Best New Restaurants in the Hudson Valley 2011: New American Fare at Tavern at the Gunks, Ellenville, NY
Dine on New American cuisine at best new restaurant, Tavern at the Gunks, in Ellenville, NY
For many years, the Shawangunk Country Club in Ellenville housed Richard’s Restaurant and Lounge, a family-style eatery featuring German specialties at friendly prices. Locals were sorry to see it close. Last summer, new owners Karen Osterhoudt and Michael Siegel took over Richard’s old space and launched what’s officially called Cranky Frankie’s Tavern at the Gunks. Not a euphonious name, to be sure, and how it came to be called that is a longish story. But don’t let the moniker put you off — and don’t let it suggest that the fare is standard-issue bar food, either. The New American menu that chef Tibor Kogler has created is of a different caliber.
The Hungarian-born Kogler worked his way up in Manhattan restaurants, gaining expertise in Greek food at Anthos, in Spanish cuisine at Flor de Sol, and in New American cooking at Telepan, a farm-to-table pioneer. Kogler also was chef for a year at Aroma Thyme Bistro, Ellenville’s own trailblazing restaurant, where organic and healthy ingredients drive the menu. So it’s no surprise that his dishes are a mix of cuisines created around the produce he finds at local farms, or sometimes forages for in the wooded environs of the country club. Ricotta dumplings with fragrant black trumpet mushrooms are a delicious case in point. Diners can choose from small plates (perhaps prawns with corn, tomato, and mint), heartier mains (pork tenderloin with plum compote; marinated hangar steak) or just opt for a burger.
Kogler first visited the Hudson Valley almost a decade ago to go fly-fishing. “Then, when I started working in restaurants in New York City, I’d buy produce from farmers at the green market and I’d ask them, ‘Where’s your farm?’ They all pointed to this area,” he recalls.
The country club dining room’s ’70s-style decor has a retro appeal, with green and peach tablecloths, and a bar separated from the main room by a windowed partition. The lighting is pleasant and so is the light jazz playing in the background. A cosmetic update is in the planning stages, but meanwhile there’s an easygoing mood. In warm weather, you can eat outside on the patio and watch the golfers or hang-gliders coming off the ridge, or just soak up the gorgeous view of the mountain, with the monastery and the stone church in Cragsmoor in the distance.
“Richard’s was very popular, a place where the locals would go once or twice a week. People loved it,” says Kogler. “We’re trying to bring back those times.”
The bottom line: Appetizers $8 to $10; entrées $9 to $21
Crowd pleasers: Crispy-skin chicken in Greek yogurt lemon jus with smoked mushrooms; braised pork shank; rice pudding with Grand Marnier-poached fruit
Diners’ verdict: “Great food and a nice atmosphere”