- photos by Roy Gumpel
- Owner Erin Intonti behind the bar at Underground Coffee & Ales in Highland. Underground is minutes away from the Walkway Over the Hudson and the Hudson Valley Rail Trail, which bring streams of cyclists to the spot in warmer weather.
Something quirky this way comes. Or some things quirky, I should say. Three relatively new establishments—the Beverly in Kingston, Reynolds & Reynolds in Woodstock, and Underground Coffee & Ales in Highland—take the cookie-cutter concepts so often associated with eateries and bend them into unexpected shapes. With the exception of industry vets Jenifer Constatine and Trip Thompson, owners of the Beverly, these bar/restaurants are run by gifted amateurs with little restaurant experience. Of course, amateurs work for love first and monetary gain second, this might explains why these places hit the mark. They weren't designed to be cash cows but instead, living, breathing, community spaces. Their shared creative DNA speaks to the rise of establishments designed to encourage lingering and neighborhood gathering. Think of it as an antidote to the rise of soulless fast-casual restaurants like Chipotle or Panera. Think of it as the slow simmering of slow casual.
There are many other places like this around the region—the late, lamented Hop in Beacon was one, Caffe Macchiato in Newburgh is another. Hudson Valley entrepreneurs seem compelled to take an established concept and bend it to their idiosyncratic will rather than hew to formal ideas about what something is expected to be. Maybe that's why we have more bakers than bankers per capita here in the Hudson Valley. Maybe that's why we're eating so well.
The bar at The Beverly is an Art Deco beauty, a Kingston-built Cassidy & Sons masterpiece that was the backbone of the Kozy Tavern for 80 years, a real bartender's bar. Tucked away on a tree-lined street in Midtown Kingston in the emerging Ten Broeck neighborhood, the place was always a neighborhood joint. Chef Thom Hines, who grew up a few blocks away, remembers his grandfather drinking there.
- Scenes from the Beverly in Kingston.
The Beverly, which opened in August 2016, encompasses three separate, interconnected spaces. There's the 80-seat banquet room, which once housed a still during Prohibition (as well as seeing later use as a roller rink). The space is available for rent, as well being used to host art events, like a recent evening of avant-garde 16mm films. The dining room, which seats about 30, will open in late January and offer a dining sanctuary. Until then, there's the barroom, with six snug booths across from the 20-seat bar. Much of what owner Trip Thompson (formerly of Rosendale's Market Market) inherited has been left intact, with design decisions made around honoring the past. (The renovation process actually uncovered an original mural behind the bar that had been obscured for many years.)
- Scenes from the Beverly in Rosendale.
The food at the Beverly is unpretentious and prepared with a ghost of Southern influence, starting with the fried okra appetizer, served with avocado mousse and chimichurri ($10). Another good place to begin is with the fried Halloumi cheese, served with a pickle platter ($8). The Beverly does pickles very well, and they've not disappointed on several occasions. The rabbit leg with sautéed delicata squash ($18) was a simple, ingredient-first take on the dish. The rocket salad ($10) is a generous mound of arugula tossed with lemon, olive oil, and Pecorino. There are a couple of interesting takes on burgers—one with refried beans, chimichurri, and cheddar and one with caramelized onions, lardons, blue cheese sauce, and balsamic reduction, both $16—and a lentil veggie burger with curried mayo ($12) that's better than most. The vadouvan-crusted lamb sliders with tzatziki served with curried fingerling potato salad ($15) is also worth a taste. (Vadouvan is a French derivative of the Indian spice blend masala that's had shallots and garlic added to it.)
Every corner bar will soon have a cocktail program, but the Beverly delivers, featuring forgotten classics like the rye and absinthe-based Sazerac ($10); twists on better-to-be-forgotten classics like the Cosmopolitan ($10), redeemed by its house-infused citrus vodka; and the classic classics, too numerous to be named here. There's a rotating selection of beer on the three taps (usually $6), and a dozen beers in bottles and cans. (The only off note on the beverage front is the limited wine selection, something that will hopefully be remedied when the dining room opens later this month.)
