Visualize Vincent Van Gogh’s painting, ‘Starry Night,” which is arguably the most famous depiction of a night sky in the world of studio arts.
Now visualize yourself within this canvas of emphatic blue swirls and golden orbs. At Starry Nites Cafe in Rochester, this fantasy becomes reality.
With its location only steps from the Memorial Art Gallery on University Avenue, Starry Nites Cafe draws in the artsy crowd of Rochester. The cafe’s claim to fame is its mural along the back wall depicting the cafe’s namesake.
It’s like having your own personal museum with an oversized masterpiece available whenever you feel like looking up.
The other walls, although not murals of famous paintings, are Van Gogh-esque, sans brush strokes. The interior of Starry Nites Cafe imitates the colors and design of another Van Gogh painting, fittingly called ‘Night Caf.”
The golds and cyans ooze of warmth, not to mention how the temperature itself and the complete walls of bay windows add to the warmth.
Feeding off of Van Gogh’s infusion of European art, Starry Nites Cafe stakes its claim on being a European Bistro and, in some respects, it is.
The menu is certainly European: quiche, chicken pesto sandwiches served on fresh-baked bread, croissants, coffee and wine are served all day long.
However, there are also more American dishes, such as the buffalo chicken wrap and beer on tap. I’d recommend the Oatmeal Stout, for those who are 21.
Prices for a lunch or light dinner average $8, and coffee drinks are about average at $2 to $4. Impressively, Starry Nites Cafe has the cheapest (by price, not quality) iced coffee in Rochester barring McDonald’s, at a whopping $1.
The desserts at Starry Nites Cafe are all either homemade or locally bought. The homemade Halloween cupcakes are popular right now, as are the apple-filled croissants.
The crowd at Starry Nites is generally composed of two types: either college students trying to do some serious studying, or older couples on dates. Over the course of my visit, older people come to the cafe in groups, while the younger kids, of whom there were plenty, mostly sit alone on laptops.
I even spotted one TA in the corner grading blue books, glancing wistfully up at the mural every now and then, undoubtedly to clear her head. That’s not to say that college students can’t come on dates or with friends, either, but there is just a mature feel to this high-art cafe.
Something else you’ll hear in the cafe that reminds you of an older crowd are also the snippets of conversation. Conversations of a grown-up nature are unavoidable, even if you’re trying not to eavesdrop.
You will hear small talk drift in the air between newly divorced people out on their first date in 20 years, advice on what to do with the empty boxes taking up space in the basement, horror stories about morbid gums and dental insurance and the tribulations of being a homosexual professor living in Penfield.
As a student, these everyday, very real conversations are simultaneously intriguing and foreign, but in a calming way. They are removed enough from college life that they are not personally entangling, yet you find yourself wanting to listen to the everyday lives of adults who aren’t your parents.
This background noise might even be ideal for studying in its sobering, responsible, yet pleasant nature and the crowd of students who bring their laptops and homework to Starry Nites Cafe might be on to something (but we may have to check their GPAs to verify that).
Going to Starry Nites Cafe is about imagining your life in another way a sort of escapism, if you will. Whether you’re staring at Van Gogh’s tour de force or eavesdropping on far-too-cultured adults, Starry Nites Cafe has an unpretentious and soothing atmosphere.
Starry Nites is located in the tip of the Flatiron Building, right down the road from the Memorial Art Gallery. It’s roughly three miles from River Campus, which is a reasonable bike ride and absolutely drivable.
It is also accessible from the Red Line on its University Avenue and Alexander stop if you’re willing to walk three blocks to the corner of University Avenue and Atlantic Avenue.
Ryan is a member of the class of 2009.