At the beginning of each semester, you can find most University students catching up with friends or getting ahead on their studying with a free latte from HotCakes Gourmet — a café and bakery located in the Barracks Shopping Center. HotCakes is easily accessible for students given that you can get to Barracks either by bus or a five minute drive. With an ample amount of tables in the café, HotCakes can also be a great place to do some studying with great food and coffee. It is also typically filled with Charlottesville locals having breakfast or coffee dates, which is nice if you want to get out of the University bubble. Most students know HotCakes for their freebie program. The month of September gets you 30 days of free lattes and from Jan. 27 to Feb. 10, there were an additional 15 days of free lattes to start your second semester off right. This deal is for any University student, teacher or staff member who signs up through their freebie program shows them their Freebie card at the register. Although HotCakes does serve a mean latte and I highly encourage going every single day to get a free caffeine fix from their free latte program, the café and bakery has so much more delicious food and even better savings that everyone should be aware of. Let’s start with the most important meal of the day — breakfast. The HotCakes bakery has you covered for any kind of pastry you could desire. If you’re looking for something savory to start off your day, I would suggest the ham and cheese croissant. The croissant has the perfect, flaky outside but soft, chewy inside, which complements the salty, warm ham and melted cheese. This dish will fill you up until lunch, especially if you eat it with a HotCakes latte or any of their drink specialties. A slice of their quiche or an egg sandwich any way you want it is also a good breakfast option, but a standout on their menu is the chorizo, black bean, egg and cheddar burrito. This breakfast burrito has tempted me more than once when I’ve gone to HotCakes — next time I’m brunching there, it’s going to be my breakfast meal of choice. If you like your breakfast sweet, I would recommend the dried cherry scone or the pumpkin muffin. The scone itself is dense, buttery and sweet, but the cherries in the scone give it a little tang. I would love it if they served the scone with more cherries to make it fruitier, but that’s just me. A staple at HotCakes, the pumpkin muffin is delicious all year round with the sweet spice of the pumpkin complemented by a little crunch from the nuts. The pumpkin muffin is light and airy in its texture, but I recommend ordering two for breakfast so you’re not hungry an hour after you eat it. Now if you want to get extra sweet, HotCakes has a killer S’mores French toast that is stuffed s’mores-style with melted chocolate or Nutella and marshmallow fluff. For only $3.99 a piece, you’ll likely want to double up. For lunch, HotCakes has a great selection of sandwiches, salads and soups to choose from on their menu. A classic café meal, the tarragon chicken salad is incredible with chunky pieces of chicken, a light spread of mayonnaise and small bits of celery. HotCakes serves it on sunflower wheat bread or over lettuce with a fresh fruit salad, and I recommend this for for the perfect light lunch. The meal is also pretty inexpensive as the price ranges between $5 to $9 between the sandwich and salad plate. Two other standouts on the menu are the cider marinated chicken sandwich with blue cheese and bacon on Focaccia bread and the fried green tomato BLT. If you have an enormous sweet tooth, like me, the bakery counter at HotCakes will have your mouth watering. For all the chocolate lovers out there, dive into a piece of their Chocolate Sin cake, which is a flourless cake with a fudgy texture. If you feel like you want a bit of Italy for your dessert, the tiramisu will not disappoint. Also all of the cakes and pies at HotCakes can be served as single slices or they can be purchased as a whole cake if you’re looking to get a delicious dessert for a special occasion. They also have dessert pastries such as chocolate eclairs, fruit tartlets and cupcakes, if you want a small, sweet treat to go with your afternoon coffee. Besides the free lattes at the start of each semester, the HotCakes freebie program for University students, faculty and staff also gets you discounts from their menu each month. These deals make it a very popular spot for us cheap college kids. If you’re not part of the HotCakes freebie program, I wouldn’t hesitate to sign up because who doesn’t like free food?