The Beverly is a laidback boite that's half dive bar, half fine dining spot. It has the potential to a put a little-known neighborhood on the map. You heard it here first.
Reynolds & Reynolds, which opened in October 2016 across from the Woodstock Playhouse near the intersection of Route 375 and Mill Street, bills itself as a tap room. This conjures images of dark, wooden interiors, underground rathskellers, and male-dominated spaces of old. The reality of this Woodstock establishment is quite the opposite: Large windows bring in a generous amount of light, and clean lines delineate an open eating plan that fosters conversation. (The location does have an interesting history: The space is the former medical office of Dr. Wayne Longmore, who went to prison in 2013 for selling Vicodin to those who perhaps did not need it but were willing to pay cash.)
The proprietor, Megan Reynolds, is well known to Woodstockers. For many years she was the manager of the Woodstock Farmers' Market. She also runs a B&B in town, the Retreat at Tree Gap. Reynolds is a homesteader, gardener, home brewer, and beer enthusiast—only someone deeply into beer would describe it to an interviewer as "charismatic." (She's also the recipient of a Cicerone Certificate, an industry standard for beer professionals akin to becoming a certified wine sommelier).
- Owner Megan Reynolds chats with customers at the bar of the recently opened tap room and bottle shop Reynolds & Reynolds in Woodstock. Some say the bar’s secret weapon is its 14-foot-long shuffleboard table, pictured against the front window.
One of her first motivations in opening Reynolds & Reynolds, a long-held dream of hers, was the paucity of good watering holes in the village. "When I first started thinking about a bar, there weren't many options to drink here," says Reynolds. "I wanted a third place in Woodstock." Woodstock has changed a bit in the past few years, however, and a few eclectic spots have opened up, like Station Bar & Curio. While the original need has diminished, Reynolds's enthusiasm for beer has not, and it's dovetailed with the craft beverage boom. "My interest in beer over the last seven or eight years has been concurrent with the explosion of breweries across the country," says Reynolds.
There are 10 taps at Reynolds & Reynolds, which feature a rotating selection of brews selected by Reynolds, who can be found behind the bar most nights. With her selections, Reynolds likes to vary the styles and alcohol content of her beers, serving beers that appeal to both beer neophytes and aficionados. In mid December, she was pouring, among other things, Harvest Marzen from Keegan Ales ($6 for 16 oz.), the Kingston brewer's first foray into a classic German style; Void of Light Stout ($7 for 16 oz.), a roasted barley stout from The Bronx's Gun Hill Brewing Company; and Winter Mess 2016 ($7 for 12 oz.), a winter ale from Brasserie de la Senne, the first brewery to open in Brussels in 60 years. (Yup, you read that right; they like their tradition in Belgium.) All beers are offered in three sizes—5 oz., 8 oz., and 12 or 16 oz.—so you mix and match in a tasting format.
Reynolds & Reynolds is a bottle shop as well, so you can buy beer for take-out, and the cooler is stocked with large-format specialty brews that can be hard to find and more mainstream selections as well. There's also a small but well-curated wine list that leans heavily on French selections like a Chateau de La Greffiere Chardonnay ($12 glass/$40 bottle).
Unsurprisingly given Reynolds's farm-related background, the food here is seasonal and uses many local products, like sausage from Quattro's Farm in Pleasant Valley, greens from Sky Farm in Millerton, and cheese from Sprout Creek Farm in Poughkeepsie. Given that it's Woodstock, there is also an emphasis on vegetarian and vegan options. These included, in mid December, the roasted vegetable salad ($7) with butternut squash, sweet potato, beets, and salad greens. There's also the miso vegetable soup ($9) with noodles, braised greens, and tofu.
The focus is on small plates, emphasizing the informal atmosphere. "There's not a ton of causal places to eat in Woodstock," says Reynolds. The menu features 10 selections at any given time, from pretzel bites with beer cheese ($5) to more elaborate offerings like chicken pot pie ($8) with Yellow Bell Farm chicken. (The flaky pastry crust and creamy filling of the pot pie are worth the trip.) And there's always the cheese and sausage board ($12). On a recent visit, sausage from Karl Family Farms was paired with Chaseholm Creamery's tart Moonlight chevre.
