hosts trivia on Sunday nights at 5pm, and board game nights with a large collection of games you can choose from.