Restaurant Review: New Age and American Comfort Food at Market Market Restaurant in Rosendale, Ulster County NY
A pair of transplanted Brooklynites offer comfort food — from the U.S. and around the globe — at an eatery in Rosendale
After Williamsburg became super-hip, hipsters who could no longer afford to live there began drifting northward. This migration caused the New York Times to churn out occasional articles excitedly declaring one or another of our Hudson Valley towns “the new Williamsburg.” Rosendale in Ulster County was recently so anointed, although many locals (who have their own brand of hipness) still refer to it fondly as the People’s Republic of Rosendale — a reflection of the onetime mining town’s artsy leanings.
One of Rosendale’s bright spots, though, is the work of Williamsburg ex-pats Jenifer Constantine and Trippy Thompson, who launched Market Market, a casual eatery and entertainment micro-venue, on the edge of town about four years ago. Thompson, a painter, and Constantine, an industrial designer, worked in restaurants during their undergraduate years, and decided, as Constantine puts it, that “rather than be starving artists” when they moved to the Valley, they’d open a little restaurant that would pay the bills and leave them time to pursue their calling. Running a restaurant proved to be more work than they’d anticipated, and they had a couple of kids too, so the plan hasn’t quite panned out yet. But the cafe is certainly a success.
Dishes with an international flair — like this nacho-style tostada with beans, Vermont cheddar cheese, pico de gallo, and cilantro — are menu staples at Market Market
Market Market is housed in the small building that was once Springtown Green Grocer, where you could get organic vegetables and simple foods to go. At first, says Constantine, they “honored the market” by continuing to sell fresh produce and groceries. But after it became clear that wasn’t feasible, they removed the salad bar and steam table, and added a bar and enough tables and chairs to seat about 30 people. Whimsical, trendy touches include repro Fornasetti wallpaper on the wall that partly screens the open kitchen, and tangled strands of Christmas lights that hang like deconstructed chandeliers above the bar. Those who shopped at Springtown in the past wouldn’t be jarred by the changes; the place still exudes a relaxed, rustic atmosphere that suggests “Brooklyn” to transplants and “local” to locals, so everyone feels at home.
Constantine and Thompson wanted to offer the international comfort foods that were readily available to them in the city. They worked with Chef Jeff McCoy to come up with a menu that mixes Korean, Spanish, Thai, and Mexican dishes with American favorites — burgers, meatloaf, and the like — all made with the best quality ingredients. The pasture-raised beef, for example, comes from a local farm that sells only to Market Market. “It’s fantastic beef, and we’re really proud of it,” notes Constantine. When they couldn’t find the perfect bun and ketchup to do their burger justice, they simply decided to make those in-house. Prices are low (the most expensive dinner entrée is $16), and the brief wine list has several bottles under $20, so it’s very affordable. Paper napkins and wine served in juice glasses match the mood.
For breakfast (served until 5 p.m.), you can grab a bagel with cream cheese and head out, or sit down for a hearty plateful of huevos rancheros. The Cafe Menu offers soups, salads, and snacks like devilled eggs; or guacamole-style avocado slathered on inch-thick chunks of seven-grain toast. More substantial choices include tacos, bibimbap Korean rice bowls, the Vietnamese báhn mì sandwich (with pork or tofu), and well-stuffed all-American sandwiches — like the turkey BLT with sun-dried tomato mayonnaise that I merrily and messily noshed my way through one lunchtime. You’ll find the same eclectic mix on the dinner menu: meatloaf with brown mushroom gravy, pork katsu with organic brown rice, chicken and corn quesadilla, or mac and cheese topped with crunchy panko crumbs.
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Pork katsu — crispy panko-crusted pork cutlet — is served with caramelized onions, organic brown rice, and a fried egg
When we dropped in a couple of weeks back, the crowd ranged from a teenager in a frilly micro skirt acting super cool, to women of a certain age having a blast, and a few solo diners at the bar. My husband and I (long ago Manhattanites) shared savory, eggy Korean scallion pancakes with dipping sauce; and a nacho-style tostada piled high with beans, cheddar, and pico de gallo — ribbons of lettuce laced with diced tomatoes, jalapeño, and plenty of cilantro. (Our server warned us that the tostada was enormous; we planned to just sample it to report on, but it was so super-fresh and tasty that we ate the whole thing.) Fanned slices of a flavorful, tender hanger steak came with a mountain of irresistible sweet potato fries and tangy chimichurri. Pappardelle bolognese, that day’s pasta dish, was made with the same ground beef that goes into the cafe’s famous burger, and had the rich, characteristic flavor of pasture-raised beef. Generous helpings are the norm.
Constantine bakes the desserts. There’s usually a simple layer cake, a fruit dessert (served in summer with delicious mint ice cream), shortbread, and cookies. We’d already eaten too much, but we took home a dense, chocolatey muffin and a wonderful lavender-almond-black pepper biscotti that Constantine said she made as an experiment.
Hip and happening: Bass guitarist Joe Lally (at right), from the band Fugazi, plays at the Rosendale “micro venue” last fall
A spinet piano in one corner of the room offers a clue that the cafe’s billing itself as a “micro venue” has two meanings. One, Constantine explains, is that “the food is artisanal and done with love, thought and care, in small quantities.” The other refers to the performances that take place on Thursday (at 9 p.m.) or Friday and Saturday nights (at 10 p.m.), when musicians, storytellers, comedians, and DJs set up. About every six weeks, the cafe puts on Tributon night — a big hit, says Constantine, with performers taking turns interpreting the songs of a particular musical star.
Chances are you’ll be waited on by Jude Roberts, a personable guy when toting dishes, and a talented singer and guitarist whose rendition of David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” on YouTube gives you an idea of how rollicking Tributon night can be. “It’s so much fun,” Constantine says. “And a marvelous sense of community.” One of these days, the New York Times will be declaring little far-flung towns “the new Rosendale.”
Snacks, appetizers, and sandwiches range from $3-$10; entrées from $8-$16. Open weekdays for breakfast and lunch; dinner served Weds.-Sat.; brunch on weekends.