388 Main Street (Route 213)
Rosendale, NY 12472
Phn 845 658-8500
Rosendale is one of my favorite towns – a clutch of historic buildings seemingly surrounded by the Roundout Creek as it twists and turns on its way to the Hudson, seven miles north in Kingston. It is a picture post card of a place, and just a thirty minute drive from the Mid Hudson Bridge in Poughkeepsie (if you know how to avoid driving through New Paltz). It is also the home of one of our favorite haunts for Wednesday Boyz Dinner, the Red Brick Tavern. The tavern is housed in one of Rosendale’s circa 1900 brick structures. Many of Rosendale’s buildings are circa 1900; the “Big Fire” of 1895 being the reason. They also mercifully avoided the “progress” of 1960’s urban renewal. I suspect that is because few people knew where Rosendale was in 1960. The area was “discovered” in the post Woodstock era of Ulster County’s gentrification, and has grown steadily with a healthy dose of New York City weekenders. Don’t let that dissuade you from visiting. Some of them are actually quite nice.
A first visit to the Red Brick Tavern can be a bit befuddling, if you think you are heading out for a nice dinner. The space is located in the gutted out brick shell remains of a lumber yard. Sounds nice, eh? The first thing that you see upon entering is the pool table next to a large bar. I don’t know about you but I always have the same thought when I see a pool table in a restaurant ~ fried (frozen) mozzarella cheese sticks, right out of the Sysco box, served with a canned marinara sauce. Or would you prefer fra diavolo? I can count on one hand the number of great meals that I have had in a dining room that also housed a pool table – and they were all in this room at the Red Brick Tavern. The good news is that the bar, and the pool table, are cordoned off from the main dining space by a five foot wooden outdoor fence. Don’t fret; its painted a nice dark brown to match the beams in the ceiling, and you will hardly notice the crowd of regular bar patrons stopping by for a quick one after work.
Better yet you can start by joining the crowd of regulars at the bar and meet Mehgan, our new favorite bartender. Barkeeps don’t get any nicer and she even seems to like George (a/k/a Grumpy), which is asking a lot. We gathered there last Wednesday and sipped on a bottle of Fontana Candida Pinot Grigio ($21) while we waited for everyone to arrive. As our numbers increased, Mehgan asked if we would require a table in the dining room, as opposed to eating at the bar, which we will do on occasion. Since we were expecting six for dinner she secured us “the big round”. Securing a table is a necessity on most nights at the Red Brick, as the place is one of the most popular dining destinations in the area. One of the reasons for that popularity is the man in the kitchen, one Billy Loughlin, who bought the place four years ago with with his wife Michelle. The couple also owned the destination restaurant “Loft” in New Paltz, which they ran from 1997 through 2004. Vestiges of some of Loft’s menu can be found here, such as tonight’s unbelievable seafood cocktail appetizer special – chock full of whole lobster claws and succulent jumbo shrimp in a tangy horseradish laced dip. This dish alone was worth the drive over from Poughkeepsie.
Another great appetizer is the Louisiana Backwoods Bayou Cake, a spicy variation on a crabcake, with the addition of whole shrimp and crawfish pieces, held together in a piquant stuffing molded into a squashed baseball size patty. Hints of cayenne and chili seasoning accent the dish. There is just enough kick to call it Cajun, but not enough to overpower the main ingredients. Oh yes, this dish will set you back a grand total of $5.95, which is the other reason that the line is out the door. The prices are reason enough to show up. Or this – roast ducking, perfectly prepared – tender, juicy, with a crispy skin (without asking), basted with a luscious black currant sauce, finished with brandy. $17.95. With a salad. I kid you not. I ordered a Chardonnay to go with my duck (yes I know a Pinot Noir would be better), a Macon Village from the Burgundian Drouhin / Jadot / Duboeuf cartel. I forgot to write down which one.
We also tried a trio of steaks – all served with a salad, and whipped potatoes or crosscut fries (the potatoes are really, really good). Menu offerings include a flat iron, topped with a pile of sauteed mushrooms, a hanger steak, and a blue cheese encrusted filet mignon, finished with a garlicky red wine reduction (for $17.95). All were home runs. The menu (see complete menu here) also includes a large selection of pastas tosses and burgers and sandwiches and things like nachos and wings and yes – the dreaded mozzarella sticks. The kitchen’s hamburger was voted the Hudson Valley’s best in Hudson Valley Magazine. If I were a marketing person I would never, ever, promote my hamburger as my strong suit for fear of becoming known as a “hamburger joint”, which this place is not. I would also never, ever, put in a pool table. If I were a marketing person I would also be broke, because whatever they are doing is working just fine. It took me the better part of twenty minutes to weave my way out of the packed parking lot after dinner – on a Wednesday.
The Red Brick has quickly become one of the most popular casual dining destinations in the Hudson Valley. If you can’t find something on this menu that you like, you’re not hungry. There is something to please any palate, at prices that will please every pocketbook. The dishes are well thought out and well prepared. The wine list is very limited but some thought went into it. The usual suspects are in attendance – Rosemount Shiraz, Mondavi’s Woodbridge, and Kenwood. The service is very informal but friendly and competent in every way. The restaurant is most definitely one of our favorite dining destinations.
If you do stop in please let our readers know about your visit in the comments section.