Where to go when temperatures soar and hunger calls? Down by the riverside, of course! That’s where you’ll find cooling breezes, sizzling hot entertainment, and delectable dishes to satisfy every palate
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Newburgh's Cena 2000 offers glorious scenery and serious food
Photograph by Michael Nelson
Next stop for the flotilla: Sunday, June 7, through Wednesday, June 9, when it sails into Beacon-Newburgh Bay, accompanied by some 400 excursion boats and yachts. Expect the restaurants of the Newburgh waterfront to be hopping. The West Point band will play on June 8 from 6:30 to 8 pm, and the Beacon-Newburgh ferry will be operating on an expanded schedule. In honor of Flag Day, June 14, the antique fireboat John J. Harvey will spray crowd-pleasing plumes of red, white, and blue water.
These events will draw a lot of people. Fortunately, there are quite a few restaurants on the waterfront to accommodate them. Let’s begin at the northern tip with Torches on the Hudson (845-568-0100). The kids will be mesmerized by the 6,000-gallon saltwater aquarium (don’t the fish look like they’re smiling?), but you’ll likely be even more smitten with the views. Since it opened in 2001, this waterfront restaurant has become well-known as a venue for parties, fund-raisers and weddings. Sit on the two-tier deck and people-watch, or cast your eyes on the ever-changing river with Mount Beacon beyond. If it’s hot and sticky outside, you can also savor the view from indoors, courtesy of floor-to-ceiling windows (the interior accommodates 220, while the patio can hold 180).
Boaters from as far away as Manhattan, New Jersey, and Tarrytown come for a stayover at Torches on the Hudson Marina. Ten transient slips are available for those who just want to dine and then push off. Of course, you can come by car, too: Torches has a nice-sized parking lot. In the evening, when the torches are lit, the bar gets hopping and the nightlife begins, with a variety of DJs spinning tunes. Oh, yes, and there’s the food. Start with an appetizer of Buffalo calamari over mixed greens or Maryland-style crabcake with chipotle remoulade. Move on to entrées like mixed grill Alambre (a Brazilian-inspired mix of steak, chicken and shrimp) and artichoke-crusted salmon. If you’re looking for something simpler, there’s always the panini-style fresh pressed sandwiches and the raw bar. Popular new cocktails include French 75 (Bull Dog gin with a simple syrup and lime juice) and Elderflower (a mix of liqueurs, chilled and strained over ice), both topped with champagne. The selection of artisan beers changes every few weeks,
Stroll down the walkway to Cena 2000 (845-561-7676). The Italian opera music is your first tipoff that the fare will be classic Mediterranean. A substantial patio with a canopy and umbrellas makes it possible to sit out in all kinds of weather. Outdoors there is seating for 150; indoors seats 70. The view here is just the icing. This place draws serious foodies. At the alfresco oyster bar you can get oysters and clams on the half shell and lobster cocktails. Summertime specialties include softshell crabs, pasta with shaven black truffles, grilled filet mignon served over arugula with white truffle oil, king crab legs, and glorious seafood platters. Every night there are four or five choices of fresh fish. A chocolate soufflé or hazelnut gelato makes a nice finish.
Perfect for a waterfront location, Havana 59 (845-562-7767) is a Cuban-American fusion experience. At lunchtime, many diners opt for the Cuban sandwich, a generous pileup of roasted pulled pork, ham, swiss, pickles, and spicy mustard. At dinner, you might start with a Havana sampler (which includes mini tacos and addictively spicy cheese-stuffed jalapeno bottlecaps). Shrimp and scallop tequila scampi is a house favorite.
Gully’s, a restaurant barge, features alfresco dining, and docking for 15 boats
Blue Martini (845-562-7111) is a clever name for a restaurant that specializes in martinis and seafood (blue martin, get it?). Settle into a seat at one of the eight outdoor tables or enjoy appetizers at the tiki bar (there’s also an indoor bar, with fun blue lighting). The dining room opens to the outdoors and seats 40. Every day, there’s a fresh catch for sushi. The mixed grill, an array of seafood, is another specialty. Or sample offerings from the raw bar, complete with oysters and clams on half shell, as well as lobster tails. A staffer is quick to point out that their 40 different types of martinis, made with vodka or gin, are “not your uncle’s martini. They won’t knock you off your barstool.” Check them out at the daily happy hour. Some favorites: Up All Night (made with Red Bull) and Very Berry (fragrant with Chambord). Tuesday is ladies’ night from 9 to 12.
Sometimes, you don’t want to comb through a million choices on a menu. That’s when a place like Cafe Pitti (845-565-1444) comes in. Specializing in wood-fired thick-crust pizzas and wraps, the restaurant makes its strengths perfectly clear. There is a selection of wine, beer, wine, sodas, iced teas, and coffees — but no cocktails. Look for the perky yellow awning.
Of its 150 seats, 95 are outside at The River Grill (845-561-9444). There is also a four-seat outdoor bar. This spot for contemporary American cuisine bustles from lunch to dinner as ceiling fans whirl beneath a blue canopy. For lunch, choose among wraps like buffalo chicken, or spinach and portobello mushrooms. Try the triple-decker diner-style BLT with a fun addition: pastrami-flavored salmon. Dinner selections include grilled mahi-mahi with a fresh strawberry and mint salsa, broiled Atlantic salmon topped with a macadamia coconut crust, and pan-seared Chilean seabass topped with a pesto-parmesan herb crust.
Also American, but with a New Orleans touch, Big Easy Bistro (845-565-3939) offers gumbo any way you like — with vegetables and andouille sausage, with seafood, or with chicken — catfish filet, and a variety of po' boys at lunch. For dinner, pecan-smoked babyback ribs, a signature bouillabaisse, stuffed chicken breast, trout meuniere, and blackened pork chops are favorites. The restaurant runs a $32 special from Sunday through Friday that includes two entrées and a bottle of wine. The seating is split 50/50 between indoors and out.
On the south end of the riverfront cluster, 26 Front Street & Tiki Bar (845-569-8035) really has two personalities: By day, it’s a tranquil place to listen to waves lap up to the shore and have a drink at the tiki bar or on the deck. The emphasis is on casual fare like chicken sandwiches and burgers. No walkway separates the restaurant from the river. Tank tops and flipflops are definitely encouraged. At night, change into your dancing shoes, but lose the tank top and even your sunglasses (see dress code on the Web site). Live entertainment and a dance floor make this one of the most happening spots in Newburgh. The restaurant doesn’t open til 3 pm on Tuesday through Friday, but is open for lunch on weekends; the restaurant is open May through September.
To really be on the water, head to Gully’s (845-565-0077), a restaurant barge that has set anchor for over 20 years. Located at the Newburgh Municipal Launch Ramp, it offers docking on all sides for 15 boats (there is also a large parking lot). A social hangout, Gully’s draws people to both its 100-table open-air top deck and its air-conditioned dining room below (the hull) that seats 60. Don’t worry about getting dressed up — the many motorcycle-riding patrons certainly don’t. Menu favorites include lobster tails, king crabs, wings, clams, and burgers. No trendy drinks here. Old favorites like rumrunners, mudslides, piña coladas, and strawberry daiquiris do a brisk business. The restaurant is open May through September.
Sail over to: Poughkeepsie