Thursday, October 30, 2008

Drive-through coffee: We need Java Girls!

Posted By on Thu, Oct 30, 2008 at 10:00 AM

java_crossing.jpg

I was talking with a source over coffee when the conversation turned to -- what else? -- coffee. We wondered whether there was a Java Girls in Kansas City. Java Girls is a coffee chain described by its founder as "Part Starbucks and part Hooters."

Basically, it's girls in skimpy outfits serving coffee out of a small drive-through coffee store. Wherever one opens, though, it usually causes a ruckus amongst the community's so-called moral leaders for about a day before they change their rubber underwear and everyone goes back to living life. But that's been on the West Coast (it's no big surprise that Java Girls started in Seattle). I could see it actually being Controversial here in the belly button right above the Bible Belt.

Just to confirm: We do not have a Java Girls. (But St. Louis does, those bastards!) Moreover, my research revealed that not only does Kansas City not have a Java Girls, it has a dearth of drive-through coffee places altogether.

javagogo.jpg

Sure, Starbucks has several drive-throughs including one on Metcalf and one on Main. Caribou coffee also has a couple in the area, including one off of I-35 and Shawnee Mission Parkway and one in the Tuileries Plaza off of NW 64th Street and I-29.

I found only four other coffee stores that have drive-throughs, including a surprising number in the Northland. The first one is Java GoGo at 2600 Burlington. Like most good drive-throughs Java GoGo is freestanding and devoted only to the coffee basics, such as cappuccinos and lattes, along with a limited selection of bakery goods. Owners Josh and Amy Sitzer describe it as "Like Cheers ... but with a drive-through."

Much farther north (8 miles on I-29) at 7121 NW Barry Rd is Joe To Go, a small franchisee-owned coffee chain. Like the founders of Java GoGo, Joe to Go founder Richard DuBois decided to open a coffee drive-through in the Midwest after seeing them in the Northwest. Currently Joe to Go has about 15 stores, most of which are in Wisconsin, but technically it has two in Kansas City as well. I say technically because the second location is in the First Family Church complex in Overland Park; it's not a drive-through.

Raytown has a drive-through coffee shop called City Grounds, a full-sized store with a drive-through on the side. It serves high quality PT's coffee beans and, in the true coffee-house spirit, features local artists and musicians for those willing to venture inside. (City Grounds is not open Sundays.)

Finally there's Java Crossing, which has been around for years in a little free-standing building near the northeast corner of 95th and Antioch. Even though it's small, Java Crossing packs a full menu. It has made-to-order breakfast and lunch (with some rather odd coffee-shop choices, such as gyro chicken or beef-and-lamb gyros and chicken cordon bleu). The coffee menu, however, is refreshingly traditional -- and notable for its large serving size, which is 24 ounces. (Starbucks' venti hold 20 ounces, as anyone with a knowledge of Italian numbers should be able to guess.)

I stopped by to pick up a drink and a ham-and-cheese sandwich. As the weather was brisk I was feeling the need for chai tea and ordered the latte version. The chai latte is a bellwether drink for coffee houses since most don't serve it correctly, either making it too much like a cappuccino or sweeter than a soft drink and masking any actual tea flavor. Starbucks falls into the latter category and I've given up ordering them there. Java Crossing's chai latte was pretty much dead-on perfect. A touch of sweetness and lots of actual chai flavor.

I went back the next night -- not really on purpose, but because I was driving down Antioch and passed it. If I had to actually enter the coffee shop, I doubt I would have. It was the convenience of the drive-through that made me stop.

Now if I can only find one with girls in skimpy uniforms.

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