Best of Hudson Valley 2013: Best Restaurants, Food and Drink in the Hudson Valley, Upstate NY

PLUS: Readers’ Picks, including best restaurants (by county, cuisine, and atmosphere) and drinks




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fin fishmongerPhotograph by Jennifer May

Editors’ Picks (Readers’ Picks on next page)

Fresh Fish/Fishmonger

FIN — YOUR FISHMONGER Guilderland
Frustrated at the lack of high-quality, fresh, and sustainable seafood in the Capital Region, Peter Kenyon and Dora Swan hooked up with the Fish Pier in Boston and began selling out of a truck at a local farmer’s market in 2011. A year later they opened their own store in Guilderland, and now are the go-to shop for the best, most environmentally friendly catch of the day. Fin follows such sources as the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the World Wildlife Federation, the Marine Stewardship Council, and others to assure that its seafood complies to eco-friendly guidelines. Oh, and it’s really tasty, too. 518-452-4565; www.finshops.com

New Specialty Food Shop

THE CHEESE TRAVELER Albany
“I grew up on the same cheeses as everybody else: American, cheddar, sometimes it got as exciting as Havarti and Brie,” says Eric Paul, 37, co-owner of the Cheese Traveler. “But my mom was a teacher who taught refugees, and I learned how much food mattered to them. Food was what they had to share, that was their thank you to my mom. She’d bring my twin brother and me to their parties, and that’s where I learned how important food is.”
Cheese, in particular, became Paul’s passion, which he fostered at several food retailers in the Capital Region and a gourmet cheese shop in Boston. He returned to Albany and opened his shop in 2011, stocking it with about 100 cheeses, both domestic and imported, which are all hand-cut to order. He has also added charcuterie, olives, pasta, chocolates, jams and jellies, syrups, bitters, and other defiantly artisanal products. “We follow the French definition of artisanal,” Paul says. “Just because Subway bakes their bread on premises, that doesn’t make it artisanal.”
Still, cheese is his oeuvre. “All these cheeses have compelling stories and traditions,” he says. “For me, cheese became a way to travel the world — in the imagination.” 518-443-0440; www.thecheesetraveler.com

Restaurant Redo

JOE WILLY’S FISH SHACK Fishkill
“We’ve evolved from calling ourselves a ‘fish shack’ — we’re now a ‘seafood house,’ ” laughs Dena White, who co-owns the seafood emporium with her husband, Joe. After 25 years in the wholesale seafood business, they opened the site five years ago. The eatery, which recently received a makeover in this season’s reality TV series Restaurant Impossible, features traditional choices like crab cakes and clam strip platters, a fish of the day, and more than a dozen other delights from the sea — as well as choices for non-seafood fans. “Many customers say they really love the pan-seared scallops,” White says. 845-765-0234; www.joewillysfishshack.com

Up-And-Coming Cupcakes

HUDSON VALLEY CAKERY Valley Cottage
Though food trends come and go, we’re pretty sure the cupcake craze isn’t dying out any time soon (thankfully), which is good news for Hudson Valley Cakery. Newlyweds Brandon and Kelly Harris opened the Rockland bakery this past December, and — as the name implies — cake and cupcakes are their specialty. The chocolate-cookies-and-cream variety is sure to satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth, with its moist chocolate cake and buttercream topped with crushed Oreos. And the peanut butter and jelly cupcake — Madagascar vanilla cake filled with raspberry jam, topped off with creamy peanut butter frosting and more raspberry jam — is the version of the sandwich you wish your mom had packed you for lunch. 845-267-2253; www.hudsonvalleycakery.com

Gold Standard Cupcakes

MOXIE CUPCAKES New Paltz
It’s been roughly three years since this bakery burst onto the scene, and they haven’t slowed down since. Located on Main Street in New Paltz, the shop uses mostly locally sourced, organic ingredients and fair trade chocolates to make the tasty treats. One concoction is designated “flavor of the month.” During October, the Punky Pumpkin — pumpkin spice cake with cream cheese buttercream frosting and pumpkin brittle topping — earns that delicious distinction. 845-255-2253; www.facebook.com/moxiecupcake

Hard Cider For Fall

NAKED FLOCK PUMPKIN CIDER AT APPLEWOOD WINERY Warwick
Naked Flock, which got its name from a town of Warwick folktale involving geese who were accidentally drugged and plucked, uses local apples and pumpkins to create this one-of-a-kind fall treat. It’s no wonder that this all-natural cider, which is spiced up with cloves, flies off the shelves pretty darn fast. The winery will celebrate the fifth annual Hudson Valley Hard Cider Experience with food and cider pairings, as well as live music and entertainment, on November 2 and 3. 845-988-9292; www.applewoodwinery.com

