Coffee House Comfort

For the college student, studying can be an arduous task. The mere adage, "I've got to study" repeated over and over in one's mind can easily induce a rigid defense against why we shouldn't do it at all. Whatever the case might be, facing facts - we just have to buckle down and do it. Why not make it a little easier on yourself and perhaps have a little fun, too? We tell ourselves we should study, we need to, we must, and yet what we really want is to sit on our lazy bums. All around the city, Santa Monica is our coffeehouse oyster. Why not explore these little gems? You can sit on your lazy bum, but with a book in your lap and a latte in your hand. Here are the five best local hangouts for the frugal college student.

Novel Café (212 Pier Ave, M-F 7am-1am, Sat 8am-1am, Sun 8am-12am) This artsy and laid back beach bum/writer hangout has one of the best atmospheres for people watching to keep you entertained when schoolwork can get a little mundane. "It's a great place to escape to and study, and they're open till one," says SMC student, Gisselle Gordon. "I will usually sit and write the book I'm working on or some of my music and poetry. The library's cool and there's a sense of urban culture here." Breakfast, lunch and dinner is simple. Breakfast, which ranges from omelets to burritos to oatmeal and granola, comes at a reasonable price from $3.95-$7.95. Then there's the typical café fare - sandwiches, wraps, quesadillas and salads that are tasty and fresh. Coffee and teas are inexpensive at $1.60, with a 50-cent refill. You can hang out downstairs in the open air if you're feeling like an extrovert (people can be friendly here) or you can tuck away upstairs in the library for some peace and quiet. Internet is available at a reasonable price and can be purchased through a kiosk near the coffee bar. If you've done all your work like a good little college student, pack up your things for a short, relaxing walk to the beach just two blocks away.

18th Street Coffee House (1725 Broadway, M-S 7am-7pm, closed Sunday) From the outside, Bob Dylan's antique-inspired charm is apparent at this lovely cafe sitting unsuspectingly between 17th and 18th St. on Broadway. On the inside, you get the feeling you're on the set of the Friends' "Central Perk" coffee house. Parking can be a bit of a challenge if no meters are to be found. However, once inside there is relief in knowing that you'll be able to get some great work done here in the relaxing ambience. Walk up to the counter and have yourself a lovely cup of organic coffee or tea for around just $2.00. Treat yourself to one of their delicious coffee novelties - they make some of the best. Plus, there is creativity swirling in the air. Many writers come to this place for a bit of peace, to have a business lunch, read literature and enjoy some good food which is mostly organic fare. The no-cell phone rule allows for a quiet environment conducive to studying. You can sit inside or in the open-air courtyard. A gentle fountain streams background music while you study or write and there is shade from potted trees to keep you cool. It's a bit spotty at times, but if you have a laptop check your available networks for a free connection.

Santa Monica Public Library Bookmark Café (601 Santa Monica Blvd, M-TH 8am-9pm, F 8am-5:30pm, Sat 9am-5:30pm, Sunday 11:30 am - 5pm) What better place to study for that nightmare exam than at the library? With a sure guarantee of quiet solitude you can have confidence in studying distraction-free. "I like that there's an indoor and outdoor space and the parking is really easy," says student Elizabeth Stone. The Bookmark Cafe offers basic sandwiches, salads and assorted baked goods and coffees that are decent to the taste and well priced for student means. With more than 40 different kinds of sandwiches, wraps and salads on the menu, there's something here for everyone. Dinner items consist mostly of pasta, and there's even a kid menu to pacify your inner child with a nice PB&J or grilled cheese- just like the old times! You can sit outdoor in the fresh air, amongst the aisles of books or in your own private study room. If you need to research or reference anything, the world is at your fingertips. "They have a really great selection of periodicals, new books and the reference section is amazing. Everyone there is happy and friendly and helpful," says Elizabeth. Also, free Internet is available. The best aspect of this place is the non-obligation to buy coffee or food in order to enjoy the environment. The library is, after all, a student's best friend.

Flake (513 Rose Ave, M-F 6:30 am-6:30 pm) Sure, you had to get up while it was still dark outside for that one class you can't stand, but next time you roll out of bed at such an unsightly hour, roll on over to Flake Café in Venice for a little pre-class studying and cereal. The café's cheerfully bright orange walls are refreshing and uplifting. There are framed pictures of vintage cereal boxes and a surfboard that hangs near the counter. There aren't that many tables and the place is small, but the environment is fun and sassy. A college student's dream, this cereal bar café has just about any cereal you could want from Apple Jacks and Cinnamon Toast Crunch to Lucky Charms and Frosted Flakes. You pick the cereal, choice of milk and toppings ranging anywhere from gummy bears to fresh sliced bananas to mini peanut butter cups. A basic bowl (one cereal, one topping and your choice of milk) will cost you only $3.25. If you're really hungry, have the Buddha Bowl (3 scoops of any cereal, 3 toppings and your choice of milk) for $5.25. The lattes here are also some of the best in the area, made with rich Italian coffee. For those who are trying to avoid carbs, other menu options are available as well. Flake offers fruit kebabs, eggs, wraps, sandwiches, salads and daily specials. The staff is friendly and makes you feel welcome. Sit inside or out under the shaded awning with your books or computer and enjoy your favorite meal of the day.

Velocity Café (2127 Lincoln Blvd, Mon-Sat 5:30am-8:00pm) Velocity is one of those places that instantly feel like home. A little artsy, a little dumpy, a little attitude - it just feels right. You get the feeling it's okay to stroll in with your pajamas on and a full mess of bed head. "This place is a great alternative to Starbucks or Coffee Bean. I like that it's no frills and just really laid back," says student Adam Strachman. Street parking can usually be found rather easily and there are a few spaces in the back. The tables and chairs are mismatched and worn but the staff here is accommodating and will give you extra steamed milk without charging. Internet here is free with purchase of café fare. The typical coffee house foods can be found here such as freshly baked goods, wraps, sandwiches and salads, which range in price from a meager $3.75 - $8.00. The loose-leaf tea selection here is impressive and the barista certainly knows how to whip up a mighty fine cappuccino. Relax with your books in an environment that feels like your living room, but make sure you bring headphones! They tend to like their techno, dance and euro-pop music here. A bit odd for a café where patrons keep quietly to themselves, but I suppose that's the charm of Velocity.

Just remember kids - studying doesn't have to be a chore. Whether you're hyped up on that delicious foamy cappuccino watching all the interesting folks walk by or you're devouring your cookie crisp cereal with marshmallows on top, studying can indeed be fun. Heck, all it takes is a little motivation and a cool hang out, right?