Those who are fortunate enough to have experienced Manndible Cafe in Mann Library will remember the comforting taste of hot curry on a cold Friday afternoon, the soft and springy textures of a freshly baked muffin and the buttery, crumbly goodness of a Manndible scone. As of this academic year, the independently-owned Manndible Cafe we knew and loved is gone. The cafe’s regulars — including students, faculty and staff — received the news of its closing last spring with deep sadness and disappointment, patiently waiting to find out what would replace the beloved Cornell staple of 13 years.
The new Cornell-operated Mann Cafe opened this semester and is almost as insipid and unremarkable as Rusty’s in Uris Hall or Olin Library’s Libe Cafe. It offers a selection of pastries, refrigerated bowls and wraps, coffee and bagels, as well as hot foods including breakfast burritos and avocado toast — a respectable array of options that will do the job of sustaining you enough to get through a study session, but won’t give you the warm, fuzzy feeling of eating a home cooked meal.
Furthermore, the ambiance of Mann Cafe is rather sterile and uninspiring. The walls, once covered with fun paintings of quirky creatures, are mostly bare. Manndible Cafe prided itself on sustainability, demonstrated by its efforts to reduce waste by providing reusable silverware and encouraging customers to bring their own bowls and containers, and in its commitment to sourcing ingredients from local farmers. These aspects are unfortunately lost in the new Mann Cafe, and in other Cornell-operated, on-campus eateries, although, COVID-19 regulations have also contributed to changes in the ways eateries can operate.
Not all is bad with Mann Cafe. As the establishment is no longer independently owned, Cornell students can use Big Red Bucks to purchase food, making it more accessible than its predecessor to students who have a meal plan. Additionally, the burritos, breakfast sandwiches and scrambles (even if they can’t hold a candle to the Manndible Cafe menu) are distinct from the offerings at a number of other cafes on campus.
Nonetheless, Manndible Cafe left a void in the Ag Quad that Mann Cafe simply does not even begin to fill. Especially at a university that values sustainability and local agriculture such as Cornell, Manndible Cafe’s presence on campus as a sustainable eatery that customers could feel good about supporting was particularly important and relevant. Regulars can only hope that the University recognizes how cherished Manndible Cafe was to the Cornell community, and will try harder to foster a similarly inspiring, welcoming and warm environment in the new establishment.
Rae Specht is a current junior in the college of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].