Following in Eleanor Roosevelt’s footsteps is a pretty tall order. Yet Joseph Wilson, the owner of Joseph’s Steakhouse in Hyde Park, seems up to the task. The building that currently houses his restaurant once belonged to the famous First Lady as part of her Val-Kill property. In 1933 she began using it as a tearoom, where she entertained European royalty — including Britain’s Queen Elizabeth during the royal family’s famous 1939 visit. (Read more about the 1939 “Hot dog Summit” here.) After Roosevelt’s death, the edifice was reincarnated, first as a cabaret and then as an Italian restaurant; Wilson reinvented it as a steakhouse about a year and a half ago. To pay tribute to the building’s illustrious past, he also reopened the tearoom. From Tuesday through Sunday, guests can take afternoon tea as Eleanor and her visitors once did. A three-course tea, for $20 per person, includes a selection of finger sandwiches, homemade scones with strawberry butter, petit fours and truffles, and a pot of tea.
The main dining room manages the transition from elegant tearoom to American steakhouse, combining a sophisticated atmosphere with hearty American food. In keeping with Wilson’s penchant for history, he affectionately dubbed the dining area the “Sinatra Room,” since the legendary crooner’s songs are played continuously and photos from his Rat Pack days adorn the walls. The kitchen — which is staffed by a chef who spent 30 years at Poughkeepsie’s former Little Brauhaus, and another who hails from the nearby CIA — serves up killer Sauerbraten and crab cakes; but ultimately, Wilson says, “We’re all about a great steak.” There are 12 different beef dishes on the menu, all of which use certified Angus beef that has been dry-aged in-house for 30 days before it hits the plate.