There’s a cornucopia of culinary bargains to be found in the Valley, and we’re here to help you track them down
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387 Main St., Catskill
The deal: Frugal Thursdays
Coming in off the street, you’d think you were in a European bistro,” declares Keith McMorrow, who owns this charming little café in Catskill along with his wife, Yael Manor-McMorrow. Both cook the eclectic fare, which borrows from the cuisines of Mediterranean countries ranging from France and Italy to the Middle East and Israel (where Yael grew up), so many dishes come dressed up with spices such as sumac, cumin, and zhug (a kind of spicier harissa from Yemen).
Although McMorrow hastens to point out that the café doesn’t really qualify as a budget dining spot, prices are fair, and the most expensive thing on the menu now — panko and herb-crusted lamb chops with grilled asparagus and roasted red potatoes — is a reasonable $28.
On Frugal Thursdays, diners can try various dishes and specials for just $10. And not a sampling, but the full dish, McMorrow says. “It’s frugal but not minimal.” Expect to find tantalizing offerings such as country pâté, lobster ravioli, avocado spring rolls, beef kebabs, and perhaps cassoulet in colder months.
The café occupies the ground floor of a late 1800s building that was one of Catskill’s fixer-uppers when the couple, who were weekenders looking to escape New York City, bought it and helped boost the town’s ongoing revival. McMorrow, who is from Queens, was not long ago a FedEx employee suffering burnout. “I always enjoyed cooking, and I wanted a change,” he says. “So I went to culinary school — and now here I am.” Yael studied at the French Culinary Institute and is responsible for the café’s scrumptious desserts.
Bell’s has been a fixture in Catskill for over 60 years. When the McMorrows bought the building they decided to keep the name, although they revamped the luncheonette interior, removing the booths and adding wood tables and classic cane chairs from France. The walls are a “light croissant color,” says McMorrow, faux finished and hung with one of Yael’s paintings and some Kandinsky posters. “It’s very simple,” he says. “The focal point is the food.”
» Next stop: Loughran’s Irish Pub, Salisbury Mills