Founded in 1984 by Suzanne “Sue” Taylor, Sweet Sue’s on Main Street in Phoenicia was a beloved breakfast and brunch spot that, like so many other restaurants at the height of the early pandemic, sadly closed up shop in the summer of 2020.
A major part of the appeal of Sweet Sue’s was that it was homey yet capacious, with a long stainless steel-topped counter and two ample rooms of tables where locals and tourists could post up on weekends for elevated, diner-adjacent fare like huevos rancheros, stuffed western omelets, and pancakes. Oh, the pancakes! The kitchen was known for expeditiously pumping out impossibly tall stacks of Sue’s secret-recipe, much-clamored-for flapjacks. They were crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and there were nearly a dozen iterations, from classic buttermilk and blueberry to buckwheat, pumpkin, cornmeal, and more.
On Memorial Day weekend, after almost a year of murmurs around town that someone had bought the restaurant’s building and the recipes for Sue’s pancakes, Sweet Sue’s quietly reopened under new ownership. In its new iteration as an all-day cafe, the spot offers a curated breakfast and lunch menu of pastries, sandwiches, and salads, and a coffee and espresso program developed by Jeff Bailey of Heavyfeather Roasting Co. The kitchen team is led by Tenzo Mountaine, a chef who’s worked in local kitchens at Menla, Blue Mountain Bistro to Go, and Full Moon Resort.
The pancakes, which till now haven’t yet graced the menu, are slated to make their much-anticipated return (along with indoor table service in one of the former dining rooms) in the classic buttermilk variation today, Friday, July 1. “We wanted to open showing that we’re more than just pancakes,” says Ben Crespi, manager of Sweet Sues Operations, LLC, which purchased the restaurant from Taylor in 2021.
And more than just pancakes there are. Crespi, who has a background in hospitality, developed much of the menu based on the comfort food dishes he’s long been making for his own children. There’s also an emphasis on house-smoked meats, which are the stars of the menu’s savory dishes. “There’s definitely an element of a breakfast smokehouse that we wanted to pull in,” Crespi says.
There’s the smoked salmon sandwich ($13), with pickled onions, capers, horseradish crema, and Nova-style Faroe Island salmon, which the kitchen cures for three days, air-dries for a day, then cold-smokes for 10 to 12 hours. A particularly unctuous variation on a reuben, here called the Marilyn ($13), features a combo of thick-sliced, house-smoked brisket, swiss, remoulade, and a shower of delicately fried crispy onions piled on a soft potato roll. On the classic BLT ($14), you’ll find “special bacon,” which—you guessed it—is also cured in-house, then cooked sous vide, and finished with a quick sear. For those with ambitious appetites, there are also the beer-braised ribs ($18) with ginger-scallion chili glaze and Hawaiian macaroni salad.
Lighter (and more vegetable-centric) options include the Green goddess salad ($14), with coconut herb dressing, cashew cheese, and rosemary lavash as well as the grilled peach summer cobb ($14), which features two grilled peaches, bacon, corn relish, asparagus, queso fresco, and radish.
For those with a sweet tooth to satisfy, there’s the Mexican hot chocolate ($5)—with a shot of espresso it becomes the Mexican shot chocolate ($6.50)—as well as the “best waffle ever” ($12), Crespi’s own cross between the thinner, crispier Brussels and thicker Leiges styles.
With the building sporting a fresh coat of charcoal paint, sunny yellow patio umbrellas perched out front, and customers streaming in and out of the double screen doors, there’s a palpable air of celebration about the restaurant’s triumphant return.
“There are so many restaurants opening in the Catskills right now that just feel the same,” says Crespi. “Reopening Sweet Sues was an opportunity to keep a local tradition alive that people have had a connection to for over 30 years.”
Sweet Sue’s Phoenicia
49 Main Street
Phoenicia, NY 12464