Essie’s Restaurant, a new bistro style eatery in Mount Carmel in downtown Poughkeepsie, is the newest addition to the city’s growing list of upscale dining establishments. The space most recently was home to Cafe Bocca, and those of a certain age will remember Sardi’s grocery, which operated there for over seventy years. We started hearing about the new restaurant months before they opened, in part because of the reputation of the proprietor, Brandon Walker.
It’s hard to imagine now, but thirty years ago there were no restaurants serving authentic rustic home style Italian food anywhere in the Hudson Valley. Back then, Italian meant red sauce and pasta and more often than not what you were served were “Italian-American” dishes like garlic bread with veal or chicken parmigiana or lobster fra Diavolo, or shrimp scampi (none of which would be found in Italy). Oh, how times have changed….
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 partners and 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 owner, Alex Serroukas, sold the restaurant to Charlie Fells and his wife, Megan Kulpa Fells, the culinary couple who own the Artist’s Palate across the street.
Take two of the North Country’s best chefs and put them in the same kitchen for one special event. On a warm December Friday evening, John Vargo of Saranac Lake’s Eat ‘n Meet Grill & Larder joined Liquids & Solids’ Tim Loomis in his kitchen. The results were predictably spectacular.
New York City is a bistro lover’s playground, offering countless opportunities for a great meal at a reasonable price. I have been searching out the good ones for years, since days of yore when Cue Magazine’s alphabetical listing of favorites in each of the city’s neighborhoods served as my guide. Finding good bistros in the Broadway theater district has always presented a problem, because bistros are often the local neighborhood restaurant, and the theater district is not a residential neighborhood. Therein lies the rub.
These are our “Top Ten” favorite restaurants in the Hudson Valley. The latest addition to the list is the Mill House Brewing Co. in Poughkeepsie. They all serve great home style cooking using local farm products, with a decent bottle of wine (or a local craft beer), in a comfortable and casual atmosphere. No haute cuisine here, just basic good cooking.
Mercato is a tiny local place, with a cozy wine bar that seats a grand total of eight patrons, and a main dining room that seats a few dozen more. An adjacent dining room is called The Pasta Shop. When they first opened it was ……a pasta shop!….., but more seats were much in need and the retail shop space was sacrificed to make room for more diners. There is a reason that more space was needed. The food here is fantastic.
John Lekic’s Le Express Bistro in Wappingers is the most recent addition to our “Hudson Valley Top 10 Favorite Restaurants.” For some, “farm to table” is a marketing slogan. For John Lekic, it is his life’s mission – to promote the culinary bounty of the Hudson Valley. He is the valley’s farmers’ greatest cheerleader, and his megaphone is his restaurant.
Liquids and Solids has enjoyed a uniform positive buzz since opening in 2010, offering a menu almost exclusively comprised of house-made charcuterie, with sporadic appearances of prepared veggies and local cheeses. The space is as casual as casual gets, with a dozen highly sought after seats at the bar, and a like number of high top tables scattered around a small dining room.
The restaurant will be our new favorite casual “small plate” stop when we are in Lake Placid.
You will find the Mountain Brauhaus nestled near the base of the Shawangunk ridge, on the road that climbs through a series of switchbacks before reaching Minnewaska. German immigrants settled the area long ago, drawn here for the same reasons as the thousands of climbers and tourists who visit the area each year. The landscape is as close to Bavaria as you will find without getting on a plane to Germany. The region’s most popular restaurant fits right into that setting, serving as a meeting house for area residents and a beacon for the rest of us drawn to the light of the kitchen’s traditional Brauhaus fare.