As far as experiences go, it is hard to rival an afternoon spent at a local cafe, sipping fresh coffee and typing away on the computer as conversations buzz around you. Maybe you meet a friend on the weekend and catch up over homemade croissants. Another day, you might stop by at night to see a neighborhood performer strumming away on the guitar. The point is, no matter what time of day you visit, the café – a good café at least – is always abuzz.
In her book, What I Found In A Thousand Towns (Basic Books, 2017), Hudson Valley folk musician Dar Williams cites cafes as binding agents within communities. With the right atmosphere, location, and attendees, a cafe has the potential to bring together locals and visitors from all walks of life and help a region thrive. Fortunately, the Hudson Valley boasts quite a few of Williams’s “positive proximity,” or community enriching, spaces. Whether you need a serene space to power through creative writing or an open mic night to test out a new song, these spots are worth the trip. (For a review of Dar Williams’s book, see this week's book review.)
Bank Square Coffeehouse
129 Main Street, Beacon, (845) 440-7165; banksquarecoffeehouse.com
If Beacon is the epitome of Williams’s notion of positive proximity in the Hudson Valley, then Bank Square Coffeehouse is what keeps the town’s engine running. Located at the start of Main Street, the coffee shop does more than hand out cups of fresh java. Although, to be fair, the coffee is great, and a steal in such a foodie friendly town. Pair it with a sky-high muffin and you will be happy as a bookworm for the rest of the afternoon.
Uniquely, what makes Bank Square the place to be is not its tasty drinks or eats. Coffee is part of the allure, but the open, visitor-friendly layout is what really sells it as a bookmark destination. Students, business owners, and Dia: Beacon tourists buzz in and out, plopping down on one of the comfy couches for a few hours or simply grabbing a hot chocolate for the road.
The Crafted Kup
44 Raymond Avenue, Poughkeepsie, (845) 483-7070; thecraftedkup.com
With only a two minute walk between Vassar College and The Crafted Kup, it is no surprise that the cafe welcomes a daily influx of students and faculty. After all, it is the perfect spot to get away from campus without commiting to a car ride. Plus, it serves high grade roasted coffee and a curated selection of baked goods, bagels, and oatmeal, the perfect fuel for a work-filled day.
The Crafted Kup’s mouthwatering lattes – try the Cafe Miel or the Matcha Latte – are enough reason to make a pit stop at the Raymond Avenue hotspot or its new sister storefront in the Poughkeepsie Galleria. At the Vassar location, however, the open mic nights are a bonus. Head over after work to check out some of the talented musicians in Dutchess County or sign up to perform yourself. Either way, it is a convenient way to kick back, connect with others, and support local creatives.
Taste Budd’s Cafe
40 W Market Street, Red Hook, (845) 758-6500; tastebudds.com
Taste Budd’s Cafe may be slightly off the main road in Red Hook, but that does not stop it from being an inclusive space for the community. From the outset, it establishes its “all are welcome” attitude, thanks to keywords like “gluten-free” and “vegan” posted on the roadside sign. Past the threshold, an open floor plan with plentiful seating awaits area residents, Bard College students, and passersby.
Live music is a staple at Taste Budd’s, as are the scrumptious line-up of pastries and sweet treats. While savory options abound as well, the rainbow assortment of macarons and the allergy complacent treats are the true showstoppers. Order up one or two to go with the aromatic coffee or tea, and hunker down in a corner with free wifi and folksy tunes drifting around the room.
2 Alices Coffee Lounge
117 Broadway, Newburgh, (845) 563-7124; 2alicescoffee.com
If a communal cafe is a requirement for a thriving town, then Newburgh is on the road to success. Thanks to 2 Alices, Newburgh has a hub for creatives to meet and work, for parents to take a breather, and for friends to meet up with one another. With a location in the center of town, a menu filled with the requisite coffees, teas, and snacks, and a stable Internet connection, 2 Alices is the rivertown city’s rapidly spreading secret.
In terms of aesthetic, the coffee shop, which has a sister location in Cornwall-on-Hudson, is both family friendly and hipster chic. Unobtrusive tables and industrial chairs line the room. The baristas tuck themselves at the back counter, just far enough from the entrance that visitors have time to get a sense of the space before they place their order. As for what to snack on, a fresh coffee or latte infused with one of the syrups from the shop’s impressive selection will provide a caffeine fix, while a larger-than-life cookie will satisfy any hardworking sweet tooth.