‘A labor of love’: Yali’s Cafe celebrates grand opening in Sutardja Dai Hall

Maya Valluru/Staff

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Yali’s Cafe celebrated the grand opening of its new location in Sutardja Dai Hall on Tuesday morning amid the aroma of roasting coffee beans and the clamor of eager students.

At the grand opening, the cafe offered free coffee and espresso beverages. The new storefront also offered samples of pastries, including chocolate zucchini bread and sandwiches, such as the popular turkey pesto panini, to the delight of crowds of students.

The new location quietly opened in February to replace CalDining as the operator of Qualcomm Cafe, which closed in spring 2016. The cafe is just now hosting its grand opening, however, as there was no opportunity to do so last semester, according to Yali’s Cafe co-owner and manager Elan Lieber.

“I think any time you open a new space you should celebrate,” Lieber said. “It’s a labor of love — you spend a lot of time on it, so naturally you want to celebrate it.”

The renovated cafe — the first storefront Yali’s has opened in a decade — is the company’s fourth location in Berkeley. Unlike the Yali’s Cafe in Stanley Hall, the new location offers hot sandwiches and an expanded breakfast menu, including avocado toast.

According to Lieber, the Yali’s staff is composed mainly of undergraduate students, many of whom return each semester.

Campus sophomore Emily Wicks, who works at the new Yali’s, said she and many of the other baristas trained and covered shifts at the Stanley Hall location last year before working in the new storefront. Fellow barista Jordan O’Rourk, a campus sophomore, added that traffic in the cafe has increased since last semester.

“It’s a lot of fun — I like all the employees,” Wicks said. “I definitely work here because it’s fun, not because I need the job.”

Yali’s Cafe secured its space in Sutardja Dai Hall through a competitive bid with the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society, or CITRIS, whose headquarters are located in the building, according to Domenico Caramagno, director of facilities and operations at CITRIS.

We wanted to make it competitive in the sense that we wanted to see how different vendors could use this space, not only to serve coffee and food but also to provide service to students and faculty,” Caramagno said.

The new location accepts Cal 1 debit as a form of payment, along with cash or card, but does not accept flex dollars or meal swipes.

Many students, including campus sophomore Alejandro Sannia, cited the cafe’s location as a major perk. Sannia, who has classes close to the new Yali’s, said the new storefront is more convenient and saves time between classes.

“I like the coffee here more compared to other nearby cafes,” Sannia said. “This location definitely has a good variety of foods, quiches and smoothies.”

Campus sophomore Davina Dou said she frequents the Yali’s in Stanley Hall but thinks that the new location is more “chic” and “modern.”

“I feel like this location is definitely more student-oriented because it’s on campus and it’s close to a lot of classrooms,” Dou said. “It’s a good study space and a good place to grab a quick bite.”

Contact Amber Tang at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ambertang_dc.

Clarification(s):
A previous version of this article may have implied that Yali’s has replaced Qualcomm Cafe. In fact, Yali’s has replaced CalDining as the operator of Qualcomm Cafe.