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Bargain dining doesn’t have to mean processed food at some soulless national chain. There are eateries in the Valley with plenty of personality, where the cooking’s fresh, and the prices won’t break the bank. And many savvy restaurateurs are offering such recession-busting specials, you couldn’t even make the meals at home for the money. Some of the spots we’ve rounded up may not suit confirmed fancypants foodies — but the fare’s wholesome and the bottom line’s a steal.

» First stop: Big W’s Roadside Bar-B-Q, Wingdale

 

 

Big W's Roadside Bar-B-Q slow chickenBig W’s slow chicken feast

Big W’s Roadside Bar-B-Q

1475 Rte. 22, Wingdale
845-832-6200

The deal: Slow Chicken

Slow chicken is not a reflection on the mental capacity of the chickens themselves,” says Big W (aka Warren Norstein), in a variation on his joke that the slow ones are easier to catch. Get him started, and he’ll launch into a brief dissertation on what happens to the protein, albumin, fat, and collagen in meat when it’s heated, and how you wind up with “wonderful liquids” if you cook in water, and “wonderful things still in the meat” with the slow-smoke method he uses.

Norstein, who cooked for 16 years in posh restaurants like Bouley and Chanterelle, became a barbecue wizard in 2003, after he and his brother fabricated a smoker out of a steel drum. “I’d never even eaten barbecue, except ribs that had been thrown on the grill,” he says. “We made two smokers and it worked. I said, ‘Let’s try and sell this stuff!’ I found a guy in Georgia who built me a mobile smoker.”

Norstein turns out a range of slow-cooked meats, sold in three portion sizes: “roadside,” “sensible,” and “truly sensible”

Each afternoon, Norstein parked the smoker on Route 22 in Pawling, not far from his house. “I’d sell out every day,” he says. “Sometimes in just 45 minutes. The crowds would line up at four o’clock, and if I was a minute late my cell phone would start buzzing. It was fun, and disarming — there’s no correct etiquette when you go to the lawn of a collision shop to buy dinner, so people were much freer. They’d tell me about their lives. It was a perk I never anticipated.”

Big W's beef brisket

Warren (Big W) Norstein (right), chef and owner of Big W’s Roadside Bar-B-Q, shows off his beef brisket sandwich and sides ($8.50)

Warren "Big W" Norstein

Three years ago, the affable Norstein set up in a former deli in Wingdale, where customers can eat in. “It’s not fancy — I think Zagat rates it a 7,” he admits, laughing at the low score for looks. But his food rates a 26, up in the stratosphere with the illustrious restaurants where he once cooked.

Burning shag hickory, stone cherry, and oak in two-ton smokers, Norstein turns out a range of slow-smoked meats, sold in three portion sizes: “roadside,” “sensible,” and “truly sensible.” Those in the mood for what one reviewer called “some serious gluttony” can load the table with the $65 sampler — a rack of ribs, a chicken, a pound each of pulled pork and brisket, and four sides, which include smokey beans, jasmine Thai dirty rice, mashed potatoes, and mac and cheese.

That delectable slow chicken is $14 for a whole one with a side; $8 for a half. “It’s a large bird smoked for five-and-a-half to six hours in a savory rub, so the texture is closer to a soft terrine,” Norstein explains. “You’ll never see a stringy bird.”

» Next stop: Fred’s Place, Lake Katrine

 

 

Fred’s Place

11 Lohmaier Ln., Lake Katrine
845-383-3883

The deal: Three-course meals for $13.95

If you’ve driven on Route 209 near the Saugerties exit, you’ll surely have spotted Fred’s Place across the grassy verge, although how to actually get to it remains a mystery to many. “I know. We’re putting up signs with arrows,” says the owner, Cynthia Wadnola.

For many years, the sign on the building was “Cynfre’s,” Cynthia’s well-regarded bakery and catering company that she closed in 2000. Fred’s Place, which is now four years old, is named for her husband, a retired naval lieutenant commander whose 26 years in the service you’ll see reflected in pictures of ships and other memorabilia that makes up much of the restaurant’s decor. (Nowadays, you’ll find him a genial host, tending bar.)