While the beer list is well thought-out and the small plates are delightful at Reynolds & Reynolds, for my money, the bar's secret weapon is its 14-foot shuffleboard table—the kind that comes with a can of powdered accelerant you sprinkle on the wooden boards. There's also a bookcase filled with games like Connect 4 and Rummikub (don't forget to bring Grandma). Reynolds is also planning a series of beer tasting and beer education events, as well as a Shakespeare read-along with the Collar City Players, a Troy-based group. Seems that beer can be paired with anything these days, even litterachur!
First thought upon entering Underground Coffee & Ales: Are we really in Highland? Despite the fact that this coffee shop/beer bar is on Highland's main drag, Vineyard Avenue, you'd be hard pressed to believe you were in the sleepy hamlet. This is by design. Owners Erin and Jeremy Intonti grew up in Highland and then moved away for what Jeremy describes as "obvious reasons." Everyone knows Highland has a reputation as a culinary and cultural desert (the Would being a notable exception). But the Intonis are looking to change that with their hybrid eatery, which feels paradoxically out of place and right at home in their hometown, a place that has seen a jump in visitors since the opening of the Walkway Over the Hudson and the Hudson Valley Rail Trail.
- The bar at Underground Coffe & Ales in Highland pours 10 rotating taps as well as serving a wide selection of coffee drinks.
The Intontis don't have service industry backgrounds, but they did have a big idea that took shape in 2013—they launched the Hudson River Craft Beer Festival, which flooded Riverfront Park in Beacon with beer lovers that summer. After selling the festival, the couple looked toward opening a place that brought together their two loves, beer and coffee. Underground opened in October 2015. "We think coffee and beer tend to bring families and friends together," says Jeremy. "We envisioned a place that could be a cornerstone where people could relax. Our atmosphere is best described as a no-rush type of place where individuals or groups of friends can hang out, work, maybe play a card or board game. We won't rush you along."
The twin reasons to linger are the coffee and coffee drinks (beans sourced from Coffee Lab Roasters in Tarrytown, a fair trade outfit). And then there's the beer. The 10 taps are in heavy rotation—according to Jeremy, a keg lasts less than three days usually. Recent offerings included the Vermont-based Von Trapp dunkel lager ($7), Interrobang IPA ($7) from Community Beer Works in Buffalo, and Beanhead Coffee Porter ($7) from Rushing Duck in Chester. The beer is a community builder. "I love craft beer, the people who make craft beer, and meeting people that are into it as much as myself," says Jeremy. "It all kinda validates me a bit. I don't feel like the only beer nerd on the planet."
As Jeremy tells it, when he and his wife Erin first opened Underground, they wanted "to cater to the liquid end of life—coffee, beer, wine, hot chocolate—but our food caught on, and we've been serving two to three times more than we thought we were going to handle when we opened. Out of a kitchen not much bigger than a food truck!" Firstly, order a bowl of the popcorn of the day ($3). On a recent visit it was black pepper. Simple, yes, but it reminds you that despite the fact that the multiplexes suck at making popcorn, it is not a lost art. If you're there for breakfast, the breakfast burrito is a solid option ($9), the house salsa being a smoky, chunky standout. Later in the day, food tends toward upscale pub grub with slight twists, like the fried pickles with Sriracha aioli ($7) or the Underground fries ($8.50), a mound of potatoes topped with bacon and house-made cheese sauce and dusted with paprika, chili, and chipotle. There's a local meat and cheese board ($14) as well as the sandwiches, burgers, and salads you would expect. The grilled cheese ($9), with cheddar and Swiss on pesto'd ciabatta, is the best of the bunch, a hot-and-tangy delight.
The Intontis also host events, another way of bringing the community together. "More than a few times a month, we have something happening," Jeremy says. "We enjoy collaborating with local breweries and having beer release parties. We host trivia nights. Pig roasts. Halloween, St. Patty's Day, Christmas—any excuse to bring the town and craft beer people together. I guess you could say we love the people that craft beer and coffee bring together." Seems like a great recipe for a vibrant neighborhood spot.