photo by Robert Hansen-Sturm (above)
Eating out in the Hudson Valley can be an event extraordinaire. After all, with the famed Culinary Institute of America in our midst and outstanding new restaurants opening each year, the region has transformed into an international foodie destination. And while the upper-crust eateries certainly serve their purpose (often quite nicely, we might add), sometimes you want to indulge in some delicious down-home cooking without breaking the bank. Or without spending even $20!
So we chowed down at restaurants throughout the region. After digesting it all, we came up with 14 restaurants that offer outstanding meals for less than $14 — many of them for a lot less. From Thai temptations to overstuffed Chilean sandwiches, we’ve got a variety of breakfasts, lunches and dinners that will please both your palate and your pocketbook. So leave your credit card at home and head out for a penny-pinching good time. (Unless otherwise noted, drinks, tax and tip are not included.)
By Laura Calhoon and Rita Ross
Photographs by Michael Nelson,
Robert Hansen-Sturm, and Jessica Brown
Meat Loaf $12
Blue Plate Restaurant 1 Kinderhook St., Chatham 518-392-7711; www.chathamblueplate.net
Meat loaf with mashed potatoes ranks high on nearly every red-blooded American’s list of favorite comfort foods. So it’s no surprise that folks literally come from near and far (the eatery is a favorite of locals and weekend travelers cruising to and from Manhattan on the nearby Taconic Parkway) to savor this restaurant’s version. The chef won’t reveal the secret to this meaty meal’s super success, but we believe it has something to do with the crispy bacon piled on top or the vital heaps of garlic mashed potatoes smothered in gravy. Or who knows, perhaps it’s the mustard and nutmeg mixed in to the pork-beef combination. We’re not sure. We just know we want more of it. “The meat loaf is a phenomenon. Regulars come in, look at the specials and get all upset. They say, â€˜I want to try that fish special, but I just have to have the meat loaf again,’ ” says manager Marcia Curran, who shares another little secret. “Most people have enough to take home for another meal.” Now, that’s a bargain.
Another soul-soothing pick is the hamburger “Blue Plate.” For $10, you can sink your teeth into an eight ounce ground-chuck burger accompanied with cabbage slaw and fries. And don’t worry if you’re not a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy (or gal). You can still savor a thrifty meal here — try a fish special or pasta with cauliflower and soba noodles, accompanied by stir-fried veggies ($15).
The Blue Plate seats about 75 diners and is housed in a 19th-century Victorian building in Chatham — but the environment is hardly formal. The table settings? Paper tableclothes and crayons.
Fish & Chips $5.95
Sea Deli 654 Broadway, Kingston. 845-338-5522
“We stuff the clams right here. We peel the shrimp. We’re not like any of those chain delis or restaurants. We do it the old-fashioned way, and we have customers who’ve been coming here all their lives,” says John Piccoli, who has been running this no-frills spot with his brother Frank since 1974. This eatery is reminiscent of a crab shack in Maine, except (of course) the view is, well, quite different. Sea Deli is not in Kingston’s most flourishing neighborhood (we’ll leave it at that), but it continues to reel in loyal customers with fantastically fresh seafood.
One side of the 29-seat Sea Deli boasts a fish stand where the likes of whiting, scallops, oysters, and haddock are sold by the pound. “Everything comes in fresh at least twice a week, straight from the Hunts Point Market,” says John. Customers especially clamor for the fish and chips or the clams ($5.95). “They’re fried in vegetable oil that’s cholesterol- and-trans-fat-free,” says John. Another popular pick is filet of sole or flounder ($7.95) with a side of steak fries, cole slaw and tartar sauce. But let’s be honest: nothing beats an all-you-can eat fest, and Sea Deli has three of them. Tuesday: fried clams ($7.95); Wednesday: fish ($7.95) and Thursday: all-you-can-eat shrimp for $9.70. It’s a deal that seems almost too fishy to be true!
The Big Breakfast $4-$9.15
You’ve got a few oversized meals to choose from here, but we’re going to start with the Californian Omelette. It may not be the cheapest omelette you’ve ever had. But when this gorgeous three-egg sensation — stuffed with avocado, tomato and Swiss cheese — shows up at your table, surrounded by expertly spiced home fries and toast, you know you’re getting your money’s worth. Owner Jeff Consaga shares a little secret: “We say our omelettes have three eggs, but lots of times they have more.” No kidding. These babies are huge — and you can mix and match three of eight or nine different ingredients to create your own. “I have some people who insist on adding all nine ingredients,” says Consanga. “That’s one big omelette.”
