Gunk Haus: A Slice of Bavaria in Clintondale | Restaurants | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
Gunk Haus: A Slice of Bavaria in Clintondale (2)
Courtesy of Mike McGregor Photography
Sunset over Gunk Haus.
Nothing warms your bones on a cold winter day better than a hearty meal, good drink, and laughter. The Gunk Haus in Ulster County is a countryside destination that retains the feel of a best-kept secret while scooping up Hudson Valley Magazine awards in a range of categories: Best Burger, Best German Restaurant, Best View, and Best Outdoor Dining—all while also holding a very favorable Zagat listing.

This German gastropub is located in one of those cunning little pockets of the Middle of Nowhere that are actually quite easy to get to from almost everywhere. It’s in Clintondale, NY, just minutes from Poughkeepsie, Gardiner, and New Paltz, in the heart of apple country. In another era, migrant farm workers partied to reggae in this building when it was the Hollywood Bar.  Since 2012 it has been the passion project of CIA-schooled chef Elizabeth Steckel and her German-born partner Dirk Schalle. The two tossed aside day jobs down in Washington D.C. to bring the Hudson Valley just the Bavarian gasthaus it needed. Gunk, of course, is inspired by the stunning ridge which can be seen in its full panoramic glory from the large deck. Schalle, your host in lederhosen, wanted to recreate the warm vibes he recalled back home in the Free State of Bavaria—and when Gunk Haus opened its doors nearly a decade ago, savvy local eaters and Hudson Valley visitors quickly fell in love with the German food and welcoming ambiance.

The 1830s building glows with color, warm wood, exposed beams, and a flood of afternoon light as the sun sets over the Shawangunk ridge. The welcome and service are intelligently friendly and will draw you in and kindle a deep understanding of why Bavarian-style chillin’ is world-renowned.

German Grub

And the food! Steckel cooks German classics with an updated flair, using as many fresh local ingredients as she can get her hands on. Her French fries alone are worth the trip. Warm up with smoked mussel and monkfish stew, pretzel and obatzda, stuffed mushrooms or fried herring as a starter.
Lunch choices include an ample selection of sausage and wurst-themed dishes along with veggie choices that are clearly no afterthought, like sweet potato strudel and a grilled apple and brie panini. Dinnertime adds indulgent choices like duck breast and short ribs. You’ll most certainly want to save room for pastries, and perhaps take some to go at the bake shop. 

Schalle is the beverage guy and delights in things like specialty “warm winter” cocktails, the finest local brews, German pilsners, and after-dinner digestifs: brandied eggnog, Viennese coffee made with fireball cinnamon whiskey and fudge “drizzel,” fruit schnapps, Barenjaeger honey liqueur.

You may not have the time at the moment to hop over to the Alps and relish this level of coziness, but Clintondale is entirely doable. Wander off the beaten path to the Gunk Haus for fare fills your tummy, heart-lifting sunsets, and that wonderful sensation of journeying to a world that’s just different enough to amaze, yet comfortable as your favorite armchair.

Anne Pyburn Craig

Anne's been writing a wide variety of Chronogram stories for over two decades. A Hudson Valley native, she takes enormous joy in helping to craft this first draft of the region's cultural history and communicating with the endless variety of individuals making it happen.
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