The New Kid On The Hill

On Nov. 1, KBT Café closed forever. R.I.P. The little café sat at the base of Kline Biology Tower (KBT) with refreshing views of Science Hill. It will forever be remembered as a window-lined oasis in the bustling hustle of academic life––a local watering hole for old faces from seminars past, overworked and underslept grad students, that Econ professor (and her husband), flannel-clad Foresters, dining hall-deprived STEM majors, and the occasional wildly lost humanities student. Minutes after morning classes adjourned, trains of customers lined up at the register, their arms filled with kombuchas and neatly packed sandwiches for speedy consumption before physics lab. Others hovered by the cooler shelves waiting for truly massive yogurt parfaits, steaming chai lattes, and melty egg-and-cheeses. Some did the quick maths and hit their nine-dollar lunch swipe on the dot, others played it safe and took the loss, and others still chose to pull out their credit cards for an extra bag of Deep River Mesquite BBQ chips. And the BBQ vibes did not end there––the “Barbecue” Pandora Station was a go-to for the KBT staff, blasting hits like “Purple Rain” and “December, 1963.”

But with the new Biology building and revamping of Science Hill, KBT was eclipsed and replaced by a newer, cooler lunchtime hotspot. Steep Café is state of the art. Just like every other new Yale science building, it’s sleek, steel, and expensive. Juice Box juices and Katalina’s baked treats stare you down behind shiny glass cases as you wait to order. No more egg-and-cheeses or BBQ playlists, a lot more fluorescent orange and flashy branding. Admittedly, the space is full of all things fancy and fresh—think Linzer tarts, spinach and goat cheese quiches, praegels, and vegan brownies—but it’s still a bit bare and confusing to navigate. Where does one stand to order a smoked salmon toast? Which way does one walk to retrieve said toast? How does the 24-hour fridge work? Why does it have a security camera? Who is on the other side? And, most importantly, where are the recycling and composting bins?

In short, Steep is no KBT—yet. The warm and sunny KBT we knew and loved had years to grow and find its classic groove. Steep is young, still filled with clattering construction, slight confusion, and a slight lack of personality. But the same kind faces greet you at the counter, and the same friends join you at the tables. Eventually the construction will subside, they’ll find the right tunes (maybe some Smooth Jazz?), the natural light will freely shine, no longer shrouded by construction tarps and machinery, and (hopefully) the recycling bins will find their labels. At first, the new café may not seem like everyone’s cup of tea, but remember, even the tastiest tea needs time to steep.

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