Next up: the overflowing 20-ounce bowl of piping-hot organic oatmeal. Purists prefer it plain, with just a bit of brown sugar ($3). Or you can opt for maple walnut oatmeal ($4.20) or top your bowl off with a crunchy cascade of raisins, walnuts, cinnamon, vanilla, maple syrup and sunflower seeds ($4.75). Another favorite, available only on weekends, is the Foundry’s multigrain pancakes ($7.25). For a little extra ($1 for the first topping, 50 cents for additionals) you can request that your flapjacks be slathered in blueberries, strawberries, chocolate chips, apples, bananas, walnuts, cinnamon or raisins. The cafe also offers soups, sandwiches, design-your-own salad plates, and a very popular wild rice and lentil cakes entrÃ©e for $10.95.
But it’s not just the chance to stuff yourself with fresh food that keeps an ongoing stream of regulars returning to the Foundry Cafe. The down-home, kitschy atmosphere — you’re constantly tempted to chat with complete strangers at neighboring tables — make this neighborhood joint a popular meet-and-greet spot on Cold Spring’s bustling Main Street. “I have a core group of locals who are here every morning,” says Consaga, who serves breakfast, lunch and brunch on the weekends. “Some of them come two times a day.”
Churrasco (steak sandwich) $5.50
Los Hornitos Bakery-CafÃ©. 1582 Route 9,
Sandwiched in a tiny strip mall on Route 9 in Wappingers Falls, Los Hornitos could easily be overlooked. The small Chilean bakery-cafÃ© might not draw you in with its appearance, but once hungry customers step inside, they almost always come back. And they bring other folks. “My friend took me there once, and now I bring my other friends for lunch all the time,” said one 22-year-old Poughkeepsie woman. “Their stuff is addicting!” That “stuff” is Latin breakfast and lunch fare — everything from piping-hot soups to hearty sandwiches and creamy desserts. Our recommendation: the Churrasco, a melt-in-your-mouth steak sandwich that is expertly paired with creamy avocado, tomato, cheese and mayo and stuffed into an amasado roll (a traditional heavy, rich bread that is hand-kneaded and baked in a wood-stoked oven). The Chilean owners, Hector and Monica Lorca, met at a famous restaurant in their home country, also called Los Hornitos. It was their hope to open an eatery of their own by the same name, and that dream came true in February of 2005. Monica’s South American-influenced combinations such as shredded chicken and rice in a creamy lentil soup give meals an exotic touch, but they are careful not to leave out standard favorites such as bagels, tuna — even BLTs. Smoothies with fresh fruits like mangoes and blackberries are blended behind the counter, and you can choose juices and sodas (both Latin and American) from the cooler. And as stuffed as you might be, please don’t forget the baked goods. One wall is lined with baskets containing an array of breads and rolls baked in their brick oven. A large display case features freshly baked cakes, cookies and other desserts, including Dulce de Leche, a thick, creamy caramel spread. Monica says that one of their most popular dessert items is the Tres Leches, an airy cake soaked in milk and topped with light icing and fresh fruit — a bargain at only $2.75. “It’s so good,” she says. “People sometimes ask for it for their wedding.”
All-Day Sunday Brunch $25
Oscar Restaurant 5945 Route 44/45, Kerhonkson 845-626-9838 www.oscarccc.com
When you’re heading to or from the New Paltz area on Route 44/55, there’s another reason to pull over besides the breathtaking views from the Shawangunk overlooks. In what we believe may be the region’s first “dining day pass,” Oscar Restaurant serves up a super deal with its Sunday “Bohemian Brunch.” For $25 per person, you can eat and drink their “contemporary country cooking” all day long, from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. But the great bonus is that you can come and go at your leisure between feedings. Yep, you can have a dish or three from their brunch menu — it includes everything from mussels and garlic bread to Caesar salad, pasta with chicken or salmon ravioli. Then go out for, say, a hike in nearby Minnewaska State Park and return to Oscar later for refueling. (Don’t worry, you don’t have to wear a neon bracelet. Diners get a receipt that permits them to return for more chow). “We got the idea from a customer. One day they came for breakfast, left, then came back again for lunch, and later came back for dinner, too,” says Oscar co-owner Bart Greenbaum. Booze is wisely limited to three drinks for the day (you certainly don’t want to be tipsy if you go rock-climbing on the Gunks). Their regular breakfast meal is a good deal, too: for $8 you can savor a fruit plate, fresh-squeezed O.J., coffee, and a choice of French toast on homemade cinnamon raisin bread; eggs or omelettes; homemade bagels; or buckwheat-and-wild-rice pancakes. Brunch is served only on Sundays, and breakfast only on weekends.
