292 Main Street
Poughkeepsie, NY 12601
Closed Monday | Lunch, Tues – Fri | Dinner, Tues through Sat | Sunday brunch
Poughkeepsie diners applauded five years ago when Brasserie 292 first opened on Main Street. It was the area’s only legitimate brasserie, and a good one at that. A succession of changes in management over the last three years was noticeable in the dining room, and I for one breathed a sigh of relief last summer when the last standing owners sold the restaurant to Charlie Fells and his wife, Megan Kulpa Fells, the culinary couple who also own the Artist’s Palate across the street. I took more than a passing interest in these matters because a brasserie is my favorite type of restaurant. Brasseries are fixtures in France, but good ones are few and far between here in the states.
Brasseries originated in Alsace, a region at the French – German border that is now part of France, and in days of yore, the land of my peoples. After the war, Alsacienne restaurateurs opened bistros in Paris featuring their regional cooking, but also introduced their native beers to the wine lists common in French bistros and cafés. Brasserie actually means brewery in French. The typical brasserie menu will include bistro classics like frisée salad with lardons, duck confit, beef tartare, roasted marrow bones, and cassoulet, the legendary bean stew of southwest France. The signature dish of a French brasserie is choucroute garnie, an Alsacienne sauerkraut classic piled high with pork sausages, and slab bacon, and ham hocks, and whatever hog parts escaped the prior meal. Brasserie cooking is French country peasant cooking at its finest. No haute cuisine here, no molecular gastronomy, just home-style platters of mom’s finest (if your mom was raised on a farm in Alsace-Lorraine). It is the way that food was meant to be enjoyed, prepared in a fashion that has not changed in centuries. It is the culinary cultural experience that the Slow Food movement seeks to preserve, and the type of cooking that we celebrate here at North Country Rambler.
Brasserie 292 not only features an authentic brasserie / bistro menu, but they present it on a menu typeset in traditional brasserie font, in a traditional brasserie setting complete with cafe-style bar stools and a dining room that looks like it was plucked from a street in Strasbourg. The bar is a good place to start your meal. On our last visit, the restaurant was featuring blue point oysters on the half shell for $1 per at the bar (only), reason enough to stop for a drink.
Tartares are offered in three styles, beef, salmon, or vegetarian ratatouille. The steak tartare is top notch, spiked with capers and Dijon mustard and plated with toasted baguette – more than enough for lunch for me. For dinner they bring out the big bistro guns, with daily specials each night. Thursday night’s cassoulet reappeared for the winter menu a few weeks back. The kitchen’s confit of duckling is also first rate, nicely crisped but still moist and fork tender.
The mere sight of a Berkshire pork chop on a menu is enough to make my heart skip a beat. The “other white meat” of most commercially raised hogs is too lean for a proper grilling these days, but a heritage Berkshire pig will remind you of what pork is supposed to taste like. Brasserie’s kitchen grills a double cut masterpiece, and serves it up on a pile of butternut squash and braised lentils sweetened with apples and a maple glaze. A killer dish, and not to be missed.
Lamb shanks are another “peasant dish” that takes an inexpensive cut of meat and transforms it into a bistro classic after an all afternoon braising. The kitchen does a great job with it here, serving the shank with fingerling potatoes and sweet baby carrots, all smothered in a lamb demi-glace.
Another nice dish is the cod and “chowder”, plating the fish with a medley of fingerling potatoes, haricots verts, and baby carrots. The fish was perfectly seared with a moist flaky center, and paired perfectly with the bottle of Chablis that the bartender offered to open and serve by the glass. Very accommodating, these folks are. You can check out the wine list here.
Bistro fans who are unfamiliar with Brasserie 292 should make the trip to downtown Poughkeepsie and try it. Former Brasserie fans who might have been disappointed with the place during the last few years of management shake-ups should give it another try. The kitchen is arguably better than ever. Bistro fans will not be disappointed.