A superb waterfront setting is equally matched by the hearty, eclectic menu at Newburgh’s Lakeview House
Color Palate: Brightly hued tropical fruit salsa and crispy tortilla strips offer a nice contrast to pan-seared scallops, an appetizer special served at the Lakeview House
Photographs by Jennifer May
A hundred years ago, Newburgh’s Orange Lake was quite the resort, with summer cottages along its banks, boat clubs, a dancing pavilion, and even an amusement park with a Ferris wheel — until the Depression put an end to such frivolity. O’Malley’s, now known as Lakeview House, opened in 1899 to cater to the throngs of summer visitors, and was granted the first liquor license in Orange County; you can see the framed certificate hanging in the bar. (Not inclined to waste such a distinction, the owners operated the place as a speakeasy during Prohibition.) The glory days may be over now, but the lake is as lovely as ever.
Lakeview House, with its slate-gray siding and wraparound porches, lies a mile or so up a country road, adding to the sense that you’re heading for a hideaway. It’s now owned by chef James Carter and his wife, Tori, who were in the midst of giving the place a makeover when we visited in early spring. The larger dining room was about to get a freshening up that would retain the Victorian feel, and construction was underway on a patio. Renovations were complete on the Lakeview room, now handsomely paneled and beamed, with a wall of new floor-to-ceiling windows framing gorgeous views of the water. That’s where we chose to sit.
Carter’s eclectic menu is mainly a playbook of reliable favorites — steaks, chops and seafood — with a few departures, like tortilla-crusted tilapia with spicy salsa, or a quesadilla of the day. Lunch items include sandwiches and burgers, with more robust fare like pork chops for hearty eaters.
As we sipped glasses of Prosecco (my favorite aperitif when there’s a whiff of summer), our server brought warm, sesame-seeded bread. Salads, which come with dinner, arrived next — fresh greens, cucumber, grated carrot, and a colorful if insipid grape tomato (I’d rather wait until summer for the juicy ones). House-made dressings were good: the honey-poppy seed had a pleasant, wake-up flavor that could brighten even a tasteless tomato; and the gorgonzola was a piquant blend of balsamic and chunks of pungent, crumbly cheese.
On the waterfront (counter-clockwise, from left): The serene view of Orange Lake is enhanced by the large windows in one of the Lakeview House’s newly renovated dining rooms
Lakeview House owners Tori and James Carter. James is also the restaurant’s chef
Filet mignon, lamb chops, and jumbo shrimp — each accompanied by a different sauce — make up the restaurant’s mixed grill entrée
Shrimp Lamaize, an appetizer, was four big, butterflied shrimp, lightly stuffed with horseradish, then wrapped in bacon and baked. They came with a dipping sauce — the Lamaize component, which is sometimes spelled Lamaze and made with a mayonnaise base. Here, it’s a peppy concoction of sour cream, brandy, shallots, cocktail sauce, and a hint of horseradish for extra tang. My spouse chose Johnny’s Famous Ribs, and whoever Johnny may be, his marinated, meaty, baby-back ribs are justifiably famous, and lived up to all the clichés with succulent, falling-off-the-bone meat made even more satisfying by a sticky, flavorful sauce.
The mixed grill entrée was less successful. A pair of delicate lamb chops in a minty brown sauce were flanked by two rounds of filet mignon in a green peppercorn sauce, and three jumbo shrimp atop a lemony one. The meats were cooked as requested, but the chef is overgenerous with sauces, and — although each one tasted fine — the flavors seemed incompatible.
On the other hand, butternut squash ravioli in an Asian sauce, a special that evening, was a terrific dish that married the richness of butternut squash with some zesty flavors. It included both shrimp and chicken, which was gilding the lily, but perhaps a bow to diners who want protein in their main course. Again there was a lot of sauce (someone get this chef a smaller ladle!), but it was nicely balanced, with flecks of cilantro, red peppers, and scallions in a creamy base, and a dash of hot Thai Sriacha sauce adding a kick. Even leftovers eaten straight from the fridge next day were good.
Vegetables — bright steamed broccoli and baby carrots — were served on the side, and I indulged in scalloped potatoes: a velvety, cheesy, enjoyable lashing of comfort food. We finished up with the homemade apple crumb pie, which had a tender crust and a nice, fresh-baked flavor. Our server ran back and forth with refills on coffee.
How the cookie crumbles: Warm vanilla Oreo bread pudding is plated with a crème anglaise and caramel sauce
Excuse me while I rhapsodize for a minute about the sunset over that lovely lake. It was the usual gaudy excess, all pink and golden streaks against a powder-blue sky — the kind of glorious sight that looks hokey in a painting. As the sky and the lake turned inky, a sliver of crescent moon grew bright and hung over the cottages on the opposite bank, whose lights were reflected in the dappled water. It was so romantic and corny, my hubby and I were moved to hold hands between courses, even though we’ve been together for years.
Some waterfront restaurateurs get away with mediocrity because a beautiful setting is such a powerful draw. That’s not the case here. The chef and the polite staff, who seem to genuinely enjoy their jobs, are all trying hard to please, which goes a long way toward doing just that. The food is hearty, with some definite high notes. The occasional three-course specials are a true bargain. And that view is a lulu. Go in summer, and you may forget you’re anywhere near downtown Newburgh. Go at sunset, and you surely will.
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