Everything is made in-house. “And I’m Italian,” Wadnola says, “so the Italian food is excellent”

Fred’s favorite foods make up much of the menu, too. “He’s been my inspiration for 42 years,” says Cynthia. Fred’s top favorites are dishes beloved of most red-blooded American guys: meatloaf and pot pie. Cynthia, who is a certified executive chef, sometimes takes off in fancier directions with the eclectic fare she describes as “new-fashioned home cooking. (Think grilled salmon in an apple, panko, and pecan sauce.) Everything is made in-house, using local produce when possible, and herbs from the garden. “And I’m Italian,” she says, “so the Italian food is excellent.”

Despite the confusing location, weekenders and locals find their way to the cozy red, white, and blue dining room — particularly on nights when the specials are on offer. We Appreciate You Wednesdays, Thank You For Your Patronage Thursdays, and plain Thank You Sundays offer a three-course meal for only $13.95 — with wine deals to match.

On Wednesdays and Thursdays, the bill of fare is similar. “You get an amuse-bouche when you arrive, hummus with garlic points,” says Cynthia. “Then a choice of soup or salad, and maybe tilapia francese, or beef stew, or a boneless pork chop milanese. Then a dessert, like chocolate mousse cake or apple streusel.” On Sundays, she dispenses a turkey dinner with grilled vegetables, garlic mashed potatoes and, of course, cranberry sauce.

And her own favorite dish? “That’s a tough question. I love the veggie burger — everybody does. The chicken in Champagne sauce is one of my favorites, too, because sauces are my favorite thing to do.”

» Next stop: Earth Foods, Hudson

 

 

Earth Foods organic-flour pizzaEarth Foods’ own organic-flour pizza

Earth Foods

523 Warren St., Hudson
518-822-1396

The Deal: Shepherd’s pie

Although this casual breakfast and lunch spot is “safe for vegans,” as co-owner Duffy Sanchez puts it, it’s not just a crunchy-granola temple where carnivores feel like pariahs. The eclectic fare — much of it organic, and all made from scratch, including the bread — includes Cuban and Greek salads, enormous egg burritos, wraps, pizza (with organic dough), couscous, chili, chicken dishes, and hearty soups. “The Bombay vegetable soup for $4.50 is a meal in itself,” Sanchez declares. “And the squash soup is divine.” Sandwiches and wraps run around $6 to $8. The shepherd’s pie, for $10.95, became such a popular cold-weather dish, it’s now on the menu year-round.

Sanchez and her husband, Salvador, opened the restaurant in 1997, and it’s been a pit stop for hordes of antiquers, Hudson locals, and weekenders ever since, as well as a haven for those with dietary concerns.

The Bombay vegetable soup for $4.50 is a meal in itself, and the squash soup is divine

Salvador, who grew up in the Canary Islands, learned the restaurant business in England, and cooked aboard Cunard liners, which helps explain the international influences. “What I’m good for is testing recipes at home,” adds Duffy, who tried many of them out on their five kids. The couple lives in Austerlitz, on a mini farm (“chickens, ducks, dogs, tractors”) that provides eggs and some of the produce for the cafe.

The mood is easygoing in the storefront space, which has just 11 tables, a small bar, a deli section, and an open kitchen in back, “where everyone can see what’s going on, and hear me fighting with my husband,” Sanchez jokes. Works by local artists add color to the rustic room.

Duffy Sanchez of Earth Foods Earth Foods’ shepherd’s pie

Earth Foods owner Duffy Sanchez (left) with a plate of shepherd’s pie, widely touted as “the best”

There’s no liquor license, but Sanchez is enthusiastic about the organic juices. “One, with apple, beet, lemon and ginger, is so good for you, we think it’s keeping people from getting swine flu,” she declares. “And if you need an additional quota of antioxidants, there’s the blueberry-strawberry juice.”

And that shepherd’s pie? “It’s touted as the best,” she replies. “It’s made with lamb, corn, peas, carrots, onions, celery, garlic, tomatoes, and spices, with mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese melted on top.” It’s a big portion that could satisfy two, especially if each had a salad to start, she adds. “And I probably shouldn’t say this, but the salads are large enough to share, as well. A real bargain.”

