When the Rosendale Cafe opened its doors in 1993 in what is now the 1850 House Inn & Tavern, the town—and indeed the entire Hudson Valley—was a very different place. Susan Dorsey Morganstern fell in love with the original space, previously a shop called Junk & Foibles, and offered to rent it from the owner on a whim, thinking the town could do with a little cafe.
Morganstern didn’t have any service industry experience beyond waiting tables at a pub and had no elaborate food plans for the cafe beyond perhaps some baked goods to go with the coffee. But the customers came in droves hungry for more than just a sweet treat, and soon the kitchen was churning out vegetarian lunch and dinner items plus an expanded selection of baked goodies. As business grew and grew, the cafe was always full and Morganstern’s husband Mark, a musician, began booking live shows for the weekends and bands would play to a packed house.
In 1998, with the cafe bursting at the seams, Morganstern was able to buy the building at 434 Main Street and move the business across the street. Her culinary proposition—to serve up tasty vegan and vegetarian homecooking—was years ahead of its time, and yet the business immediately found its permanent place in the community—a little bit blue-collar, a little bit hippie—as a bookend of Main Street.
With its big glass storefront windows offering a peek at the buzz inside and the ornate, second-story porch hanging off the side of the 19th-century Victorian, the building at 434 Main Street is an iconic landmark in Rosendale. Inside, the scuffed wood floors have seen two decades of shuffling feet for Thursday night salsa lessons and open dance. The Rosendale Cafe has hosted live music sets by locals and big names alike, open mic nights, poetry events, fundraisers, and club meet-ups as well as supporting community artists with exhibitions. There were always local craft beer on tap and the famed vegan Japanese salad dressing for sale by the bottle.
For 29 years, Susan and co. served up vegetarian spins on all-American comfort food classics like the fakin-bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich for breakfast or the FLT for lunch, spinach lasagna, seitan gyro, mushroom tofu stroganoff, and infinite bowls, salads, and soups. The Rosendale Cafe was serving a tempeh reuben on multigrain bread long before that was the sandwich du jour of today’s vegan elite. And the vegan coconut cake would knock your socks off. Over the past two years, the business has earned multiple Chronogrammies nominations for readers’ favorite vegetarian and vegan restaurant as well as in the performance space category.
So it came as a surprise, when the family announced on its website that the restaurant would be “taking a hiatus” as of October 1. The note from the family goes on to say “We are eternally grateful for your enthusiasm and friendship. There are so many good memories we can all take with us.”
The Main Street building isn’t currently for sale, so it’s hard to know if this is indeed a pause as implied or a permanent end to the Rosendale Cafe legacy. Either way, for those of us that cut our teeth on that dance floor, met someone at the bar, celebrated an anniversary, or simply stopped in regularly for cake and coffee, we will remember the coziness of that place with infinite fondness.