I learned many things at Penn State, yet sacrifice would have to be the most important. College requires its fair share of sacrifices. Home-cooked meals replaced with Ramen noodles, dinner dates at McDonald’s, bowls of cereal instead of delicious eggs and bacon. Still, there remains a few essentials every college student cannot replace: coffee and bagels. Whether studying on campus, waiting for classes to start, or looking for a getaway from your rowdy roommates, the bagel joint remains a staple in all student lives.
During my time at Penn State, I became acquainted with many of the local venues. We have the chains, the corporate juggernauts like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. Don’t get me wrong, even I enjoy the occasional Trienta Iced Coffee and late night doughnut run, yet there is a lack of atmosphere in such joints — a disconnect between barista and customer. Happy Valley, nonetheless, does hold its share of special gems.
The Pump Station Cafe, found just outside of State College in the small town of Boalsburg, is one of the most unique local establishments. Built just off of Boal Ave, an extension of Atherton Street, out of the remnants of an old 50’s era gas station, The Pump Station Cafe brings an old-timey vibe to the coffee and bagel industry. Plentiful seating on both the inside and outside patio, gives comfortable vibe for both patronage and work time.
Cafe staff takes orders via pen and paper, and bring a down-home friendly ambiance when communicating. The bagels are fresh and home-made and can come with numerous fixings including an excellent bacon, egg, and cheese variety. Besides the unique atmosphere, the Pump Station sports what I would consider to be the best cup of coffee in the region. The only downfall is the short hike it takes to get to this location. Plan to make a trip during extended study hours.
What I would consider to be the most balanced venue in the area is Irving’s Cafe. Irving’s can be found right off of College Ave at the corner of Allen Street, a stones throw from Old Main, Penn State’s central structure. Irving’s is husband and wife owned organization accompanied by friendly student workers. The building itself is massive, dining areas both upstairs and a much quieter study room a floor below it.
Irving’s gains its place in Penn State lore for a couple of reasons; first, the prices are fantastic for coffee and bagels, often able to fill myself up with less then five dollars in my pocket. Second, the bagels themselves are made fresh daily, and are the most flavorful breads available in Penn State. Sandwich varieties are a bit pricier but are still reasonable. Finally, the ample space allows for prolonged study times as well as classes often being scheduled in the downstairs sections. The only complaint I have is that other offerings on their menu such as delicious smoothies and frozen coffees are much more expensive then a standard all-you-can-drink mug of coffee.
Whichever locale you choose, you can’t go wrong. Both atmospheres are friendly, welcoming, and provide access to high quality bagels and coffee. When it comes down to it, there is nothing better then the smell of fresh bread and coffee to help you make it through a long study session. Take a break from your chain location and give one of these places a shot. You won’t regret it.