» Next stop: Bell’s Café-Bistro, Catskill

 

 

Bell’s Café-Bistro

387 Main St., Catskill
518-943-4070

The deal: Frugal Thursdays

Coming in off the street, you’d think you were in a European bistro,” declares Keith McMorrow, who owns this charming little café in Catskill along with his wife, Yael Manor-McMorrow. Both cook the eclectic fare, which borrows from the cuisines of Mediterranean countries ranging from France and Italy to the Middle East and Israel (where Yael grew up), so many dishes come dressed up with spices such as sumac, cumin, and zhug (a kind of spicier harissa from Yemen).

“It’s frugal, but not minimal”

Although McMorrow hastens to point out that the café doesn’t really qualify as a budget dining spot, prices are fair, and the most expensive thing on the menu now — panko and herb-crusted lamb chops with grilled asparagus and roasted red potatoes — is a reasonable $28.

On Frugal Thursdays, diners can try various dishes and specials for just $10. And not a sampling, but the full dish, McMorrow says. “It’s frugal but not minimal.” Expect to find tantalizing offerings such as country pâté, lobster ravioli, avocado spring rolls, beef kebabs, and perhaps cassoulet in colder months.

The café occupies the ground floor of a late 1800s building that was one of Catskill’s fixer-uppers when the couple, who were weekenders looking to escape New York City, bought it and helped boost the town’s ongoing revival. McMorrow, who is from Queens, was not long ago a FedEx employee suffering burnout. “I always enjoyed cooking, and I wanted a change,” he says. “So I went to culinary school — and now here I am.” Yael studied at the French Culinary Institute and is responsible for the café’s scrumptious desserts.

Bell’s has been a fixture in Catskill for over 60 years. When the McMorrows bought the building they decided to keep the name, although they revamped the luncheonette interior, removing the booths and adding wood tables and classic cane chairs from France. The walls are a “light croissant color,” says McMorrow, faux finished and hung with one of Yael’s paintings and some Kandinsky posters. “It’s very simple,” he says. “The focal point is the food.”

» Next stop: Loughran’s Irish Pub, Salisbury Mills

 

 

Loughran’s Irish Pub

10 Schoolhouse Rd., Salisbury Mills
845-496-3615

The deal: $13.95 prime rib dinner

We call ourselves the Hudson Valley’s happiest Irish pub,” says Jim Loughran, the chuckly fellow who owns this friendly watering hole, and who is “100 percent Irish” himself, although by way of Brooklyn. Loughran has been keeping the cheer quotient high in Orange County for the past 24 years, and no doubt added to it when he introduced his Monday-through-Thursday special: a prime rib dinner for a mere $13.95. Portions here are generous anyway, but, as one critic noted, the hunk of prime “looks large enough to satisfy a grizzly bear.” How enormous is it? Loughran’s stock answer: “Just say Jim’s afraid to weigh it.”

You’ll find the usual roster of Buffalo wings, burgers, steaks, chops, seafood and other pubby favorites, all prepared by Loughran’s son, Patrick, along with co-chefs Michael Palmer and Ian McCaw, and all priced fairly. “But the prime rib is absolutely the most popular,” Loughran says. It’s slow roasted, and comes with a salad, and boiled potatoes or Schunnemunk Mountain mashed. “Everyone calls theirs Rocky Mountain mashed, but we’ve got our own mountain,” Loughran says. “People also come in for the pork chops — they’re crazy good, with a special dry rub. And we have incredible seafood cakes — shrimp, scallop, and crab cakes in lobster sauce.” Irish brews include the new 250th anniversary stout from Guinness.

One critic noted, the hunk of prime “looks large enough to satisfy a grizzly bear”

Diners can eat in the pub side, or in the dining room, where lace cloths on wooden tables add a touch of the old country. Thursdays, there’s the bonus of Irish music, courtesy of a trio called Parting Glass, who play button accordion, tin whistle, harmonica, and guitar. “And they harmonize beautifully,” Loughran says. “People sing along, it’s a lot of fun. Of course, there are some sad songs, too, typical of the Irish.”

Also typical in an Irish pub is the cast of regular characters at the bar. “We get all ages, a few low-key actors, and the discussions get very interesting,” Loughran reports. “One guy is a retired cameraman for CBS who won three Emmys. Two of them are on display here. That’s the kind of place this is — people feel comfortable bringing their Emmys here.”

