Mark’s Cafe

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Located in the basement of Penn’s library, Mark’s Cafe beckons like a seductive footnote. For years I have sought such a marriage—cafe and library—the way the mythologized, Arthurian knight sought the metaphorical Grail. I have long meditated upon the harmony of these fantasied scenes: sipping a dark, earthy brew while scrolling through a reel of microfilm; or, pausing after the fifteenth photocopied page, in order to request a refill from the carefully coiffed, demure barista, whose nose, as well, is too often buried in a book.

Mark's Cafe

I know you are not surprised to learn my search for such a utopia remains unfulfilled. Mark’s Cafe is more like a hospital cafeteria than it is akin to the Kaffeehausen of Vienna (its roasted berries carrying wafts of olfactory tropes: mustachioed literati, turbaned scholars, haggling merchants). Keep yourself planted on the fifth floor instead, or—better yet—avoid the library altogether and head to Kaffa or Green Line, where, yes, the books are fewer in number, and, yes, you will hear that one Magnetic Fields song play for the nth time. But—please believe me, reader—the quiet hum of the library’s services and the cold, incandescent lighting better suits a bibliophile’s Piranesian, intertextual pursuits, than it does a coffee and smilk break.

*Penn ID or Driver’s License required to gain entrance into library. Wifi web access available to students only.

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Mark’s Cafe

Ground Floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library,
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

soymilk: no extra charge
wifi: free access

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