Soul Dog Sandwich $5.95
Soul Dog 107 Main St., Poughkeepsie. 845-454-3254; www.souldog.biz
t seems that you can teach an old dog new tricks after all. Especially if you’re the folks at Soul Dog, who have seemingly achieved the impossible: elevating the hot dog to a whole new culinary class. Walk through the doors of the fun-loving eatery on Poughkeepsie’s revitalized Main Street and load up a dog with one (or two or three) of their 17 inventive toppings, including Marsala mushrooms, bacon, caramelized onion, guacamole, spicy peanut sauce, or their own special “soul sauce” — a tomato-based concoction with roasted garlic, roasted corn, roasted jalapeÃ±o, and a touch of brown sugar. And health nuts take note: Soul Dog offers natural chicken dogs, veggie dogs and a variety of gluten-free breads, cookies and even beer. (The owners, Jenny and Adam Teague, both suffer from food allergies.) The fun continues right on to the fries: they’re hand-cut, chunky and soulfully seasoned.
The basic dogs start at $1.75, each topping is an extra 50 cents. A bowl of chili will fill you up, and if you like that oh-so-stuffed feeling, the Soul Dog Sandwich ($5.95) — basically a Sloppy Joe with ground turkey — might be right up your alley. What’s the strangest combination they’ve been asked to put together? “Someone requested the works: all 17 toppings on one hot dog. And he swore that it tasted good,” says Jenny. A more popular option is mixing the spicy peanut sauce and caramelized onion — “people love it,” Jenny says.
Mediterranean Salad $8.95
Temptations CafÃ© 801⁄2 Main St., Nyack 845-353-3355
A tasty sandwich or salad is always welcome; and Temptations Cafe does ’em right. Summertime favorites include the Mediterranean Salad ($8.95), brimming with artichoke hearts, grilled eggplant, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, red onions, pepperocini and tomatoes. It’s all topped off with crumbled feta cheese and a swirl of balsamic vinaigrette, then served over baby greens. Another surefire choice is the Mandarin Chicken Platter ($8.95). Here, grilled chicken on a bed of mixed greens is tossed with Gorgonzola cheese, chopped walnuts and juicy slices of mandarin orange. It’s served with a zesty sesame-ginger dressing.
Temptations seats 40 diners, and has cute, funky dÃ©cor, plus a popular outdoor cafe. You’ll know you’re not at McDonald’s when you try their homemade chicken tenders (6.95); they’re lightly breaded with seasoned panko bread crumbs, ready to dip in honey-mustard sauce. You can pick, too, from several overstuffed gourmet sandwiches ($7.50-$8.95) including jerk chicken, smoked salmon, roast beef and veggie & cheese. Their extensive dessert list (a make-your-own Old Fashioned Sundae is $5.95) offers — what else? — lots more temptations.
Som Tom Thai $4.50
If you have a passion for Thai food, chances are you’ve already emptied your pockets at several of the high-priced Thai eateries in the region. Wasana’s Thai is one place, however, that proves good Thai food doesn’t have to break the bank. With popular dishes like Pad Thai and not-so-common ones like Gla Doog Moo (spare ribs in a soy, garlic, and lime marinade), the Catskill restaurant’s menu is loaded with penny-saving specialties.
Owner Wasana Nicholos and her husband, Harold, a Culinary Institute grad, opened Wasana’s Thai in 1998 as a project to occupy her when she was pregnant. “I had a lot of crazy ideas,” she laughs. “I wanted to work and still be around my daughter, so I decided to open up a Thai restaurant, since I was born and raised in Thailand.” She describes the restaurant as a casual place where friends come to relax and enjoy good food. “I’m not out to get rich with this business,” Wasana asserts. “I just want to cook and introduce people to new foods.”
Some of these foods include an extensive selection of vegetarian items, which draw in a lot of business — more than half of their customers are vegetarian. The house salad ($3.25) with a classic peanut Thai dressing is a favorite, as is the Som Tom Thai, a shredded green papaya marinated with Thai chilies, ginger, garlic, lime juice, peanuts, and sugar palm. But veggie dishes aren’t all Wasana’s is known for. Nicholos says that their stir fries and noodle dishes, which can include everything from chicken and beef to shrimp and squid, are also a favorite with customers ($8-$9.95). Another can’t-miss is the spring roll appetizer ($2.30). Steamed and wrapped in thin rice paper, the shredded cabbage, crushed peanuts and cilantro mix together beautifully. Add some Thai iced tea and the sweet black-rice pudding topped with sweetened coconut milk ($4) and you’ve got a dinner fit for a king — although luckily, you don’t need to be one to afford it.
