There’s admittedly plenty of room for disappointment within the spacious white walls of Maison Mathis. Its house blend is burnt sometimes, its waffles are saccharine, and its mosaic floors might betray its Belgian theme. Mathis lacks Booktrader’s quirky sandwich names, Starbucks’ High Street location, Jojo’s coziness, and the Blue State bathroom keys. But I’ve decided to spend each afternoon of my senior spring sitting in this café. Not because it’s my scene—but because, to the surprise of many Yalies, it’s a space that somehow resists the burden of having one.
We can logically picture what Maison’s scene could have been: pretentious, overpriced, disliked. While in reality, maybe it is a bit pretentious, while also a bit overpriced. But disliked? Not so much. Floor-to-ceiling windows bathe the space in natural light, WiFi is reliable, and there are power outlets galore. The scene is warm and eclectic: its Elm Street location is the perfect pit stop for athletes on the way to Payne Whitney and FOOTies coming from the Lynwood, all looking for their daily dose of bougie. Walk into Maison Mathis and suddenly the cold reality hits: Atticus’ art is scary, and they’ve gotten stingy with their soup samples.
Then there’s the team of baristas. I’m shameless enough to admit that I think my cappuccinos taste better when sufficiently alternative-looking men make them, and Maison’s cast of asymmetrical haircuts and tattoos make for no exception. But there’s something better about a cup of jo handed to me alongside a cup of my own bullshit. Quite possibly the most over caffeinated and under appreciated barista around campus, Tim. He’s eccentric, gregarious, snarky, and he’s always sure to thank you for coming in. I once ordered a latte and he asks me if I mean a LOTE (“lifestyle of the elite”). He went to University of Colorado, Boulder and wants it to be clear that just because he has a fitted Jack Wills jacket, that does not mean he considers himself a hipster.
I’ll say it: Maison Mathis is the new Bass—my new dungeon-home away from home, except it’s not a dungeon. I sit and people watch, pretending the windows are one-sided—a task made easier by glass that is usually frosted. I take in the fleeting scenes I’d miss if concerned with surveillance from the other side. Students’ fatigued feet sink deep into heavy boots; L1s carry honey-colored satchels.
On the clearer days, when the windows are spotless, I’m reminded the glass is not one-sided. That’s when I realize I like this place because I want to be seen, too.