Lucky’s Coffee Garage (Lebanon, NH)

Back in the summer of 2017, my friend Deb Shinnlinger signed a lease for a recently-closed service station on the green in Lebanon, NH, Roy’s Service Station, with the intent of quickly turning it into a “West-Coast Style Coffee Shop” serving up quality coffee, espresso, and bakery items within a month or two. Well, like a lot of endeavors in food service, the “month or two” turned into several months of drama of permitting and the sort of refurbishment challenges one can expect when turning a tired, old service station into a fresh and welcoming coffee shop, but in December of 2017, Lucky’s Coffee Garage became a reality and opened to the public.

I don’t normally review coffee shops here (like beer bars and cocktail bars, it’s a different sort of review, and for most places the menu is pretty limited), but for Lucky’s I’m making an exception for several reasons: (a) The area has been dying for a good coffee shop for a long time, (b) several friends of mine work there, and, most importantly (c) as they hit the 1.5 year mark, Lucky’s has grown to include a reasonably sized lunch menu, beer and wine, and, on certain nights of the week, dinner service! So, as they’ve partially transitioned into being more of a café than just a coffee shop, I figured it was worth my giving them a dinner visit and a review.

So, during Lucky’s “Late Shift” dinner hours (heads-up: currently Lucky’s is only open for dinner Thursday through Saturday, from 5-9 pm), they’ve got a rotating dinner menu of weekly selections, but it’s usually a combination of fairly health snacks, things on toast (yay, stuff!), and dinner bowls (ranging from steak, chicken, veggies, sweet potatoes, etc). On this visit, it was a choice between a grain bowl or a brassica bowl, with options of steak, chicken, or deep-fried cauliflower as toppings. I opted for the brassica bowl topped with turmeric cauliflower, and was quite pleased: it was an ample bowl of lightly sauteed cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, and Romanesco broccoli, served up with a tangy dipping sauce and several perfectly crisped cauliflower bites. There are a lot of times I want a lighter, veggie-forward dinner, and this was the perfect selection.

In subsequent visits, I’ve also had a nice sweet potato bowl, a grilled broccoli bowl, and a chicken bowl, the last of these probably being my overall favorite, with a grilled chicken thigh, greens, charred onions, quinoa, crunchy garlic, and cardamom carrots.

At the same time they started dinner service, Lucky’s also started serving beer and wine (they’ve had a license since they opened), and they have a nice selection of basic wines and a good overall selection of bottled and draft beers, the latter mostly focusing on area breweries like Concord Craft Brewing and Maine Beer Co. On this visit, I enjoyed a Farm Lite from , Polyculture (who is a small brewery in Croydon, NH).

For completeness, I should also actually talk about Lucky’s mainstay: coffee and breakfast service. First of all, the coffee is solid. Deb is fanatical about selecting coffees from quality roasters (many of them local, like Northfield’s Carrier Roasting and Woodstock’s Abracadbra) for her regular drip and espresso coffees, and has put in a lot of effort into training her baristas. She also offers multiple cold brew coffees, including the excellent George Howell Blend from Nobl. They’ve also got a nice array of cookies, bars, scones, and biscuits from their own bakery, and bring in locally make bagels (including breakfast sandwiches) and popovers (weekends only), so it’s a pretty good selection of breakfast options to go with your daily caffeination.

I’m quite happy to see Lucky’s be successful (at times almost too much, the place can get crowded some mornings and it can occasionally be difficult to find seating), not just as a coffee shop, but as a café as well. And that their dinner menu does well enough to stay around, and hopeful get expanded to other nights of the week.

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