Dishes at Social rotate with the seasons — among the plates you may find are the Hudson Burger, Thai salad, roasted chicken, and tomato salad. Photo by Pepe Molina
Whether it’s a sit-down meal or a quick bite at an exceptional eatery, the options north are plentiful and the journey more delicious.
On the drive north into the Hudson Valley, exit 48 on the Taconic Parkway usually makes people hungry. By then, they’re an hour into the journey, and the name of the state park, James Baird (often misread) brings up thoughts of exceptional food. While James Baird helped cook up the Lincoln Memorial, James Beard built up American culinary traditions and has one of the most esteemed food awards named after him. Fortunately for car sojourners heading north, James Beard-nominated restaurants are becoming more numerous. So instead of reaching for that bag of chips or that drive-through burger, make the Hudson Valley’s restaurants part of your asphalt adventure.
After passing James Baird State Park, veer Northwest onto US-9 for Social (ourhabitas.com/on-hudson/dining). Too new to land on any lists, the recently opened restaurant inside country retreat Habitas-on-Hudson offers guests one of the best menus in the valley. While the dishes rotate with the seasons, (as is the case with every featured restaurant in this article that boasts farm-to-table dining), get there soon for the current offerings. The nuance in the lemon stracciatella paired with an already delicious steak tartare juxtaposes wonderfully with mains, like seared sea bass swimming in a chipotle beurre blanc or the bold flavors of a side of broccolini rejoicing in a soy, peanut, and ginger dressing. Social’s meze plate is a fine trio of lentil hummus, tzatziki, and baba ghanoush, accented by pickled vegetables from the garden.
If too busy to sit, Rhinebeck proper offers some excellent quick bites. If the meze mood strikes, Aba’s Falafel (abasfalafel.com) offers organic and airy fried chickpea balls with accoutrements that elevate the sandwich. Café con Leche (nycafeconleche.com/rhinebeck) is more than just this delicious drink; in Rhinebeck, it’s a Puerto Rican eatery with tasty empanadas, gorgeous baked goods, and excellent Cuban sandwiches with 12-hour-roasted pork headlining things. For a coffee and a strawberry-shaped marzipan or chocolate truffle, visit Samuel’s Sweet Shop (samuelssweetshop.com).
Hudson and Chatham
Farther north, Hudson has been making major waves in the outside-Manhattan food scene. While Warren Street is Hudson’s mile-long main drag, with endless cafés and restaurants, skip it for everything east of 7th Street. On the same block are rival James Beard nominees: Lil Deb’s Oasis (lildebsoasis.com), with a dinner-only, food-and-drink menu as eclectic as the space, and Café Mutton (cafemutton.com), which is open for Friday dinners and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, and on weekends. Lunch hours blossom with gorgeous sticky buns sprouting from most tables. And simple dishes express the valley. Crisp-skinned and tender lamb belly with eggs over easy and a salsa verde drizzle is perfect, though crêpes are an exceptional alternative if the sticky bun doesn’t satisfy that sweet tooth.
Coffee around the corner at the Hudson Roastery (hudsonroastery.com) goes deliciously with their croissants, while two brand new breweries a block away — Return (returnbrewing.com) and Upper Depot (upperdepot.com) — are nice for a pint or a four-pack for the road. For more charm, bypass Hudson for Chatham slightly to the north. Bimi’s (bimischeese.com) is a decade-old cheese shop that offers some of the best expressions from nearby farms, while their new Bimi’s Canteen (bimiscanteen.com) has exceptional appetizers. Dessert is also fabulous, which bodes well for Bimi’s, as the owner is opening a gelato shop later this year.
To the East
If James Beard nominee rivals excite, New England-bound travelers must visit Troutbeck (troutbeck.com) in Amenia and the Stissing House (stissinghouse.com) in Pine Plains. Troutbeck is a gorgeous property lost in the woods, where roasted beets and local cheese dishes are turned into works of art with flower petals and candy-cane beets. Spelt-flour cavatelli with chanterelles, garlic scape purée, and egg yolk might be one of the best bites east of the Taconic. Stissing House’s historic property has been all the rage in sleepy Pine Plains since 1782. Quick, unpretentious bites at the bar of ham from the hearth and delicious slices of Gouda are enough for a meal. Or you can opt for the slower candlelit and white-tablecloth experience, letting the hearth transform lobsters and turn out chicken so good it never leaves the rotating menu. In a world where gourmet butter-and-bread service is going for a premium, Stissing House provides their exceptional version gratis.
Between Amenia and Pine Plains, Millerton has one of the best tea shops and coffee roasteries in the country. Harney & Sons Fine Teas (harney.com/pages/the-millerton-shop) features strong greens, Arnold Palmers, and a cute store. Up the road, Irving Farm (irvingfarm.com) is pouring superb coffee. And Oakhurst Diner (oakhurst-diner.com) dishes up nostalgia at their quaint greasy spoon, though they offer curious menu items from classics to tacos to pho and bánh mi sandwiches.
To the West
If heading west through Poughkeepsie, stop in the small city for Rosticceria Rossi & Sons (rossideli.com), where they’ve been making delicious sandwiches since 1979. A few towns over, in Gardiner, fifth-generation distillers are producing excellent Hudson Whiskey at the Tuthilltown Spirits Distillery (hudsonwhiskey.com/en-US). Now, tours and tippling are the best flavors on offer, but a restaurant is forthcoming. For one of the best additions to the sleepy town of Gardiner, dine at Clay (aubergeresorts.com/wildflower-farms/dine/clay), a gorgeous barn-sized restaurant at Wildflower Farms. Debuting this past fall, the open kitchen fires up lemony risottos, grilled greens from their on-site farm, and fantastic porterhouse steaks. Try the matcha poundcake with tequila-infused strawberries for something new and tasty.