Another Fork in the Road Restaurant Review in Milan: Diner Fare, American Comfort Food and Dining in Dutchess County
Fork it over: Inventive cuisine elevates the diner experience at Milan’s Another Fork in the Road
The Milan eatery’s take on diner fare includes this dish of roasted carrots with smoked ricotta, walnut bread crumbs, and marjoram
Photographs by Teresa Horgan
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If you head out of Rhinebeck towards Route 308 it isn’t long before you pass a fork in the road; literally — a fork. The 31-foot tall dinner fork stands, tines down, at the intersection of Routes 308 and 199 (read our “Where in the Hudson Valley” contest question and answer). And if you continue on 199 towards the Taconic State Parkway, you’ll soon pass Another Fork in the Road. This one is worth pulling over for. Even though the aptly named restaurant is housed in a modest building sandwiched between a defunct motel and an old mechanic’s garage, a bright yellow sign out by the road promises “A Finer Diner.” If you blink you might miss it. But you’d be sorry, for a finer diner it is.
The building has been home to many restaurants over the years, none of which ever last very long (not even the last incarnation, Another Roadside Attraction). So when celebrated local chef Natalie “Figgy” DiBenedetto (former chef/owner of Mina in Red Hook) opened Another Fork in the Road (with help from friend and chef Jamie Parry) in May 2009, many locals questioned whether her strong reputation alone would be enough to keep the place going.
It was somewhat risky, admits Parry, but it made sense for the duo at the time: The restaurant’s daytime hours — it initially served just breakfast and lunch — meant they could both be home to meet their kids at the school bus stop. The not-so-obvious reason was that Parry knew DiBenedetto — who had been widowed in 2007 — might decide to leave the area for personal reasons. DiBenedetto did chose to move a year after the eatery opened; Parry bought the restaurant from her in 2010, making him a chef/owner for the first time in his 20-year career.
The risk paid off. Three years later, the restaurant, which now serves three meals a day, Thursday through Monday, is wildly popular with locals and tourists alike. “It’s the most wonderful thing,” says Parry. “Passersby expect this little diner and they find it’s something else, something really good.”
Almost immediately after the place changed hands, Parry started serving dinner. “It’s the money-maker,” he laughs. And this past February, he finally got a beer and wine license, which has allowed him to start focusing on pairing. “That was more difficult when it was just a diner,” he admits. “It’s hard to pair salmon with soda.”
Chef/owner Jamie Parry (center) and his smiling staff
Unlike many local chefs, Parry did not attend the CIA, or any cooking school for that matter. The way he tells it, he was a ceramicist employed as a paralegal in the city, who fantasized about cooking. So when an old girlfriend working at a Manhattan restaurant asked him for help getting into the paralegal profession, Parry had her return the favor. He started working at Manhattan’s Montrachet, where he stayed until he met his wife Katie, who owns Grandiflora nursery in Red Hook. Ten years ago, Parry moved to Rhinebeck and spent the next five years working with Jeffrey Gimmel at Swoon Kitchenbar in Hudson.
At Another Fork, the innovative dinner menu prominently showcases Hudson Valley ingredients — Parry sources almost everything from Dutchess County farms — with an emphasis on seasonal vegetables and high-contrast combinations. “Meat is really expensive, so to keep the prices down I buy the best quality, and portion appropriately. But you can’t beat a delicious vegetable from the Hudson Valley.” The dinner menu, which can change from day to day, does feature a number of vegetarian dishes.
My two companions and I visited on what turned out to be the busiest Friday night they’d ever had. Since there was no hostess, we stood at the door (on a giant fork carpet, of course) and waited to be greeted by a cheerful waitress in high-waisted jeans. We were seated at a table by the roadside wall, and had a good view of the bustling room, which my friend deemed reminiscent of an old Hancock Shaker schoolhouse. The place was already almost full (it seats just 46), the clientele a mix of couples young and old, and a surprising number of young families with small children, some of whom took frequent jaunts to the designated children’s play area by the entrance. None of the laminated, aluminum-edged diner tables were pre-set, although some of them were decorated with a small vase of wildflowers and an unlit candle. Framed photographs, hung slightly askew, circled the room on the walls. The music was barely audible above the pleasant din, which only added to the laid-back diner vibe. Ironically, it was the deer head festooned with drooping Christmas lights and the red boater’s hat above the kitchen door that served as my only reminders that I was, in fact, still in Dutchess County and not somewhere in Brooklyn.
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» Get directions to Another Fork in the Road in Milan, NY
» Read about Another Fork in the Road: “Best New Diner with a Twist” (Best of Hudson Valley 2009 Editors’ Pick)
» Read about Another Fork in the Road in The Accidental Foodie blog
» Go to http://anotherforkintheroadmilan.wordpress.com
» Go to the Hudson Valley Restaurants Guide
» Go to the Hudson Valley Food & Drink Guide