Drive-thru caffeine

coffee shack top

Flavour2Go's Joe Mancino.

By Akum Norder

Updated

I'm going to blame my love of coffee shacks on a story I read as a kid.

A sister and brother who'd gone to stay with their grandmother for the summer were captivated by an old garden shed by the roadside. They cleaned it out, tidied it up, hung checkered curtains in the windows, and voila! A tiny shop. They sold homemade cookies through the window to lines of hungry neighbors.

It just seemed so industrious, so compact: They had everything they needed, in miniature!

Add coffee into that equation and it gets even better.

Go out to the Pacific Northwest and you see them everywhere -- little shacks perched in parking lots or on roadsides, offering drivers fabulously strong coffee with on-the-road convenience. How useful! How small!

As far as I've been able to find, the Capital Region has two drive-up espresso huts. Sure, I like walking to my neighborhood coffee house for a leisurely cup. But when I'm out in my car, there are times when a coffee is the difference between finishing the errands and crumpling into a tiny ball. And I'll take an independent over the Starbucks drive-thru any day.

Sadly, neither of these coffee shacks is anywhere near my neighborhood. But maybe one of them's in yours.

flavour2go full

Flavour2Go
501 Columbia Turnpike
East Greenbush

Flavour2Go is a spin-off of Flavour Cafe in Troy. This happy lime-green shack on Route 20, in front of Planet Fitness, opened in January. It also has a few picnic tables in case you'd like to get out of the car and stretch your legs.

flavour2go tables

Joe Mancino, the owner, had been involved in Flavour Cafe and had then gone on to a retail management position elsewhere. But he knew Flavour had been interested in expanding their brand, and he saw the coffee shack as an opportunity to become involved in local business as an owner.

I'm generally chai-wary -- it's too easy to get a lousy chai -- but their menu brags about theirs, so okay, I'll bite. And yeah: It was rockin'.

Aw, man. Did you have to put the cupcakes right near the glass where I can see them?

Joe gives an evil chuckle.

Before I drove away I asked Joe what I most wanted to know: "Is there a bathroom in there? Not for customers, I mean. Just for you, sitting in the little shack all day?"

"Everyone asks that," Joe says. And yes, there is.

coffee connection full

Coffee Connection
5103 State Route 7
Hoosick Falls

The chainsaw-carved, coffee-drinking bear will flag you down as you're headed up Route 7: This is the Coffee Connection, which has been open for 5 1/2 years. Its owner, Mike Green, came out here from the Seattle area, where coffee shacks "are on every corner, and they're really handy, and we fell in love with them ourselves." They couldn't find any out here, "so we thought we'd do one ourselves," Mike said.

coffee connection bear

Currently closed for remodeling -- they're rebuilding the back wall after an arson fire earlier this spring -- they plan to reopen the weekend before Memorial Day.

I swung by this caffeine outpost amid the rural views recently to grab an iced latte, which they made expertly: sweet enough to be indulgent, but still tasting like coffee. Most of their clientele are, like me, people passing through, Mike says: "New York City people, New Jersey, leaf peepers." Not as many locals. In addition to coffee, they have baked goods and smoothies, even homegrown popcorn. Refresh the whole family without unbuckling all the car seats.

If you're headed up to Bennington and need to refuel before a cemetery tromp, you couldn't do better.

Zing! Thank you, caffeine. Isn't it nice to be back in iced coffee season?

Comments

I need to check out/support the one in East Greenbush. It was a coffee place, taco booth and now back to coffee in the 3 years I've been here.

Been to the one in EG since they opened. Very nice place and I love to get some nice Hot Apple Cider there before I pick up my wife at work. The place was originally a Fotomat when they used to dot the area back in the 1970's.

Been to the Coffee Connection on the way back from VT. Very much worth it (and we're damn picky about our coffee. Fresh roasted from the Daily Grind is all we drink in our house).

Very friendly, very tasty treats and very satisfying java. Give 'em the business!

One of the amazing things about Montana is how they are exactly spaced out so that when you need a cup for the road, they are always there.

I am all for importing this in greater numbers to the CD.

There used to be one at exit 15 on the Northway. The family brought the shack from the Northwest. They did great until the town closed them down because they didn't have indoor plumbing. A short while later a Dunkin Donuts was built a few yards away. Coincidence?

Does DD not count as a drive-up espresso huts?

No

Someone PLEASE open one of these in the Albany/Latham area! I fell in love with these on the west coast, and desperately want to go to one daily..!

Love the one on Route 7...fortunately, it is in MY neck of the woods! :)

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