Little Known Veggie Venue

PURE CITY HEALTHY VEGETARIAN Pine Bush
These days, most restaurants have vegetarian options, but few are dedicated solely to veggies. Thankfully, the Chinese establishment Pure City does its part to fill this void: Not one dish on the extensive menu features meat. Though the location might not look like much from the outside, the flavors pack a heavy punch. Plus, all ingredients are über healthy: Everything is all-natural with no cholesterol or saturated fats. And just because meat never crosses the threshold doesn’t mean carnivores aren’t satisfied with the meals. After all, who could be unhappy with specials like Prince of Garden (jumbo oyster and enoki mushrooms drenched in vegetarian oyster sauce) and teriyaki veggie steak (veggie filet steak, asparagus, and the chef’s special veggie steak sauce)? 845-744-8888; www.purecityny.com

Foraged Treat

SHIITAKE MUSHROOM SPREAD FROM TYRELL MUSHROOM FARM Millbrook
While it’s fun to go tromping through the woods searching for ’shrooms to salivate over, we have an easier way to get your mushroom fix. Husband-and-wife team Kristin Stroup and Matt Anderson grow shiitake mushrooms on highly stacked logs in the woods on their property. While most of their business was originally selling mushrooms to restaurants and farmers markets, their shiitake spread continues to grab more and more of their market share. Stroup says that she cooks the shiitakes in garlic, herbs, butter, “and a bit of dry vermouth” before throwing in toasted hazelnuts and pine nuts and processing everything with cream cheese as the base. “Everybody keeps asking for it,” she says, noting that the six ounce containers ($10) are currently only available at three farmers markets — Millbrook, Arlington, and Amenia. “We put it on chicken, steak; I even like to put a big spoonful on my pasta. Everything really.” 914-204-9686

Thing To Happen To Doughnuts

THE DRUNKIN DONUT Congers
Being lovers of both doughnuts and cocktails, we were tickled to discover that the Drunkin Donut combines the two. All of the doughnuts are inspired by — and more importantly taste like — cocktails. Alcohol makes up only 10 percent of the ingredients total, so the flavor won’t overwhelm your palate. One of the more popular concoctions is the vanilla glazed doughnut infused with Kahlua, which is topped with buttercream, fudge, an Oreo, and sprinkles. Still in its infancy (it launched in April), the company doesn’t yet have a storefront, so orders are taken online, and can be shipped anywhere in the country. www.thedrunkindonut.com

Old-Fashioned Bakery

MCKINNEY & DOYLE FINE FOODS CAFÉ & BAKERY Pawling
It’s like a scene from a Norman Rockwell painting. Nestled in the middle of the charming village of Pawling, where the Metro-North commuter train chugs right down the middle of Main Street, this beloved bakery (which is attached to an award-winning eatery) fires up the ovens at 5 a.m. each morning so that they can provide the freshest baked goods — breads, rolls, scones, cookies, brownies, cakes, and more — to commuters and the legions of others who have become addicted to their tasty treats. The addition several years ago of a restored 1950s steel soda fountain, which serves up ice cream floats and the like, upped the nostalgia factor even more. 845-855-3707; www.mckinneyanddoyle.com

52 mainEditors’ Pick Best Tapas (tie): 52 Main
Photograph by Jennifer May

It’s Tapas Time

TOMÁŠ TAPAS BAR & RESTAURANT Wappingers Falls
Looking to have a classy night out with friends, but don’t have room for a full meal? Then tapas are the way to go, and they’re top-notch at Tomáš. The interior is modern and sleek thanks to dark wood floors and tables and a marble bar. The long tapas menu itself has everything from grilled marinated steak, roasted pork pernil sliders, and serrano ham to peppernata, gambas ajillo, and vegetable-filled crêpes. Plus, since the tapas plates cost between $5 and $9 each, you can sample a variety of dishes for less than the cost of a single entrée. 845-447-1776, 845-447-1500; www.tomasrestaurantgroup.com

52 MAIN Millerton
Back in 2012, Elinor Nurzia set out to create a neighborhood hangout. Nearly two years later, it’s clear she’s succeeded with 52 Main; the casual atmosphere — created by glowing amber walls, high ceilings, and numerous flat-screen TVs that often show sports or black-and-white films — is nothing if not inviting. And the great food doesn’t hurt either. Millerton locals and city transplants alike return again and again for the small plates that are packed with big flavor. Patrons rave about the ham and Manchego croquettes, grilled spiced shrimp, and chickpea-spinach purée. 518-789-0252; www.52main.com

brasserie 292 french friesEditors’ Pick Best French Fry Fun (tie): Pommes Frites with aïoli at Brasserie 292
Photograph by Jennifer May 

