By Serena Kenna
Tucked away in a cozy little corner of Mahopac, New York, is a hidden treasure called the Freight House Cafe, owned and operated by Donna Massaro. Overflowing with character, history and charm, the Freight House Cafe was actually the first structure built for the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad. This branch line transported passengers and goods from Goldens Bridge to Grand Central Station for over fifty years. After being taken out of commission in the early part of the twentieth century with the dismantling of the railroad tracks on either side of the freight house, it became a storage facility for local goods and eventually remained empty for some time.
Donna, meanwhile, had been traveling the country, attending culinary school and working at various restaurants. Upon graduation, she came back to New York and attempted to find a way to intermingle her love of cooking, her desire to interact with people and her dream of owning a business of her own. After a bit of research, she discovered the little freight house was vacant and, as luck would have it, right in the town where she grew up. Donna immediately fell in love with its history and vintage charm and knew it was the place she had been looking for.
In addition to being drenched in quaint historical charisma, the Freight House Cafe currently boasts a health-conscious, mostly organic, versatile menu from breakfast to happy hour and beyond (with breakfast being available all day). Donna takes great pride in the quality of the food she serves as well as the fact that she hires only local US citizens. Nearly everything served is organic, acquired locally and a product of the United States.
Weekends are fun at the Cafe, as Donna is always spotlighting a local rock, jazz or alternative band; breaking in new comedic talent; or just showcasing a gifted piano-bar entertainer. She holds happy hour Wednesday through Friday, and in warm weather utilizes her outdoor patio area. The Cafe boasts a full coffee, espresso and cappuccino bar in addition to a wine and full liquor bar.
I went to the Cafe during the day for lunch as well as on a Saturday night when the Cafe After Dark featured hard rock local talent. The bands were excellent and drew a fantastic crowd. I found the food to be fresh and well presented and the service friendly, courteous and happy. I say happy because it is unusual indeed to find employees actually happy to be working and conveying that happiness to customers. The tomatoes-and-mozzaella appetizer was extremely fresh and served on an attractive little slate board. The flatbreads I ordered—avocado with sautéed vegetables and olive oil; gorgonzola with figs and candied walnuts; and a mozzarella flatbread with tomato, basil and balsamic reduction—were all made to order and a delicious combination of flavors, textures and colors. The cappuccino and lemon cake bar topped it all off to perfection. Donna makes her own homemade desserts.
In addition to all of this fantastic entertainment and great food, service and ambiance, Donna sells original pieces from local artists, as well as coffee, crafts, soaps and handmade cards. My best advice is to pay a visit to the Freight House Cafe in the morning, afternoon or after dark on the weekends, and see and taste for yourself everything it has to offer. Donna’s little Freight House is a vintage piece of Hudson Valley history magically transformed into a warm, cozy gathering place not to be missed.