Cup and Gown versus Stirlings’

Anna Cook, Camille Pfister, Rebecca Cole

The battle of the coffee shops is alive and well on Sewanee’s campus. The two local eateries on main campus, Stirling’s and the in-library Cup and Gown are only a couple of minutes away from one another and students’ preference on which one they choose has been a long-lasting debate. The writers of the Sewanee Purple banded together, each gave their own take on the two options, and determined, once and for all, which is better- Cup and Gown or Stirling’s? 

Does size matter? Stirling’s has a wonderful array of specialty coffees, teas, and smoothies. Perhaps overpriced, but that is besides the point. I would even say that their selection is superior to Cup and Gown’s. The Sewanee inspired names and seasonal favorites are a staple on a sunny afternoon. The atmosphere is friendly and always an amazing place to hang out, do homework, or run by on the way to class. However, Cup and Gown’s drinks are bigger. Does that automatically make them better? I think most students would agree that the 20 oz. cups from Cup and Gown rival the puny 16 oz. Stirling’s cups, especially when one is attempting to remain caffeinated for eternity as Sewanee students do. (Not to mention the price differences at the two locations.) Stirling’s is definitely the place to go for atmosphere, seasonal flavor, and overall aesthetic. But, Cup and Gown is, in the end, bigger and better. 

The only food I’ve ever tried from Cup and Gown is a singular lemon bar, which I purchased last week, and it was a far more enjoyable experience than the 30+ times I have eaten full meals from Stirling’s. What I am now used to at Stirling’s, is the promise of something great, given the thorough ingredient descriptions and cult-classic titles scribbled in colorful chalk (rustic flare), only to be met with something edible, but far below expectations. An example of this phenomenon is the “house made smoothie” (or something along those lines), that I ordered once on a special occasion. I felt a complete loss of dignity to have waited 25 minutes, only for this “smoothie” to be nothing more than blended red ice. I was fully situated in this newfound skepticism when I attended Cup and Gown at 6:45pm on a Wednesday night and requested a “lemon bar”. You can only imagine my glee when the product I received tasted exactly like it was chalked up to be, possibly better. It was a delicious lemon bar! While I appreciate the concept behind much of what Stirling’s has to offer, it is, for the most part, an illusion. Meanwhile, Cup and Gown doesn’t try to be anything other than what it is: honest, down to earth, and well-run.

The beloved Cup and Gown…what will we do when we need you on Saturday. Just like how Sunday rolls around and the urge for a Chick-fil-a Chicken Sandwich bubbles up from within your soul, the urge to get a delicious Chicken TBM always happens on Saturday. You are a loyal caffeine source throughout the week and conveniently located right in the trusty library. But, when it is 10 a.m. on a Saturday and I need to write my paper before a darty, how will I make it with no chai latte or even a simple iced coffee? We all know that the ONLY place anyone can do work is the library, and we will simply not bring coffee from an outside source and mock the integrity of the Cup and Gown. Stirling’s, on the other hand, is always a delicious breakfast treat or lunch hangout spot even on the weekends. When the sun comes out and the work that we should be doing suddenly disappears, Stirling’s is the place to meet friends, make plans, and enjoy a nice sandwich. 

Working Environment: 

The Cup and Gown employees always have a bright smile on their faces despite the large rushes that come in the late weeknights when students are crying over their homework at 10 p.m. The frantic energy is present in Cup and Gown, however the workers mill together like a well-oiled machine, and while the workers at Stirlings are happy and excited, the system they work in is unorganized and it makes the workers feel undervalued. If workers ever need to miss a shift, the workers at Cup and Gown are ready and willing to come assist whenever needed, even just coming in to help a friend recently hired. 

In conclusion, both coffee houses offer something different based on the person’s desires that day. Looking for a leisurely lunch on a Saturday afternoon while you chat with friends? Head on over to Stirlings. Looking for a quick snack or large coffee drink while you work for hours in the library? Break yourself away from your endless homework for 5 minutes and walk the 3 second walk to Cup and Gown. In the end, supporting your local Sewanee restaurants is the important part, and who knows? Maybe you and your friends can enjoy your own debate as you snack on the different and delicious treats: which is better- Cup and Gown or Stirlings?