French Fry Fun

AVOCADO FRIES AT AVOCADO MEXICAN RESTAURANT Cornwall, Fishkill
Okay, so they are not real French fries. But believe us, you’re going to forget all about potatoes when this popular treat — fried slices of breaded avocado that manage to be creamy and crunchy at the very same time — shows up at the table. Find them at the fun new Fishkill location, too. 845-534-3350; www.avocadorestaurant.com and 845-896-3020; www.avocadosfishkill.com

ROSEMARY & GARLIC FRIES AT NEWBURGH BREWING COMPANY Newburgh
The beer is good — but the generous portion of shoestring fries, which are littered with giant flakes of fresh rosemary and served with housemade mayo? Out. Of. This. World. We say cheers to that. 845-569-2337; www.newburghbrewing.com

SHOESTRING FRIES WITH SMOKED GOUDA, LEMON ZEST & ROASTED GARLIC AT THE ROUNDHOUSE AT BEACON FALLS Beacon
Whenever the chefs tried to remove this now-beloved staple from the menu, they faced an uproar. “They’re basically an appetizer,” says Executive Chef Brandon Collins, “but people will even order them with chicken and eat it as a meal. People like to pick on them while drinking at the outdoor bar. We can’t get rid of them.” 845-765-8369; www.roundhousebeacon.com

POMMES FRITES WITH AÏOLI AT BRASSERIE 292 Poughkeepsie
These fresh-cut, twice-cooked fries, served with a delectable aïoli, have diners in the mid-Hudson Valley saying merci. Don’t forget to dip to your heart’s content in the housemade ketchup. 845-473-0292; www.brasserie292.com

Old-Fashioned Cocktails

STOCKADE TAVERN Kingston
If you believe that a hand-crafted cocktail can be a work of art, then you need to stop by this retro gin joint where owner Paul Maloney (a fine artist himself) is serving up a wide selection of classically-inspired drinks to an ever-growing legion of devotees. The cocktails are grouped according to their base — gin, bourbon, rum, brandy, absinthe, etc. — but if you don’t like what’s on the menu, they’ll craft a whole new concoction for you, always using top-of-the-line ingredients. (And the preparations are shaken by hand, never stirred). With all this — combined with the popular Speakeasy jazz series — it’s no wonder that the New York Times recently called the Stockade “the epitome of cocktail chic.” 845-514-2649; www.stockadetavern.com

Way To Elevate Your Home Cocktails

DUTCH’S SPIRITS COLONIAL COCKTAIL BITTERS Pine Plains
“There are a lot of smaller bitters producers coming out now,” says Ariel Schlein, president of Dutch’s Spirits. The company makes moonshine, brandy, and bitters on the site of a historic old distillery in Pine Plains that allegedly was run by famed mobster Dutch Schultz during Prohibition. The famed Algonquin Hotel in Manhattan is already using Dutch’s bitters: “They make a Manhattan with them,” says Schlein. Wild American spicebush and kinnikinnick leaf are the main ingredients, but they also draw flavors from around the globe, including Turkish bitter orange peel and French lavender. The bitters “go particularly well with dark spirits like whiskey or rye,” says Schlein. A buyer at Williams-Sonoma was so impressed with the product that he approached the company about making a do-it-yourself bitters kit. “We dropped everything else and put something together in a week,” says Schlein. The $24.95 kit went on the market in February; “It’s a great seller for them,” says Schlein. www.dutchsspirits.com

cinnamon indian bistroBagari jinga — a shrimp dish spiced up with garlic, mustard seed, and curry leaves — from Cinnamon Indian Bistro, one of our best new outposts
Photograph by Teresa Horgan

New Outpost (TIE)

CINNAMON INDIAN BISTRO Poughkeepsie
When Chaminda Widyaranthna and his wife Shiwanti first opened Cinnamon in Rhinebeck in 2010, it didn’t take long for word to spread that this restaurant was offering something different — and something delicious. While many Indian restaurants in this country focus on the cuisine of Northern India, they opted to also prepare many of the lesser-known dishes from southern India and their native Sri Lanka. Now, the couple is again trying something different at their new place near Marist College. “The Rhinebeck restaurant has real authentic, traditional dishes,” says Shiwanti. “In Poughkeepsie, it’s traditional with a twist. We have salads and wraps all served with homemade breads. We’re trying to bring healthy and fresh options to the table.” And it is ideal for a date night: “With the dim lights and lots of color, the atmosphere in Poughkeepsie is more high end,” says Shiwanti. “And more romantic.” 845-232-5430

