Do you remember the first time you drove or took a train toward the Catskills? Is there anything more magical? Just beyond this incredible, but at times overwhelming, metallic metropolis there are trees and rivers and rolling hills as far as the eye can see, which always surprises me, no matter how many times I visit.
The Catskills also offer an escape from the city’s overtaxed dining scene. And since 2020, a handful of really special restaurants have opened around Hudson, Kingston and Woodstock that are worth checking out next time you’re up yonder.
Fried Bologna Sandwiches, Filipino Bites and Velvet Banquettes
Over Presidents’ Day weekend, following a tip from a very helpful employee at Bluebird Wine and Spirits in Accord, N.Y., a group of friends and I walked into Ollie’s Pizza, which opened in 2020, in nearby High Falls. After only a 10-minute wait(!), we were sipping ice-cold Negronis and eating meatballs with airy focaccia and an onion pie with shallots and chiles on a nutty sesame seed crust.
After the previous night’s luck, we drove to Hudson, which at this point could be called SoHo North. And yet, it’s home to the decidedly unfussy, unfancy Cafe Mutton, open since 2021, where we were again promptly seated. The chef and owner Shaina Loew-Banayan specializes in a kind of easygoing but exceedingly delicious cafe food: a mayo-slathered fried bologna sandwich using locally raised meat; tender crepes with rich maple syrup; and a soulwarming, congee-inspired porridge with chicken, scallions and chile crisp that I’ve thought about every day since.
On our last full day, we drove to Woodstock to visit Harana Market, which opened in 2021. It’s a small Asian market and deli with an incredible selection of made-to-order Filipino food. We enjoyed our orders by a firepit that overlooked a grassy valley. With little to no cell reception, there was nothing to do but focus on the tortang talong, an eggplant omelet stuffed with garlic and herbs and drizzled with banana ketchup, and the creamy tofu sisig with pan-fried mixed vegetables and garlic fried rice. If we’d only gone on a Friday, we could have had the fish sauce twice-fried chicken with garlic popcorn.
Maybe it was for the best, as we were aiming for a double dinner. The second meal was at Good Night, an impeccably designed Southeast Asian restaurant that opened in November, outfitted with plush velvet banquettes, marble countertops and dazzling chandeliers. Amid all that millennial catnip, we dug into filet mignon carpaccio dressed in hot-and-sour mustard and lotus root, and a Vietnamese pork chop that resembled a deconstructed banh mi.
I’ll be heading back soon. The plan is to return to Cafe Mutton as well as my one true love — the tofu sisig at Harana Market — and to pay a visit to Stissing House, the Shaker-inspired restaurant from one of the chefs behind King in Manhattan. It’s on the opposite side of the Hudson River, in Pine Plains, but I’d ford most any waters for “braised duck served with cornbread enriched with duck fat” and “pork shoulder simmered overnight with cider and celeriac,” as my colleague Priya Krishna described the menu. Wouldn’t you?
In Other News …
In response to last week’s reader question about dining near Lincoln Center, Valeria V. wrote in to endorse the Greek Kitchen on Tenth Avenue, with a Greek wine selection she calls “unforgettable.” Leslie K. wrote that the West Village- and Greenwich Village-based restaurants Jeffrey’s Grocery, Joseph Leonard, Fairfax and Jolene “are very sensitive to gluten-free issues and understand safety for those with Celiac disease.” If you have questions or recommendations of your own, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading, and have a great week!
While dining at Mel’s in the former Del Posto space “can be a bit like going to a child’s birthday party in a haunted house,” writes Pete Wells in his latest review, knowing exactly what to order — the Bibb salad, the New York strip, the baked clamshell and a gelato sundae or two — makes the meal worth it.
Openings: Racines NY in TriBeCa has become Chambers, a wine bar with a pedigree and a home-cooking inspired menu; Veronika returns on Thursday under new management and with an altered but still Eastern European-influenced menu; travelers can now enjoy Chuko Ramen, Bubby’s, Essex Burger and other local restaurants at La Guardia Airport’s Delta Terminal C; and more.
Mashama Bailey, the Savannah, Ga., chef behind the Grey, won the award for Outstanding Chef at this year’s James Beard Awards, and Owamni by the Sioux Chef in Minneapolis was named Best New Restaurant. Read more about the Awards’ post-hiatus return here.