When New Paltz’s beloved Irish comfort food restaurant The Village TeaRoom and Bake Shop closed in April, locals were crest-fallen. Who could possibly follow in Agnes Devereux’s sizeable footsteps? For several months, the old farmhouse at 11 Plattekill Avenue stood quiet as neighbors speculated until recently reopening its doors under the name RUNA Bistro.
Sophisticated yet comfortable in concept, the new French-inspired eatery is helmed by service-industry veteran Clare Hussain. “I wasn't looking to do this,” Hussain admits. “Out of curiosity, I was just looking up this type of real estate, and I finally decided I was gonna give it a whirl. Lo and behold, I was buying a restaurant and really doing it.”
But the decision to open a restaurant wasn’t entirely without precedent: Hussain graduated from hospitality school in Dublin and worked in restaurants and catering for 25 years. “I loved the buzz and the vibe, and I always thought restaurants were going to be my thing,” she says. But between getting married and starting a family, her love affair with the service industry was put on hold. Now it’s full steam ahead.
Traditional bistro dishes include smoked salmon tartine with capers, shallots, cucumber and dill aioli for $13; duck breast au poivre with grapefruit gastrique, wilted frisée and roasted root vegetables for $28; and ratatouille with couscous, harissa aioli, and fried shallots for $20. But just in case the Francophile classics don’t tempt you, the menu also includes some unexpected variety. Some dishes are nods to Hussain’s Bangladeshi heritage, such as the chicken salad profiterole with vadouvan curry for $14. The Hudson Valley Royale, a grass-fed beef burger with cheese, remoulade rouge, and frites for $15, is a playful nod to the cult classic Pulp Fiction.
This ethos of simplicity and comfort also permeates Hussain’s design aesthetic, which straddles the line between elegant bistro and modern farmhouse. “The tables are kind of rural—varnished pine. But I use proper cloth bistro napkins, so it gives that extra little touch,” she says. “The lighting is soft on the eyes, so it's cozy, inviting, and very approachable, but also intimate.” New black-and-white checkered floors pop against the light grey walls and wood accents.
The restaurant opened earlier this month, and since then RUNA has enjoyed a steady influx of customers who are excited to have a taste of France in New Paltz.