NOSHI’S CONEY ISLAND New Paltz
Devotees of this Poughkeepsie hot dog joint were thrilled when a second location opened in New Paltz this spring. The outpost serves the same beloved dogs — like their signature Chicago Coney — and is also rapidly gaining fame for its burgers, which are wildly popular at the new space. The TexMex (made with chipotle mayo, avocados, and jalapeños) and the P-Town (grilled mushrooms, bacon, barbecue sauce, and shredded cheddar), for instance, have earned rave reviews from customers. And let’s not forget about the always-popular deep-fried Oreo dessert. 845-256-0100

moo moo's creameryPhotograph by Caroline Kaye

Upscale Ice Cream Experience

MOO MOO’S CREAMERY Cold Spring
The homemade ice cream here is simply delicious: creamy, bursting with flavor, and made fresh daily. While they produce about 100 flavors, 16 are available each day. (One of our editors is obsessed with the WalNutella.) But it’s the whole experience that elevates this to such a premium place. Sit on a cow bench or on the porch of this charming establishment just steps from the beautiful Cold Spring waterfront. To top it all off, portions are huge, service is friendly, and prices are reasonable. We’ll moo to that. 845-204-9230; www.moomooscreamery.com

Fireside Dining (East)

CHARLOTTE’S Millbrook
Housed in a striking 1934 building that was originally a 19th-century church, Charlotte’s imparts a sense of Old World country charm, says Alicia Moeller, who co-owns the eatery with her husband, Mikael. “It’s especially cozy in winter, with our wood-burning fireplaces,” she says. Charlotte’s caters its menu to the seasons, with heartier fare such as osso bucco and Long Island duck in the fall and winter. There’s also an outdoor grill for those who prefer their “fireside” meals al fresco in the warmer months. 845-677-5888; www.charlottesny.com

Fireside Dining (West) 

IRON FORGE INN Warwick
“Our building is a historic farmhouse that dates back to 1760,” says owner Erik Johansen, a CIA grad. “It actually has four fireplaces; we still use one of them, in the Tap Room” — which was the original 18th-century structure’s cooking kitchen, he says. The Iron Forge Inn features five cozy dining areas decorated with antiques, furniture, and artwork selected by the Johansen family. Its modern American-style cuisine focuses on local ingredients, and changes with the seasons. 845-986-3411; www.ironforgeinn.com

Crêpes

DOLCE Kingston
Dolce serves breakfast, lunch, and brunch in a cozy, brick-walled eatery in the Rondout section of the city. Owner Alessandra Tecchio, born and raised in Italy, bakes muffins, scones, tea breads, and cookies from scratch; gluten-free yummies are also available. Menu choices range from panini to sandwiches, salads, and customer faves — a luscious selection of crêpes. Opt for sandwich-like crêpes such as tomato, avocado, and Swiss; or dessert-style ones — how about Nutella crêpes? Or homemade caramel crêpes with strawberries? Top it off with a cup of hot cocoa — even the marshmallows are made by hand. 845-339-0921; www.dolce27.com

Secret Bar

SPEAKEASY 518 Albany
A knock on an unassuming, unmarked door on the side of the City Beer Hall building in Albany brings out a hostess. Name? You’re on the list? Welcome. And in you go — to 1920s Albany. A sassy, flapper-ish cocktail waitress flirts with the customers. A lively, old-timey jazz combo holds forth. Three truly gifted mixologists hand-craft authentic Depression-era cocktails or bespoke libations out of rare spirits, mixers, and bitters. Looking for characters out of a William Kennedy novel? You’ll find them here, along with hipsters, dandies, and modern imbibers looking for something unusual. The Capital City is decidedly short on “cool,” but co-owner Kenny Schachter, who also co-owns the City Beer Hall and Webster Hall in New York, thinks Albany is ready to support a place like this. “At least I hope so,” he says. Us too. 518-449-2332; www.speakeasy518.com

poughkeepsie ice houseShort ribs braised with molasses and cider vinegar from Poughkeepsie Ice House
Photograph by Jennifer May

New Riverside Restaurant

POUGHKEEPSIE ICE HOUSE Poughkeepsie

When this new eatery claims to be on the Poughkeepsie waterfront, they really mean it; the front door is literally just yards away from the river. (And you can get even closer to the water by dining on the waterfront patio). The location is simply stellar: Wedged between Waryas Park and a pretty walking path, the restaurant, housed in a historic ice house, is located halfway between the Walkway Over the Hudson and the Mid-Hudson Bridge. The views are one-of-a-kind, it’s easily accessible (you can walk to the Metro-North train station), and a team of CIA-trained chefs churns out everything from popular sandwiches to full fish dinners seven days a week. What more could you want? How about a raw bar and dessert on the cozy Mystère cruise ship? We call this a riverfront revolution. 845-232-5783; www.poughkeepsieicehouse.com

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