Study Spot Bracket: Off-Campus Edition
The Hustler multimedia staff ranks the best off-campus locations to grind out your midterm study session.
October 26, 2020
With COVID-19 restrictions limiting the number of study spaces available on-campus and in our favorite libraries, many students are looking beyond the usual campus spots for a safe change of scenery and productive study spot.
Between dozens of Nashville coffee shops, nearby hotel lobbies and restaurants, The Hustler multimedia staff decided to make a bracket of our favorite off-campus study locations. To make our rankings we compared factors such as noise level, seating outlet availability, walkability, COVID-19 safety and coffee quality.
Hotel Lobbies: The Graduate vs. Funny Library at Virgin Hotels
Funny Library: Located in the lobby of Virgin Hotels on Music Square West, this one is less trafficked by Vanderbilt students and sits in a great location near popular residences like The Morris, Artisan on 18th, Millennium Apartments and more. The seating is well spaced out to comply with COVID-19 guidelines, so while studying there we haven’t felt too crowded by the other people working.
The Graduate: Located just down the street on West End, this spunky hotel has an amazing vibe that has attracted a number of Vanderbilt students. Of all the spots on the list, The Graduate has the most seating options, varying from cozy chairs to traditional tables to the numerous patterned couches that line one of the hotel’s walls. The lobby has an abundance of natural light that makes the large space feel even bigger. Despite its popularity, the way the seating is divided between multiple different areas of the building keeps the vibe from getting too hectic, which is a huge plus.
Winner: The Graduate
While we really like the Funny Library, the abundance of seating, gorgeous aesthetic and surprisingly relaxed atmosphere of The Graduate makes for an almost unbeatable package.
21st Avenue: Starbucks vs. Panera
Starbucks: Of all the places on the list, the Starbucks on 21st is the one where you’re most likely to run into half of Vanderbilt’s student body. Starbucks has plenty of tables both inside and outside, though we have found it pretty tricky in the past to actually find available indoor seating, especially as it starts to get colder. Ordering your drink on the Starbucks app is an added benefit to help skip unnecessary contact made with cashiers during the ordering process.
Panera: Next door to Starbucks, Panera also wins a lot of points for its convenience and proximity to campus. It has plenty of food options on the menu, and there are almost always tables available both inside and outside. The combination of outdoor seating availability and ability to make purchases in the Panera app and pick up in a kiosk are helpful precautions to reduce coronavirus concerns while you’re studying as well.
While these are both great spots with even better locations and apps that allow for contactless ordering, Starbucks gets the victory this round for having a more studious vibe. Both places tend to be on the noisier side of things, but we have found that, in our experience, Panera has often had a stronger family presence, with children running around lending itself to a more hectic atmosphere.
Fido vs. Sun & Fork
Fido: As a popular brunch and coffee destination in Hillsboro Village, we all agree that Fido can be loud and busy, which takes away from its study potential. However, what Fido lacks in calmness, it does make up for in delicious food and fantastic coffee. Until recently, Fido did not offer indoor seating due to concerns regarding COVID-19 but has started allowing people inside, though only from 7 a.m. -2 p.m. CDT.
Sun & Fork: Since Sun & Fork accepts Commodore Cash and Meal Money as payment options and is practically on-campus, it is a very popular study spot for Vanderbilt students. In addition to being relatively peaceful on weekdays with lots of spaced-out tables, this spot has many yummy food options and great coffee. The space between tables allows for peace of mind when studying because you do not have to worry as much about the other customers in the restaurant. The only time Sun and Fork is not ideal is on the weekends; it gets very busy, and there is a scarcity of outlets for charging your laptop or cellphone.
Winner: Sun & Fork
Sun & Fork wins this round for its much lower noise levels, proximity to campus and a safer feel when it comes to space between you and the other customers.
Three Brothers vs. Barista Parlor
Barista Parlor: Barista Parlor, whose nearest location is in The Gulch, has a really unique atmosphere for studying. Its open concept floor plan lets beautiful natural light spill across the entire room. While it’s not the warmest and coziest place to study, it has the perfect environment to get some work done with minimal distractions. They play music one album at a time on a record player, so the music is a pleasant mood-setter for serious study sessions. The delicious coffee, bright interior and old school music create the perfect ambiance to study by yourself or with friends. Barista Parlor is operating at 50 percent capacity right now with a face mask requirement that lends itself to a stronger sense of security while studying in the establishment.
Three Brothers: The notably friendly baristas at Three Brothers Coffee shop are the first thing to come to mind when describing the vibe. Interacting with them while buying coffee sets such a warm and welcoming tone as you sit down to write that paper you have been putting off all week. Plenty of natural light and fun decorations create a light-hearted vibe that helps take a little bit of that midterm season stress off your shoulders. Finally, the tables in this shop are well spaced-out, although Three Brothers itself is a smaller space without any outdoor seating options, which are crucial in a pandemic.
Winner: Three Brothers
Both of these options are fantastic coffee shops and lend themselves to a very productive study session, but Three Brothers takes this victory mostly due to its convenient location. Barista is hardly walkable from campus, which can be difficult for students without access to a car.
12 South Showdown: White Bison vs. Frothy Monkey
Frothy Monkey: A Nashville classic, Frothy Monkey offers incredible coffee, delightful food options and tons of outdoor picnic tables for seating outside. However, it has less natural lighting than many of the other spots and minimal indoor seating due to COVID-19 restrictions. The few inside tables have plenty of space between them, reducing our worries about the spread of disease between tables and the ampleness of outdoor seating means you will not have to sit inside if you are not comfortable with it.
White Bison: Just down the road from Frothy Monkey, White Bison ranks very highly for the sheer coziness of its environment. White Bison has two floors, each with both indoor and outdoor seating. The upstairs outdoor patio includes two electric fire pits that are incredible to fight the cold if you prefer to study outside as an extra precaution against the spread of airborne virus.
Winner: White Bison
As the temperature starts to drop for the fall in Nashville, White Bison not only offers more spaces to study indoors (and therefore more outlets), it also has created a great environment to still study outside without getting too cold.
Sun and Fork vs. Starbucks
Winner: Sun and Fork
These two each won points for their convenient locations, but ultimately Sun and Fork pulled ahead with its ample indoor seating, great food and overall more peaceful atmosphere.
The Graduate vs. Three Brothers
Winner: The Graduate
The Graduate’s lobby took the lead on this one simply because it has so much space. We never felt too crowded or too close to nearby customers due to its spaced-out floor plan and unbeatable number of seating options.
Sun & Fork vs. White Bison
Winner: Sun & Fork
While both are incredible spots with amazing vibes, Sun & Fork wins this round for its proximity to campus. Sometimes 12 South is just too much of a trek when you’re preparing for a day full of hard work.
The Final Pairing: Sun & Fork vs. The Graduate
Winner: The Graduate
The Graduate is the ultimate package. The natural light pouring in accentuates the beautiful decorations and funky furniture that offer a diverse selection of study areas to best support your grind. The Poindexter Coffee shop offers both food and caffeine to fuel your study sesh, and the staff are very welcoming and kind. 10/10 for this one.