Effortless Ideal: The Village of Rhinebeck | Rhinebeck | Hudson Valley | Hudson Valley; Chronogram
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Effortless Ideal: The Village of Rhinebeck 

click to enlarge Rhinecliff Bridge, approaching Dutchess County. - PHOTO: JOHN GARAY
  • Photo: John Garay
  • Rhinecliff Bridge, approaching Dutchess County.

Set to the task of forming the ideal Hudson Valley town, the end result would probably look and feel a lot like the Village of Rhinebeck, NY. The elegant, historic beauty of its architecture enrobes excellent restaurants, shops, and a vibrant, engaged community.

What really breaths life into Rhinebeck is that while it offers up the relaxed high-end experience tourists flock in for, it's also unexpectedly egalitarian and commercially diverse. From food to shopping to entertainment, Rhinebeck feels open to all.

"To me, what we are trying to do is character preservation," says Village Mayor Gary Bassett. "What we strive to maintain, from historic buildings to new homes or new businesses, is our unique character. Add on top of that our streetscape, I just feel there's no other place on the Route 9 corridor like Rhinebeck. It's walkable, bikeable, and sustainable."

There has been a lot of growth and change over the past decade in Rhinebeck—more high-quality but also higher-priced businesses and restaurants have proliferated. A large new housing development and the soon to be completed, massive Mirbeau Inn and Spa are making their presence felt as well.

The question presents itself: How has Rhinebeck grown without subverting the community feel that drew that growth in the first place?

Fair (Weather) Friends

click to enlarge Students at Primrose Hill School in Rhinebeck. - PHOTO: JOHN GARAY
  • Photo: John Garay
  • Students at Primrose Hill School in Rhinebeck.

What many people say has remained the great cultural equalizer in Rhinebeck over the past 100 years is the Dutchess County Fairgrounds, tucked into 147 acres at the north end of the village. A welcome reminder that here is still an agricultural society in practice and at heart, the Fairgrounds attracts folks of all stripes. All season long they come, not just for the Fair itself but for car shows, antique fairs, swap meets, culinary events, and community gatherings. Fair visitors also spill into the village and whether they're getting comfort Americana at Pete's Diner or refined comfort Italian at Market St., the fairground's tide raises all boats.

"Our mission is the same after 100 years, and that's to promote agriculture. We are still doing that, just on a grander scale," says Andy Imperati, president of the fairgrounds. "Think of just the Sheep and Wool Festival. We get 20,000 to 40,000 people coming from everywhere in the country. We are happy to be able to expose Rhinebeck to people who've never seen it before."

Asked what other institutions exemplify Rhinebeck to him, Imperati, who started at the fairgrounds in the carpentry shop 25 years ago, pointed to Foster's Coach House Tavern, opened in 1890, and the Beekman Arms, founded in 1766. The neighboring establishments have been feeding generations of visitors and locals alike. Offering both traditional roadhouse fair and fine dining, the establishments show that having a little something for everyone has always been a part of the village's story.

Rhinebeck is a restaurant town. While Foster's and the Beekman Arms sit as historic icons at the intersection of Route 9 and Market Street, their modern equivalents, Terrpain and Gig Trattoria, are just down the block at the Livingston Street intersection. Both proffer thoughtfully sourced and crafted dishes and tailor the experience to your mood. At Terrapin, housed in a stately old church, you can get the full dining room treatment or take it easy in the jovial, cathedral ceilinged bar room. At Gigi's, founder Laura Pensiero says while they are striving to offer perfectly executed Mediterranean dishes that highlight the best ingredients, she puts a huge focus on making sure diners get the individual attention they're looking for. "We have an incredible service team and an environment where we hope people feel they've walked into a place run by a really professional family," says Pensiero. "Food is very emotional, and however you're feeling when you're here, I think our staff is great at being in tune and connected to our guests."

click to enlarge Jeff Mosher, Kelly Jones, Christian Matute, and Jacqueline Rusco at Aba’s Falafel in Rhinebeck. - PHOTO: JOHN GARAY
  • Photo: John Garay
  • Jeff Mosher, Kelly Jones, Christian Matute, and Jacqueline Rusco at Aba’s Falafel in Rhinebeck.

A Global Palate

Old and new, there are truly too many recommendable restaurants in Rhinebeck to mention, with 25 eateries within a radius of a few blocks.

Everyone around here has a strongly held bagel opinion, but Rhinebeck Bagels is undeniably one of the best shops in the region. Along with the classics are inventive sandwiches and shockingly creative specials that can include a Cubano or even a fully appointed bowl of ramen.

There's a notable cultural diversity to your restaurant options here too. From Thai at Aroi to Indian at Cinnamon and Aba's Falafel, whatever you're in the mood for is available at a rewarding caliber.

click to enlarge Jean Michel and Brian Tamm, co-owners of Megabrain Comics in Rhinebeck. - PHOTO: JOHN GARAY
  • Photo: John Garay
  • Jean Michel and Brian Tamm, co-owners of Megabrain Comics in Rhinebeck.
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