The fact that the Hudson Valley is a restaurant Mecca is no longer news. But as the scene matures, some wonderful trends are emerging, trends we love: the mixing of global influences and local ingredients, of historic architecture and new flavor; the ample choices, whether you want to dine after a muddy hike or take proper Aunt Edna out and impress her all to pieces; the tendency of polished, metro-sharpened chefs to choose the region as the backdrop for their wildest dreams; the sophisticated offerings for vegans and vegetarians; and plenty of exposed brick, some of it at a former brick factory (see Sidebar).
When Great Barrington's Main Street got a new look last year, chef/owner Pierre Cum decided to refresh his neighborhood diner into GB Eats, updating the interior with light natural wood, local art, and an expanse of plate glass overlooking the Berkshire Hills. Locals have been loving the look and the refreshed menu. Essential components of a great diner—fine coffee, pancakes until midafternoon—are not abandoned but expanded upon: you can get the house blend as espresso or nitro-brewed and iced, and housemade blueberry compote on those pancakes ($7.50). For dinner, try a classic steak burger ($11) or a Berkshire Melt: mozarella, avocado and tomato on local Berkshire sourdough with a basil pesto ($10).
282 Main St, Great Barrington, MA. (413) 528-8226.
From the creative mind of the culinary virtuoso behind Angelina's Pizza and Brew in Cold Spring, the Tito Santana Taqueria and the Beacon Bread Company, comes Ziatun, combining Kamel Jamal's trademarks—friendly, intelligent service, hands-on kitchen management and plenty of healthy choices—with the savory dishes of his Middle Eastern heritage. People rave about the futur (served with warm pita, considered a breakfast dish but available all day), scratch-made falafel and hummus, and other Palestinian and Jordanian specialties. Reviewers have been known to wish Manhattan had food like this, but Jamal keeps locals in mind with the welcome and the reasonable prices—you can grab a falafel wrap or a beef and lamb shawarma sandwich for under $10.
244 Main Street, Beacon. (845) 765-8268;Ziatun.com.
Family-friendly, sparkling clean and warm, Grano Focaccetia's prices are pretty much what you'd expect in a pizza place; you can get a margherita slice for $2.50 and a calzone for $6. But that's where the similarity ends: Grano Focaccetia's winning friends and fans among people who previously believed that genuine Italian was only to be found in Little Italy. Artisanal thin crust piesa, mouthwatering meatballs, baked pasta and calzones made with smoked mozzarella are all winning raves, as does the kale salad. Wash it all down with a soft drink, a latte or a glass of wine or beer, and save room for some Jane's Ice Cream.
3182 Route 9, Cold Spring. (845) 666-7007;Granofocacceria.com.
New Paltz and surrounding folks have long embraced Lagusta's Luscious as a foodie brand. The name, she says, makes post office clerks think she makes exotic erotica; in fact, she makes sensual feasts for the tongue: fine handcrafted chocolates, veggie meals and, since 2011, her own line of truffles. This year she has opened Lagusta's Luscious Commissary, a coffee shop where she celebrates her adoration of "deep flavor, ethical sourcing, farmers, the food poor people around the world have always eaten, lactic acid fermentation, and noodles." Expect to find cheese plates, pickle plates, vegan deviled eggs and creative uses of whatever is freshest, along with slammin' tea and dessert, all of it organic, fair trade, vegan, reasonably priced and lovingly crafted.
11 Church Street, New Paltz.Facebook.com/LLCommissary.
Liberty Street Bistro
Michael Kelly fell in love with food in between bussing tables in nice places in his hometown of Cornwall and polished his craft at the CIA, graduating with honors and enjoying a stellar career in Manhattan. Having helped open Markus Glocker's Batard, which won the coveted James Beard Best New Restaurant Award in 2015, he headed back upriver; Manhattan's loss is Newburgh's gain, in the form of the approachably delicious Liberty Street Bistro. Exposed brick and a floor-to-ceiling front window overlooking Washington's Headquarters complement an exceptional prix fixe menu—suit your appetite and wallet with two, three or four courses ($36-$61) featuring delicacies like duck confit salad, steamed mussels and pan-seared octopus.
97 Liberty Street, Newburgh. (845) 562-3900; Libertystreetbistro.com.