In the Wild West of cocktails to-go, it was bound to happen: Drive-through spiked slushies, handed through a pull-up window by staff in masks and gloves. At Coach Meeting House in Oyster Bay, the pomegranate margaritas, blood-orange Aperol spritzes, Jack Daniel’s peach tea and frosé are served Big Gulp-style in capped plastic cups — and certainly not intended to be sipped until you are safely back at home.
Serving drive-through frozen drinks weren't exactly Plan A for Rustan Lundstrum when he opened Coach Meeting House just days before New York's dine-in shutdown, though. "A lot of people are kind of laughing, and it's all over social media, but my goal is to break even, tread water and pay the guys in the kitchen," said Lundstrum, who had designed the 59-seat restaurant to have clubby vibe and dishes such as artichoke oreganata and steak frites on the menu. (The spot took over the former digs of River Road American Bistro).
By the time restaurants were mandated to close dine-in operations, Coach Meeting House had been open for three days. "It was a soft opening, but we were really busy up until 8 o'clock that Monday, and we almost had to push people out of the door," he said.
Lundstrum shifted gears quickly, putting together a takeout menu and running orders himself, which he said was "overwhelming. First, you worry about your family, and then the six full-time, full time guys in the kitchen," he said. "Every day was a new day and a new business model."
In a twist, the restaurant's liquor license didn't arrive until after the shutdown. Lundstrum had a slushie machine at his disposal from his other business, Cooper Bluff, an outdoor bar at the Oyster Bay Marine Center. He put it into action at Coach Meeting House. "We started doing a frozen drink every day, and it kind of evolved. People went crazy — it was happy, it was fun."
First, there were frozen margaritas for Taco Tuesday — then the rotating lineup grew to Paloma slushies (with tequila and grapefruit juice), spiked frozen iced teas and vodka strawberry lemonades, sold in 12-ounce portions for $9 or 20-ounce, Big Gulp style cups for $14. Lundstrum later instituted a BYOP (bring your own pitcher) program, "and we guesstimate how big the pitcher is and we negotiate a price," as he wrote on Instagram.
As per New York state law, drinks must be accompanied by food; burgers, rigatoni a la vodka and grilled (or blackened) salmon are among the menu items this week. The restaurant keeps a few low-cost items on hand, such as popcorn, for those who are more focused on drinks than dinner.
Coach Meeting House, 160 Mill River Rd., Oyster Bay, 516-588-9288. coachgrillandtavern.com