Nestled in the mountains of North Carolina, just east of Asheville, is the small town of Black Mountain. There is a little area in the town that has fun little shops and restaurants and outfitters. The area seems to appeal to tourists and locals alike. In the summer of 2008, I was sort of both. I worked for a traveling children's camp and we had a week off in the mountains. We toured Black Mountain multiple times. While it appears to be one of those quaint little Main-Street type towns, it also has some granola and some weird. Asheville is known for weird. It bleeds into Black Mountain.
[An example of weirdness: One of the places we discovered in our tour was what we thought was an ordinary coffee shop. We walked in and felt we couldn't walk right back out, because we were in the middle of someone's living room. The kitchen was open and the "barista"--if you could call her that--asked for our orders. She made our various drinks with the back door open beside her. I'm pretty sure none of it was up to code. We got our drinks and still, for some reason, didn't feel we could leave right away. We settled on the couch in the living room/dining area and realized there was a drum circle. We jokingly made plans to attend the next night and then left. On the way out--or maybe it was after that, I can't remember--we noticed a mannequin, arms outstretched, on the second-floor balcony. It was not near Halloween.]
But that isn't the coffee shop I'm here to talk about. The Dripolator is on the main strip in Black Mountain. It is small, but known by everyone who's been to the area. We went a couple of times in 2008 and it is the coffee shop to be credited with my love for coffee shop culture. Not that the coffee shop is anything amazingly different or extraordinary. I think it just came into my life at the right time.
The coffee shop is small. It has a couple of couches in the middle for conversation and several tables throughout. It was exactly the same a now as it was in 2008. I like that about it. There is a post in the center of the dining area, probably supporting the weight of the roof or something important, because it is kind of inconveniently located. The Dripolator has made the most of it, though, using it as a bulletin board for local events and advertisements.
The counter is customized, with tiles set into the concrete with "Coffee," "Espresso," "Dripolator," etc. written on them. The decor is a little bit diner-retro, a little bit hippie, a little bit Pinterest-inspired-hipster. The customers are varied. When I went most recently, it was a Sunday around noon. There were college students hanging out, families that probably do yoga together, families with "Life is Good" tshirts, people working on Macs, and some ladies who could have easily been planning a bridal tea.
In 2008, I didn't know better, so I ordered a brevé hazelnut latte. Now I know that's not a real drink. But it was delicious. Future diabetes diagnosis and all.
On this last visit, I tried their chai. It tasted like warm, sweet, skim milk with cinnamon sprinkled on top. Translation = not good.
Only because sweet cinnamon milk is not altogether unpleasant. But I wonder if they left out the chai.
Price: I don't remember exactly, but it was pretty average.
I didn't have a latte (technically, I guess. It was a chai latte, but for some reason baristas never do latte art on chais. Why is this, baristas?), so no latte art. But it was still kind of pretty.
I mean, sorta.
The service was fine. Nothing spectacular. I'd read that their baristas can be rude, but I didn't experience that. They weren't super friendly, but not rude.
Ratings Round Up:
Fedora Count: 0.
Level of Uncomfortableness Upon Walking In: 2. The baristas seem to judge you the most. The customers were all pretty much minding their own business. Even when I blatantly took several iPhone pictures, only one person even seemed to notice.
Level of Pretentiousness: 7. I give it a seven because of the baristas and because of this drink:
No lie, I saw a woman order this and then go outside and drink it on the curb of the parking lot. There was no patio. She didn't seem to mind.
Parking: There was a lot beside and parking on the street and around the corner. Since it's a touristy area, these spots can be full, but there are plenty of them.
Despite the bad chai, I'd still recommend the Dripolator. I do know several coffee lovers who always stop by when they're passing through, for what it's worth, too. It's a cute little place in a fun little town.
Have you ever been to Black Mountain? What about the Dripolator? What's your favorite drink there? [Have you been to the weird hippie drum circle coffee house?]