Need an ‘On Call’? Student-run late-night café serves hundreds in Haas

Nov. 8, 2023, 11:14 p.m.

On Tuesday and Wednesday night, the Haas Center for Public Service was transformed into a student-run café with an apt name: On Call Late-Night Café.

According to the initiative’s CEO Peyton Klein ’25, the pop-up’s opening night attracted 524 students over four hours. The café served toasts, sweet treats and drinks for free, with a suggested donation of $5. Klein hopes On Call can become a permanent part of Stanford’s late-night offerings.

The café takes its name from dorm “on calls,” or activities that resident assistants (RAs) host on weekend nights. These events often include food and drinks for dorm residents to enjoy.

“On calls are fun. They are spontaneous. They are silly,” Klein said. “We are trying to reclaim this concept.”

Klein explains that she was inspired to launch On Call after she noticed a lack of “third spaces” in Stanford’s community. 

“Where do you go between the library and your dorm? Where do you make spontaneous friendships that aren’t in a pre-professional setting or in a class?” Klein said. 

Students came from all sides of campus, tipped off by friends, email lists or social media advertisements. A long line formed around the block before the doors even opened.

Vibrant conversations, ranging from debates about class readings to discussions of On Call’s potential to become a campus staple, were audible over the mix of indie music in the space.

“They were able to cultivate a really cool ambiance here. I love the lights, I love the music, I like that they have outdoor seating,” said Charlotte Cao ’27. “I feel like it’s a very cozy environment, and it’s definitely a place I’d like to come back to.”

Klein and her team began toying with the idea of a night café over the summer, inspired by existing organizations like the Princeton Coffee Club. As the idea began to take shape, the group opened a campus-wide call for students interested in getting involved in the project. The café currently consists of a team of 25 student baristas working to serve drinks and toasts named after Stanford’s neighborhoods. 

A person wearing blue gloves makes a sandwich.
An On Call Café employee makes a sandwich to serve at the pop-up. Food and drinks were offered with a suggested donation of $5. (Photo: HANNAH SHU/The Stanford Daily)

Delali Bruce ’26, who developed the café’s menu, explains that the toasts were inspired by plays on childhood favorites, including an elevated version of grilled cheese and peanut butter and jelly (PB&J) sandwich.

Stella Masuda ’27, who got the PB&J-inspired “Magnolia” toast, said it was “actually really good,” and Dyllan Han ’27 and Garret Molloy ’27 said the food was the “highest quality” they’d had at Stanford thus far. 

While the reviews on the toasts were largely positive, reactions to the drinks were mixed. While the “Gingko” pumpkin spice latte was well received by Aaryan Shaah ’26, Nick Harvey ’26 found the hōjicha flavors lacking. Aaron Chang ’27 likened the Wisteria tea to “hot water with a touch of lavender.”

Anusha Nadkarni ’27 was excited to see a break from the work-centric culture prevalent on campus. 

“There are so few explicitly social spaces on campus. I’ve noticed that everywhere we go, we’re like, ‘We’re going to go and study,’” Nadkarni said. “It’s nice to be in a place where work doesn’t feel like the main purpose of the space.” Nadkarni is also a Grind columnist at The Daily.

First-year law student Parker Grove ’23 felt that this type of event was absent during her own experience as an undergrad. “There really wasn’t this kind of nightlife on campus,” Grove said. “There’s something different about it. Being student-run, it feels more community-oriented.”

While the On Call team has found a more permanent space for future quarters, they are still working on long-term plans for the café.

“I think tonight is just the beginning, which is really exciting,” Klein said. “Stanford lacks legacy institutions, and we want this to be one.”

A previous version of this article misspelled Cao’s and Nadkarni’s last names. The Daily regrets this error.

Ellen Kim is a writer for the News section. Contact them at news 'at'

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