11 a.m.
11:55 a.m. Murray Dodge Café is silent. The tables are empty but for a stirring stick left out from last night, crumbs, and remnants of coffee. The bakers are setting up.

The quiet is eerie, with dim lights illuminating the chalkboard wall that has become a hallmark of the café. A heavy drizzle drags on outside, but the warm glow of the ceiling lamps and the fresh smell of cookies contrast the gray day.

Carnatic music seeps quietly from the speakers set up around the underground café. The radio host steps on the mic after a few minutes, murmuring.
12 p.m.
12 p.m. Trinh Nguyen ’25 speaks to me quietly by the sinks, rinsing the mugs. At 11:30, she started her morning shift, turning on the oven, washing the mugs, and cleaning up. The blocks of dough sitting on the counter are from last night’s leftovers.

A wheeled cart holding the ingredients for the day sits between the oven and the table. The cookies are set out from the previous day — small, dollop-like blueberry cream cheese and large, crispy chocolate peanut butter cookies.
12:11 p.m. The first students of the day trickle in, munching on cookies by the oven. They walk out to the door, gasping as they look outside at the torrential downpour. Apart from the soft chatter of the bakers and the radio playing over the speakers, the café is empty.

This quiet moment lets me reflect on the well-known Murray Dodge walls. A few phrases catch my attention. A large “Free Palestine” has been colored on the wall. A drawing of the Lorax smiles. “Women’s liberation,” meows a pink cat with a corresponding word bubble. “Fight with love, laugh with rage,” reads another scribble. The walls are also peppered with names of Princeton student groups. On the far side of the café, at the end of the tables and booths, is a chalky “BODY BODY HYPE HYPE,” the slogan of the popular University dance group, Body Hype. “Princeton Women’s Track and Field” also claims a spot.

The café’s wooden chairs are hand-painted. A chair with blue-green eyes painted on its back stares at me. Another with an inscrutable German phrase sits by the couches. Worn swivel armchairs circle the couch and tables, fraying and well-loved.
12:28 p.m. With barely any people in the café, the lights go off near the couch.
12:46 p.m. It’s just Mira with the bakers. Light jazz plays over the radio as two more students walk in, hauling their umbrellas into the café.
12:59 p.m. A student enters in a soaked black windbreaker. They shake off extra water and raise their hood, cheeks flushed. Shrugging off their jacket, they take a seat in the nook by the chalkboard wall.
1 p.m.
1:23 p.m. We speak with one of the student bakers, Grady Trexler ’24, who started working at the café last semester, because “it seemed like a fun job.” Working with the ingredients available to them, bakers have creative liberty during their shifts. Each baker works two to three times a week for three-and-a-half hour shifts.

“Wednesdays are vegan days, and Sundays are gluten-free days”, explains Grady. His favorite flavor is chocolate chip (“I know it’s basic …”)
2 p.m.
2 p.m. Two bakers reenter the café, giggling about the thunderstorm outside as they shuck off their wind-breakers and shake off the rain.
2:27 p.m. The café has been relatively quiet, due to the thunderstorm outside. A pair of friends speak at one of the tables, in serious conversation.
3 p.m.
3 p.m. The rain slows to a misty drizzle. A fresh batch of cookies is pulled out of the oven, and the smell wafts over the cafe.
3:25 p.m. A few students trickle into Murray Dodge, claiming tables to work.
4 p.m.
4:36 p.m. More students begin to fill the café, setting their bags down on tables. The afternoon has been mostly quiet, interspersed with the soft sounds of tea and coffee percolating, and the occasional swinging of the door, which now gets a bit louder with chatter between students during their cookie breaks.
4:47 p.m. The large corner couch has been claimed by three students.
4:52 p.m. The bakers sit back in the kitchen, working in the quiet. The thick scent of butter and sugar hangs in the air.

The prox drop-off bin is starting to fill up.

The ingredient cart boasts a staggering bucket of white sugar, another of brown sugar, and one of flour. Oats sit on the bottom rack beside a bucket of spices. The sanitizer disposal gurgles periodically.

The blueberry cream cheese cookies we have been snacking on since noon have been replaced with small, dollop-sized bites. The new cookie on display: strawberry lemon white chocolate.
5 p.m.
5:02 p.m. We talk to Aidan Mahoney ’25, a student baker who had already worked his shift for this week and is now covering for his friend as a study break. He lets us take a sneak peek — the current treats in the oven are a batch of brownies studded with M&Ms.

