Best of the Hudson Valley 2008
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Readers, you have spoken! Back in April, we asked you to cast your ballot in our annual Best of the Hudson Valley poll. We received hundreds of enthusiastic responses detailing your favorite eateries, shopping spots, arts venues, outdoor activities, and local personalities. Not to be outdone, we editors supplemented your choices with our own Best Of picks, which highlight other local people and places that you might not know about, but should. Our final list features more than 240 reasons why living in the Hudson Valley — we think you’ll agree — is absolutely “the best.”
* denotes Readers' Picks
Best Restaurants By Cuisine
American Bounty Restaurant
Culinary Institute of America
It seems our readers are of two minds when it comes to dining out “American-style.” The CIA’s student-staffed American Bounty specializes in regional recipes prepared using locally raised ingredients — heirloom tomatoes, goat cheese, or foie gras, anyone?
For a casual menu of classic dishes (think roast turkey with cranberry sauce) combined with Tex-Mex, Italian, and Asian favorites, Coyote Grill takes the cake.
Spanky’s has been serving up innovative Louisiana Creole-style cookin’ for 24 years. Customers also enjoy the funky, informal eatery’s festive décor — it’s changed often for special themes such as their Oyster Fest — and, of course, Mardi Gras. Don’t miss the jambalaya.
For 15 years now, hungry commuters getting off the train at Rhinecliff often make a beeline for China Rose, next to the Amtrak station. There’s a lively bar scene inside, and river views from the relaxing patio. Diners enjoy freshly made Oriental-style dishes, as well as specialties such as tangerine peel chicken and goat cheese wontons. “We’re also famous for our sake margaritas. They really pack a punch,” says bartender Jimmy Fassone. (The Kingston branch is mostly take-out.)
Rhinecliff 845-876-7442; Kingston 845-338-7443
Café Les Baux
Chef and owner Herve Bochard, originally from the medieval hill town of Les Baux in the Brittany region of France, has run this cozy, 36-seat bistro for the past five years. Customers adore the cuisine and relaxed, très French ambiance. “We have a simple menu based on fresh foods, and I make everything myself,” he notes. Favorite bistro classics include moules marinieres and steak frites, while specials like the lamb burger are truly magnifique.
The motto of this family owned restaurant, in the shadow of the Gunks near New Paltz, is “sit long, eat much, laugh often.” You expect hearty food and that’s what you get: sauerbraten, chicken schnitzel, bratwurst, sausages, meat loaf — there’s also a vegetarian spaetzle. Remember to leave room for fresh apple strudel or Black Forest cake.
This small, no-frills, family-run eatery on the main drag of New Paltz offers fresh, simple Mediterranean meals with prices that are easy on the pocketbook (no wonder it’s so popular with SUNY students). Stuffed grape leaves, falafel, gyros, hummus platters, and such are staples of this eat-in or takeout favorite.
Fresh, pastel decor and faux-classical pillars in this former roadhouse serve as an airy backdrop for tasty Mediterranean food — from goat-cheese appetizers to main dishes such as spinach and feta baked in filo dough, sardines, lamb, and, of course, octopus. Sip a Greek wine and pretend you’re in Athens.
Aficionados know the fragrant, freshly made specialties (think chicken tikka chaat or tabac maz), and authentic Indian beers and signature cocktails (Madras Monsoon, anyone?), make this a first choice for a change-of-pace dinner. With all entrées under $20, it’s a bargain, too.
Fishkill 845-896-6659, Rhinebeck 845-876-7510; www.tanjoreindiancuisine.com
Jaipore Royal Indian Cuisine
It’s an unusual combo: elegant Victorian mansion and fine Indian cuisine — and it’s been a success for years. There’s gracious table service, though everyone loves grazing at the brunch buffet, especially newcomers to the fare, who can sample from the wide range of subtly seasoned, aromatic offerings.
With its artfully prepared dishes, this Tuscan-inspired dining destination features savory seafood, handmade pastas, and regional classics like puttanesca Napolitana. There’s a broad wine selection to boot — and it’s all served by a professional staff sporting classy ties and vests. Mangia!
New Paltz, Wappingers Falls
Super-fresh fish make up the creative sushi, sashimi, or maki combinations at these serene spots. If the raw route makes you queasy, fear not: soups, teriyaki, and other cooked dishes await — and there’s even hibachi in the Wappingers branch.
New Paltz 845-255-0162, Wappingers Falls 845-298-9869; www.thenekosushi.com
Just steps away from the bustling Poughkeepsie train station, this stellar sushi joint is an easy entrée into what acolytes consider a little slice of sushi heaven. Be sure to try one of the dozen different signature rolls.
Chef/owner Serge Madikians’s emphasis on local produce, combined with his innovative Middle Eastern style, ensures that this restaurant remains the region’s trendsetter in Mediterranean cuisine.
La Puerta Azul
The Valley’s ultimate stop for tasty tapas and mouth-watering margaritas, this colorful hot spot serves up south of the border favorites that’ll have you feeling muy buena. Wash it down with a signature cocktail, like the Big Spender or the Spicy Melon.
The Rosendale Café
Loyal customers flock to this funky, cozy eatery for meat-free meals. “One big favorite is the seitan gyros,” says cook and manager Amy Walker. Made with wheat gluten, the dish is flavored with garlic and thyme, and comes with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, sprouts, and tahini sauce. Even the cakes are vegan. The café’s also a favorite for its top-notch jazz, folk, and blues on weekends.
Aroma Thyme Bistro
Yes, vegetarians and vegans alike worship chef Marcus Guiliano for his delicious dishes (many gluten-free) that make eating healthy seem positively sinful. But with a menu featuring organic meats for carnivores, there’s something for everyone.
Attractively decorated in an industrial space with an exposed brick wall, this three-year-old favorite lets you choose how much to spice up your dishes — and now offers beer and wine, too.
You're reading about the crème de la crème of the Hudson Valley, as voted by your fellow Valleymen and loyal Hudson Valley magazine editors. Do you agree with us? Disagree? Tell us your top picks in the comments box below — and be sure to check out our favorite places, shops, and people throughout the region that we call the best.