It would seem that Garrison is beyond delighted to have its tavern at the historic Bird & Bottle Inn back—and just in time for summer fun. Online reviews of the 260-year-old inn’s reopening are seasoned with superlatives: superb, impeccable, beautiful, and fantastic are liberally applied to the renovation, the welcome, the menu and its execution. The vibe is described as “buzzing and hoppin’ with people.”
Established in 1761, the Dutch Colonial classic was a key waypoint for Hudson Highlands travelers before, during, and after the revolution. At times serving as a private home, at times as a public house, the establishment rose to new heights as a community cornerstone after 1940, when locals Charles and Constance Stearns transformed it into a culinary destination frequented by celebrities, foodies, and starlets.
Eighty years and countless memories later, it was time for a refresher. Hudson Valley entrepreneurs Marjorie Tarter and Brendan McAlpine, developers of Beacon’s vintage Story Screen Theater and its adjoining Wonderbar cocktail lounge, purchased the property in 2020 and have devoted the past two years to painstaking renovations, making essential updates while maintaining the classic, sophisticated style guests love: wall sconces, oil paintings, wide-plank floors. Lodging is slated to reopen soon.and the venue will host destination weddings along with other private events. In the meantime, the tavern is already open and drawing rave reviews.
McAlpine, a lawyer whose first adaptive reuse adventure was the restoration of Beacon’s Roundhouse with his father, and Tarter, who worked in fashion marketing before diving into local restoration and hospitality, have found a common passion in restoration. Some of these projects are just irresistible,” Tarter says. “They are begging for someone to bring them back to their glory days—to find a way to make them current and relevant today without totally changing or disregarding their storied past.”
Guests will find the same classic, simple elegance that has characterized the inn for generations—and slammin’ good food. Executive Chef Kristian Meixner has established menus that take classic fare to the next level. The tavern offers choices like a short rib brisket burger and duck wings, the dining room offers Faroe Island salmon fingerlings. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options are not an afterthought, with choices like spring pea risotto and cauliflower steak.
“He’s working with inspiration from the Bird & Bottle’s very first executive chef,” says Tarter of Meixner. “He has an old copy of her cookbook from the 1940s, and her biscuit recipe can be found in the strawberry dessert on our current menu.”
That chef, Lena Richard, was the unsung hero of the Bird according to Tarter. “Her Louisiana-Creole flavors put this place on the map back in 1940 and turned it into a dining destination for the celebs who traveled up from New York City to get away,” Tarter says. “The Bird was the place to be. Lena was hardly mentioned anywhere in the press we have found, but her menu and influence lived on long after she left.” In a menu uncovered from 1957, Richard’s items were still being served.
Despite Richard’s lack of mention in press clippings about the inn, she wasn’t exactly low-profile. A barrier-busting Black chef in the Jim Crow South, she had already self-published her first cookbook in 1939, and by 1949, was back in New Orleans serving patrons of all skin tones at her Gumbo House and hosting “Lena Richard’s New Orleans Cook Book” twice a week on television.
Tarter says the history brings her great joy, and she loves passing that along. “It feels so awesome to be a tiny piece of this story,” she says. “The Bird & Bottle really belongs to the community. The property has been the site of so many personal memories, milestones, and celebrations. Respecting that, and more importantly celebrating the Bird’s history was the only way to tackle this project and do it justice.”
It’s likely that Washington, Hamilton, and Lafayette stopped in on Hudson Valley sojourns; after all, there were only so many taverns, and it’s known that Continental troops were garrisoned here. To Tarter, though, the coolest history is still being written.
“Yeah, it’s super cool that James Beard once wrote a menu for us and Veronica Lake and Joan Crawford frequented the place, but hearing about the pastry chef who kicked off her career here as a teenager, or meeting the couple who are celebrating 40 years with fond memories of their Bird & Bottle wedding is equally fabulous,” says Tarter. “Everyone has a story and we can’t get enough of them. We are just the latest stewards entrusted with caring for this property. Our hope is to carry on its tradition, to tell the stories of those who came before us, and to do what we can to help The Bird live on for another 260 years.”