The brownies — or any double-chocolate cookie — is Mahoney’s favorite to bake, “because even if it goes wrong, people still love chocolate,” he explains. On the other hand, his favorite cookies to eat are oatmeal raisin.

These have proven a challenge to bake, as one must carefully control the ratio between flour and oats to get the perfect rise. Mahoney’s previous attempt unfortunately ended in the cookies merging into one large cookie mass.

However, the taste wasn’t affected. Mahoney instead decided to label the treat “oatmeal raisin brittle,” and as it turns out, students loved it.

“It’s all about the marketing,” he laughs.
5:25 p.m. The radio show host gently introduces the next lineup of songs, and two students converse quietly, switching fluidly between English and Spanish.
5:57 p.m. A student has an epiphany. They look up from their annotations, announcing, “Everything just clicked in my head.”
10 p.m.
10:01 p.m. The writers are starting to get tired after 10 hours. Mira goes for a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. Yum.
10:05 p.m. Two students discuss the plot of a story one of them wants to write. I want to read it.
10:06 p.m. A moment of quiet. Three girls gossip at the back table, two of them huddled over a phone.
10:18 p.m. A girl walks into the kitchen. “Oh my God, everybody is here! Hi!”
10:21 p.m. Two guys stop by the old Murray Dodge sign propped up against the wall, munching on cookies.
10:22 p.m. Two grinning students walk into the café, the guy waving his arms at his friends in the kitchen.
10:25 p.m. Two girls walk back from the kitchen and grab their coats, cookies in hand. “So good!” one of them exclaims through a full mouth.
10:27 p.m. We watch with trepidation as two girls attempt to scare their friend who is hard at work on her computer. Her friend raises her hands over her shoulders, but even through the computer screen’s reflection, she is in grind mode and single-minded.
10:28 p.m. Former ‘Prince’ Managing Editor Kalena Blake walks in. We smile. She does not know who we are.
10:36 p.m. On my way to my eighth cookie, a new flavor is ready: white chocolate pistachio. Over in the kitchen, student bakers gather around the table and pass around a phone showing a TikTok dance.
10:40 p.m. Getting up to stretch my old-lady legs, I meander over to the wall, and read “The TapCats think ur sexy, but sexier in tap shoes.” I’m strangely flattered.
10:43 p.m. There is a Duolingo bird on the wall. In this context, it does not look menacing. Hi, Duo.
10:56 p.m. A group of friends walk in for their cookies. One of them sets a small radio by their friend’s table.

They seem to be coming from a pre-game and are trying to persuade their friend to join them.
11 p.m.
11:01 p.m. Many people are entering Murray Dodge. Two girls in matching long black coats exit, laughing.
11:10 p.m. Three guys walk in. One of them is wearing a Hawaiian shirt — probably going to Quad later, which had a tropical-themed party.
11:11 p.m. Make a wish!
11:17 p.m. A girl takes a drink from a bottle that says “Truly” on the side. Unsure if she really is drinking hard seltzer while studying, but Google seems to think so.
11:21 p.m. A couple of girls walk in wearing coats and dresses, having just come from the Class of 2027 formal at the Louis A. Simpson International Building.
11:44 p.m. We are close to midnight. Murray Dodge is filled with giggles, voracious laughter, and conversation. A group of guys eating cookies scribble on the walls with chalk.
11:45 p.m. Cookie check: one chocolate chip cookie left, and a plate of white chocolate pistachio.

Two girls wheeze-laugh in the corner.
11:46 p.m. Two guys walk in with identical sunglasses on. On their way to Quad’s Miami Vice?
11:47 p.m. Some guys stop by the piano on their way out. One repeatedly jams a really out-of-tune E natural. Another quickly plays the beginning phrase to Für Elise, giggles, and runs out the door after his friends.
11:55 p.m. Two guys and two girls enter the café in search of cookies. One of the girls is holding a red SOLO cup.
11:59 p.m. We speak to Monica Jun ’26 as she closes down Murray Dodge for the nightly routine: any remaining batter goes into the fridge for the next day, dishes are washed, and tables are cleaned. “Everything you do when you open up, you do in reverse,” she explains. “Around 11:55, we tell everyone to bring back mugs.”
12 a.m.
12 a.m. It’s time to leave. We step outside. The night air is chilly but refreshing, and the rain has stopped. Campus is alive with weekend festivities.