LI buddies off to the races at Dark Horse Coffee & Kitchen in Sayville


Along a busy Sunrise Highway service road in Sayville, far from Main Street and close to a Starbucks, sits an underdog ready to make a splash.

The owners, operators, and longtime friends behind Dark Horse Coffee & Kitchen — Andre du Chaussee, 41, of Patchogue and Tim O’Leary, 36, of Medford — knew they were up against the odds with the less-than-picturesque and competitive location of their dream business, which officially opened May 10 at 4836 Sunrise Highway.

But they believed in their vision of a coffee shop with a substantial menu of food for all — with a major focus on customer service.

The history

The partners first worked together at Royal Pizza in Patchogue in the 2000s and then joined forces again at Caffe Amici in Selden, where they started to really forge their “yin and yang” bond and current skill sets.

Dark Horse, ultimately, draws on a combined decades of hospitality experience.

“We really do believe that because this is a hybrid type of shop, there’s really nothing else out there like it,” said du Chaussee, who last served as a line cook-turned-general manager at Toast Kitchen + Coffee in Patchogue Village. “We want to express our gratitude to everybody who’s coming through here by offering great food, great coffee, and great service.”

O’Leary, who managed Gino’s Pizzeria of Ronkonkoma for eight years, said, “Many times, I’ve said to Andre, ‘Just put me and you in between four walls and we’ll make something happen.’”

The shop

Dark Horse offers a dual vibe of a classic coffee shop where people can work on their laptops and a bustling corner cafe with vibrant energy, depending on the day and time.

The spacious eating area is made warm and inviting with numerous potted plants, a collection of books for the public, and big windows for natural light.

Customers can expect several options at the counter, no matter their diet, including vegan and gluten-free meals.

Of course, all sorts of coffee is available, house blend and blonde roast cold brew, espresso, cappuccino, latte, and the extremely popular Shroom Latte (a blend of regular coffee and immune system-supporting medical mushrooms). Coffee flavors range from vanilla to hazelnut and chocolate fudge and toasted marshmallow, among others.

“I believe connectivity with people always happens over a good cup of coffee,” du Chaussee said. “You can have a good, clean, wholesome conversation and really dial into people [that way]. Whenever there was a stretch where Tim and I didn’t see each other, we’d go meet up at a local coffee shop.”

They have been working with Chris’ Coffee, a prominent roaster and equipment supplier in Upstate Latham, N.Y., which provided a specific blend for the shop — based on its menu and vibe.

“It’s a much bolder bean,” du Chaussee said.

There’s also a variety of avocado toast options (such as Classic, Maple Bacon, Egg Salad), salads (like Caesar, Fig & Beet, Mediterranean), and “day-breakers” (Granola & Yogurt, a Tropical Jungle Bowl, the Dark Horse Quiche, a Jalapeno Corn Muffin, and the Little Donkey — a cage-free egg burrito with super greens mix, pickled onions, avocado, and melted cheddar cheese — to name a few).

There are wraps a’plenty (from Chicken Caesar to Vegan Thai), smoothies, a kids’ selection, and several sandwich options, including a BLT, a PBJ, and the popular Fig and Brie Grilled Cheese.

O’Leary and du Chaussee shop for fresh ingredients and prep and whip up the dishes themselves. They even have the main cooking station set up in the front “and not tucked away in the kitchen too much” just so guests can get a glimpse and interact.

“It’s rare to be able to have a conversation with the guy making your sandwich,” O’Leary said. “Customer service is pretty much our M.O.”

“We want you to be able to come and see that we’re using fresh lettuce, fresh tomatoes, fresh chicken, and all that good stuff,” said du Chaussee, who was born and raised in Trinidad before immigrating with his family when he was 14. “My mother, father, aunt, and uncle would go to the market and get fresh fruits and vegetables and fish and meats. They’d spend the whole day cooking for a great meal. It’s that and then just blending it with Amici and Toast.”

Most of the treats like lemon bars, fudge bars, and croissants are locally made from bakers on the island, with some desserts made in-house.

After the closing of the property’s previous shop, Clementine’s Plant-Based Deli & Bakery, in July 2022, they solidified their business plan and name in late December 2022. 

du Chaussee said he was staying in The Equestrian Suite at Lambs Hill in Beacon with his wife while reading a book called “The Practice of Groundness: A Transformative Path to Success That Feeds—Not Crushes—Your Soul.” Landing on a chapter all about the concept of a dark horse, “the underdog, the surprise winner,” he looking up at a painting of a horse in the room. He immediately texted O’Leary.

“I was like, ‘Yep, love it,’” O’Leary said. “I could already see the logo in my mind.”

They figured out the menu quickly, and went through an overall simple and quick process with the town.

With several repeat customers already and first timers throwing them compliments, the two feel surreal pride.

“Working over the counter for so long, I’ve experienced people coming in and being happy with the food and me, but it’s always been somebody else’s place,” said O’Leary. “To be doing the same exact thing but in our place…it’s just amazing to walk in every day and see people enjoy it.”

“There’s nobody else I could do this with,” du Chaussee said. “With Dark Horse, I want to not just make my parents proud but live to my full potential in exchange for moving to this country.

“You have one life to live and gotta take those risk and chase your dreams.”

Address and hours

4836 Sunrise highway, Sayville, NY 11782

Mon-Fri: 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Sat-Sun: 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Holiday Hours: 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Photos by Kevin Redding