- Jen May
There's always a little heartbreak involved when a longstanding establishment closes its doors. But aspiring business owners, especially restaurateurs, seem to spring up faster each year, eager to resuscitate these timeworn buildings—aware of the immense undertaking of preserving community spirit while bringing their vision to life.
For instance, the buzzing main strip in the Village of Rhinebeck is bookended by two restaurants in buildings with storied pasts, though they couldn't be more different in design. At one end, Terrapin's storybook former-church location contrasts with the welcome-home feel that new eatery The Amsterdam provides. When approaching The Amsterdam, it's as though you are walking up to a neighbor's house—the porch is decked with inviting chairs, seasonal decor, and modern lanterns to guide you towards the entrance. Inside, you've stepped into a tapestry of styles—modern, country, vintage, industrial chic—woven together to create a warm atmosphere.
"Part of the building dates back to 1798. Our goal was to bring forward the history and sense of place the building offered as a gathering place for our community of guests," says proprietor Howard Jacobs. Rhinebeck's earliest residents originally owned the historic portion, but the building fell into disrepair centuries later. An antiques dealer rescued and restored it. When Jacobs first saw the building, he couldn't resist its charm. "We fell in love with its underlying potential as a special place for friends and family to gather, just as it functioned in the 1800s," Jacobs says.
- Liz Clayman
It was a long road to transform the house into a full-service restaurant. Jacobs and his team were able to preserve some key architectural elements, but others were removed to open the space. Extensive steelwork was added for structure. "It created a beautiful and emotional connection that extended to fantastic transom windows at the rear the main dining," Jacobs explains. "There were plenty of big and little challenges along the way, but the end result was worth the effort. We sourced historic lighting, used reclaimed wood, and had materials custom designed by local artisans to complete our story."
The Amsterdam's menu features an array of locally sourced dishes that complement the space; upscale with a country soul. At dinner, the atmosphere is convivial; laughter bounces through the high ceilings, the sleek, open kitchen provides a peek at your prepared dishes, and the polite staff is happy to answer questions about your meal (the house-smoked salmon is indeed wild-caught, and yes, those are leeks flavoring your Prince Edward Island mussels). The dry-aged duck breast with roasted delicata squash, cauliflower, and black barley is a popular option, and the Amsterdam Burger—not your average grill choice—is topped with Rascal cheese, tomato jam, and Bibb lettuce on a milk bun.
- Liz Clayman
- The charcuterie board at The Amsterdam.
New Chef, New ChapterIn early April, nearly a year after opening, Amsterdam brought on a new executive chef: Alex Burger, who left the prestigious Bar Boulud on Manhattan's Upper West Side for the position. "The region is bubbling with creativity, innovation, and evolution—I was drawn to that," Burger says. "The opportunity to put down roots in a place that is clearly a culinary hotbed, and to be so close to farmers and purveyors, is a chef’s dream." Under his direction, the restaurant will maintain its focus on farm-to-table food, while expanding its offerings to incorporate Burger's French culinary experience and expertise in charcuterie and grilling.
"Guests initially fall in love with the warmth, beauty, and uniqueness of our spaces, but they rave about the quality and soulful execution of our food—simple comfort food done at a very high level," Jacobs says.
- Liz Clayman