A latté of love for ‘Love, On Call’

Feb. 20, 2024, 11:12 p.m.

Last Monday and Tuesday night, student-run On Call Café hosted its second pop-up series of the school year. The series, named “Love, On Call” in honor of Valentine’s Day, brought 1,295 students into the café’s new, soon-to-be permanent location on the first floor of Old Union. 

Starting Wednesday, the café will be open serving hot drinks on Monday and Wednesday nights through the end of winter quarter. According to On Call director Peyton Klein ’25, the team hopes to begin full operations at the beginning of spring quarter, meaning the café will be open four nights a week and serve food in addition to drinks. 

Framed as an open love letter to the Stanford community, “Love, On Call” highlighted unique elements of Stanford student life with menu items such as the “12 Units,” the “Full Moon” and the “Week One.” The suggested donations ranged from $3 to $4 for drinks and $5 to $6 for toasts. 

The line was long, with some students waiting over 20 minutes. On Call staff members handed out sample cookies to students in line and asked trivia questions about the café.

“Selfishly, I hope to see fewer people,” Ph.D. candidate David Zhang said jokingly about attending future On Call events. “But, given how good the food is, I doubt that’ll be the case.”

When Meimei Liu ’27 arrived at On Call’s previous pop-up in fall quarter, the café had run out of food. At “Love, On Call,” she was able to try one of the toasts and a drink, both of which she said she enjoyed.

For the past few weeks, students have noticed a growing collection of eclectic paintings and wall decorations in Old Union in advance of the café’s opening.

“I was doing work in this area while they were setting stuff up,” said Kaylee Chan ’27, who attended Monday’s pop-up event. “I saw them put up all the pictures, and it was exciting. They really came through with everything and it looks great.”

Zhang was similarly impressed with the ambiance. “I’m amazed at what they’ve done with the space,” Zhang said. “The string lights, the portraits — it’s really something.”

“I feel warm,” Liu said, calling On Call a “place to chill” in contrast to Late Night at Lakeside, where students are often found working.

In early December, following the original pop-up at the Haas Center, the Undergraduate Senate granted On Call ASSU Service Organization status. As a Service Organization, On Call has been able to secure funding from the University provost and president.

According to Klein, the café plans on charging for their toasts and drinks when they open permanently, instead of the current suggested donations. Student employees, who previously worked as volunteers, will now be paid. Klein said the suggested donations on the recent pop-up menu reflect the pricing that the team is considering for next quarter.

“We want to make sure that we pay [our employees] fair wages, cover the cost of food and make this sustainable,” said Klein.

While On Call’s status as a permanent café will make it somewhat different, the team hopes to retain a sense of spontaneity by collaborating with other student groups and hosting events.

“It’s not going to be the same adrenaline rush and energy of a two night pop-up, but there are other benefits,” Klein said. “It’ll be less like going to an amusement park and more like coming home.”

“I really like the idea of working at a cozy cafe,” Chan said. “I really hope they can provide that space for people to just hang out and vibe.”

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

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