If it weren’t for all the customers wearing camouflage, visitors to Danger Zone Coffee Shop might imagine they’re on vacation in Italy instead of in Irbil, Iraq.
This 24-hour cafe opened in February at Life Support Area Danger, an American base at Erbil International Airport. It was inspired by the Autogrill restaurants, where travelers on Italian motorways can stop to eat, said manager Barbara Porta.
“There are no metal shelves,” said Porta, who is from Italy. “We wanted to avoid the typical things that you find on a military camp. We wanted something light.”
Like most things at LSA Danger, the cafe is inside a tent. Its walls let in natural light, and air conditioning makes it a comfortable place for troops to recharge while off duty. It’s a world away from the misery that America and its allies are inflicting on the Islamic State group, whose fighters have faced 120-degree temperatures along with Coalition air and artillery strikes over the summer.
At Danger Zone, troops and contractors can sip smoothies, iced blended beverages and fancy Italian coffee. They can also snack on cakes or chow down on burritos and pizza served on trendy plates made from sawed-off sections of tree trunks.
I ordered a $5 medium pepperoni pizza that really hit the spot for lunch. And a $4.50 ice-cold peanut-flavored coffee drink — similar to a Frappuccino — made me feel, just for a moment, like I was cooling off from a day of European sightseeing.
Brig. Gen. Scott Efflandt asked Swiss company EFS — an official food supplier for the Defense Logistics Agency — to build the cafe when he was deputy commander of Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command-Operation Inherent Resolve, Porta said.
“He came to see a cafe we built for the Italians and said, ‘I want the same but bigger,’ ” she added.
Capt. William Goetz, 33, of Fayetteville, N.C., who’s working as a logistics officer in Iraq with the 1st Armored Division, ordered a burrito during a visit to the cafe in July.
“I was at Bagram [Afghanistan] and they have something similar there,” he said. “Things like this definitely make life more comfortable.”
Some of the foreign troops who share LSA Danger with the Americans have their own bars, but the cafe doesn’t serve alcohol and U.S. troops aren’t allowed to drink.
“It would be nice [to have a beer],” said Goetz, adding he doubted U.S. commanders would ever approve something like that.
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Danger Zone Coffee ShopLocation: Life Support Area Danger in Irbil, Iraq Hours: Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week Prices: A medium-sized pizza and burritos cost $5. Iced blended coffee beverages start at $4.50. Cake is $3 and cookies $1.Dress: CasualDirections: Across from the Irbil USO and post officeInformation:www.efs-ebrex.com