A few years back, Rosendale was bookended—both geographically and ideologically—by 32 Lunch, no-nonsense blue-collar diner, on one end, and Rosendale Cafe, vegan, hippie cafe with brown rice and a weekly salsa night, on the other. Now, 32 Lunch’s successor, Truss & Trestle is trying to span the gap with fresh-made American diner classics that appeal to everyone.
Local stone mason Gerard Swarthout spent countless lunches sitting at the counter at 32 Lunch, watching the steady trickle of customers, the town drama, the political debates, and anecdote-swapping. “It was 20 years of market research,” he says. “This place was not so fancy, but you could still get a good egg sandwich. I knew what a gold mine it could be.”
Though he’s spent the last two decades running his company Bluestone Stone Masonry, Swarthout has long held dreams of getting into the restaurant business. He had already bought a corner-lot building down in the Rondout district of Kingston, with plans to return it to its century-long status as a neighborhood bar, when 32 Lunch closed. “I had that project in my sights, then this came up on the market,” he says. “I thought, ‘I can’t let this go. I can’t just have any hipster take this place.”
Swarthout, who has traveled the world from Iceland to Thailand, Costa Rica to Hong Kong, has a love of life’s finer things. But he also knew that caviar and expensive wine weren’t necessarily what Rosendale needed, or could sustain, year-round. Located on the side of Route 32, the restaurant is in the functional but sleepy Fann’s Plaza. Anchored by the supermarket, with a Dollar General, takeout pizza, Chinese food, and a laundromat, the strip mall is a highly trafficked if unromantic cornerstone of local life.
So Swarthout set out to pick up where 32 Lunch left off, stepping up the diner classics, a culinary repertoire that both appeals to a broad base of people and is close to his heart. “My mom was a diner waitress,” he says. “I have a love of diner food. That was the first place I ever had a club sandwich, the first place I tried Greek food.” (This side door into international flavors proved to be an important stepping stone in the evolution of Swarthout’s culinary tastes, and by high school, he was skipping class to head down to the city to try all the things he couldn’t get in Kingston in the ’90s, like Thai and Indian.) “Diner food appeals to everyone,” he says. “You don’t alienate everyone.”
Like any diner worth its salt, Truss and Trestle, is open seven days a week. Breakfast, served most of the day, includes eggs and home fries, breakfast sammies, challah French toast, or, if you're feeling spendy, steak and eggs. Lunch and dinner are anchored by deli classics a la tuna melt, reuben, burger, turkey club, and cheesesteak. Gyro meat is a fun addition to the standard sides of bacon and sausage patty.
Swarthout takes a discerning, matter-of-fact approach to his menu and food prep, putting in the work where it makes sense. Things like the corned beef, pastrami, and brisket are brined and smoked onsite, the fries are hand-cut, but the tater tots—not so much. The crabcakes for the BLT special are made in-house, the cod for the fish and chips is fresh. He flexes his culinary muscles on the specials menu with things like prime rib or smoked salmon with basmati rice. “I try to keep it classic. If people are really digging the specials, I put them on the menu,” he says. “Right now, I’m calling it the ‘To-Govid menu.’ I’m sure by this time next year, it’ll be different.”
Swarthout admits to being a fine-dining guy. “But you can’t eat fine dining every day. You can find something on the menu to eat here every day—even if it’s just the chicken salad.” To this end, he is gratified by the roster of regulars Truss and Trestle already has—some inherited from 32 Lunch, many new.
The inside of the building is a hip mix of metal and raw wood, and a low-key homage to the area’s history, with diner booths saved from Uptown Grill (RIP), a bartop made out of pine reclaimed from Mid-City Lanes bowling alley, and pews salvaged from a church in Watervliet. Swarthout gutted the space himself last winter, revealing the namesake trusses, which echo Rosendale’s iconic trestle, giving birth to the name and the design concept. “When I found them, I thought, ‘I can work with this,’” he says. “The first diners were in decommissioned train cars. I wanted to make it an old-school sensibility with a modern touch.” The trusses tied in Rosendale’s industrial history and the wood freshened it up.
The bar’s four tap lines are currently dry, but until they run, find canned and bottled beer ranging from domestic to craft, Corona to Arrowood Farms, as well as a selection of wines by the glass and bottle and a full bar. Outside, Swarthout has built an outdoor patio for eventual outdoor dining. Come warmer weather, he’ll level up his smoker game, offering things like pulled pork and chicken wings alongside the brisket already on the menu. “Roadside barbecue and diner food goes hand-in-hand,” Swarthout says.