Loma Saltado $10.95
(beef strips and potato sauteed in garlic, tomato and onions)
Machu Picchu Peruvian Restaurant
301 Broadway, Newburgh
In 2004, The Economist magazine said that “Peru can lay claim to one of the world’s dozen or so great cuisines.” And for 17 years, Machu Picchu has been quietly proving that point to Hudson Valley residents in the know. The restaurant is run by Todd Mullins (he’s American), and his Peruvian wife Cristina, who is the daughter of Sixta Calderon, the restaurant’s original founder. While customers in the early days drew mostly from Newburgh’s small Peruvian population or its many Latino neighbors, “Nowadays we get a diverse crowd from all around the region,” notes Todd.
They must have heard about the mounds of food and friendly service. In fact, as soon as you step inside the 60-seat eatery and see the mahogany bar with inlaid stone, you feel as though you’re about to have an exotic encounter. The dining room is simple; its highlight is a copper and bronze wall sculpture of the restaurant’s namesake, the ancient Inca fortress city perched high in
The action starts at breakfast, which isn’t surprising, considering you can chow down on a meal of a pork, pepper and egg-stuffed tamale for a budget-saving $3. Or for $7.95, sample Tacu Tacu, a typical Peruvian breakfast comprised of diced tomato sauce, fresh garlic and onions, all mixed with rice and beans — definitely enough to keep you fueled up for hours.
Lunch specials change daily. For $8.65 you might indulge in a bowl of homemade soup (such as Chupe de Pescado: chunks of fish in a blend of rice, potato, peas and carrots), although many find it enough for dinner, too. Arroz Con Pollo ($11.95), the traditional chicken and rice combo made Peruvian-style with coriander and vegetables, is also a crowd-pleaser; while the whole rotisserie chicken (with secret seasonings), served with jumbo French fries, is more than enough for two to share at $13.80. The Loma Saltado, beef with potatoes ($10.95), is luscious.
Round out your meal with a traditional Peruvian drink like Inca Kola ($1.50), or Cusquena lager ($4.50).Or, perhaps now is the time to finally try a Pisco Sour ($7), Peru’s national drink. Pisco, a potent South American brandy-like liqueur is distilled from grapes, but the cocktail includes sugar, lime, bitters and even raw egg white. (Trust us, many folks think this tart drink tastes better than it sounds.) In fact, the Pisco Sour is now enjoying its day in the sun — becoming a much more requested drink at watering holes all around our region.
The Breakfast Special $1.95
This funky, friendly restaurant in New Paltz is a favorite with students at the local college, but everyone from families to elderly couples can be seen happily munching on a variety of reasonably priced meals. Although the Main Street Bistro has a great lunch menu, including hearty sandwiches and mouthwatering veggie burgers, it is known about town for its breakfast selections. From warm veggie frittatas to poached eggs to melt-in-your-mouth buttermilk pancakes, there’s something to suit every early-morning craving. The most raved-about breakfast item, however, is what the menu claims is “the best deal in New Paltz.” We agree. For what amounts to pocket change ($1.95), you can join the legions who love The Breakfast Special: two eggs cooked any way you like, hot home fries, and a side of healthy whole-wheat toast. And no, the portions are not small, and yes — this special is good on the weekends too!
“My theory is that it gives people an option,” says owner Doug Thompson. “Say you come in with your family or friends and just want something simple. It gives you that choice.” There’s also an in-house bakery that churns out all kinds of baked goods and desserts, and an extensive beer and wine list with selections from all around the globe. But how can they afford to offer such tasty fresh food and drink at equally enticing prices? Thompson says the answer lies in the question. “It’s because of the high-quality food that we are able to offer such reasonable prices,” he asserts. “Customers appreciate quality and keep coming back, and with all the business we get, we can afford to keep our prices low.” We’ll buy that.
Four More Standouts:
Beef Wunderbar $14
Wunderbar & Bistro 744 Warren St., Hudson
Thin slices of braised beef served with a root sauce and potato dumplings is wonderful, just like the rest of the hearty fare at this casual Austrian favorite.
Salad Sampler $6.25
Apple Pie Bakery CafÃ© Culinary Institute of America, Poughkeepsie 845-225-3933; www.ciachef.edu/restaurants/apbc
A taste of all their outrageously fresh salads will delight your palate. But the real deal is getting to eat at the esteemed CIA for pocket change.
Super Breakfast $5.95
Three eggs, home fries, toast, your choice of meat, coffee and juice, all topped off with a gorgeous view of Lake Gleneida.
Express Lunch and Dinner $4.99
Samosa House 986 Main St., Fishkill. 845-896-1300;
Vegetarian Indian fast food? Who knew? There’s a choice of two curries (we like the spinach one), an appetizer (try the Samosa Chaat — with chick peas), puffy basmati rice, naan or poori bread, and a sweet treat (it looks sort of like an eraser). Overall, this is a fresh and simple dining find.