» Next stop: Whistling Willie’s American Grill, Cold Spring

 

 

Whistling Willie’s American Grill

184 Main St., Cold Spring
845-265-2012

The deal: $10.95 midweek specials

If you come into my bar — well, I hate to say it’s like Cheers, but everyone knows everyone,” says Bill Sohan, who opened Whistling Willie’s in 2007 in the spot that used to be Henry’s on the Hudson. Sohan brightened up the interior, tore out the sushi bar and added a “listening room,” where singer/songwriters perform on Thursdays. Henry’s ex-chef, Johnny Cortez, who’s also done stints at the Garrison and Silo Ridge in Amenia, mans the stove. “He’s an outstanding chef,” announces Sohan. “And he makes a mean soup — a different soup every day.”

Cortez’s menu covers all the grill basics and adds a few flourishes like ahi tuna and pan-roasted duck in Madeira sauce. A range of burgers — each 12 ounces, about 12 bucks at dinner, and “pure heaven” according to the menu — include veggie and turkey options.

“If you come into my bar — well, I hate to say it’s like Cheers, but everyone knows everyone”

Sohan says he set out to please the locals, “as evidenced by my happy hour and weekly specials.” Happy hour actually runs from 4 until 7 p.m., with tap beers and all appetizers half price (the chicken quesadilla and Tuna Tar Tar are favorites).

But those $10.95 midweek specials are the real crowd-pleasers. On Tuesday, it’s a chicken dinner, perhaps chicken stuffed with asparagus, smoked gouda and sun-dried tomatoes. (“Outstanding,” votes Sohan.) Wednesday, it’s the 12-ounce grilled rib-eye that usually goes for $22.95. (“We almost always sell out.”) And Thursday is pasta night, when you can choose any of the pasta dishes on the menu.

Sohan, who was a banker before launching an Italian restaurant in Fishkill, retired in 2005, discovered “it’s not what it’s cracked up to be,” and came out of retirement again to open Whistling Willie’s, named after his grandfather. Enthusiastic as he is about the fare, Sohan seems equally keen on the music he presents — the “listening room” singers, the performers in the restaurant on weekends, and even the amateurs who come for Wednesday night’s open mike. “A tremendous amount of talent comes through those doors,” he says. “If you play an instrument, please come in.”

» Next stop: Cheryl’s Fried Fish & Soul Food, Middletown

 

 

Cheryl's Fried Fish & Soul Food fish & chipsThe fish and chips dish at Cheryl’s Fried Fish & Soul Food

Cheryl’s Fried Fish & Soul Food

24 East Main St., Middletown
845-343-5565

The deal: Fried fish and the mini menu

I used to cook big fish fries for fund-raisers for my church in Warwick and make a lot of money,” recalls Cheryl Santiago. “Everyone kept saying, ‘You should do this for a living.’ ” After she lost her job in the entertainment industry because of the faltering economy, Santiago decided to do just that. In 2005, she opened this little cafe, dispensing not just her famous fried fish, but also many of the homey dishes she’s been feeding her family for years.

“I inherited my ability to cook from my grandmother,” Santiago announces. “She was from St. Croix, and she was a fantastic cook. She got up early, took her bath, and cooked all day. I was a big conversationalist, so I’d sit in the kitchen so I’d have someone to talk to. Her skills must have gone into me.”

Grandma’s influence shows up in Caribbean soul food like curried goat and oxtails

Santiago’s husband, Julio, is a contractor who transformed the floorless, empty shell on Middletown’s Main Street into a neat, simple eatery. “I’m passionate about seeing people enjoy my food,” says Santiago. “I’m getting such a diverse group — people come from Poughkeepsie, from Monticello, from every direction.”

Cheryl’s Fried Fish & Soul Food collard greens and chicken

Cheryl Santiago, chef and owner of Cheryl’s Fried Fish & Soul Food, with the mini fish plate (with mac and cheese and collard greens)

Cheryl Santiago

Prices are good to begin with, but the new “mini menu” — lighter (but not skimpy) portions of regular menu offerings — has proved a real success. It features the crispy fish sandwich, wings, curried chicken and the like for $5.50, or heartier items like smothered pork chops or barbecued ribs for $7.50.

Naturally, fried chicken is a big seller. (“Freshly fried when you come,” notes Santiago. “Not sitting for who knows how long — that’s when it becomes greasy.”) Grandma’s influence shows up in Caribbean soul food like curried goat and oxtails. “Oh my goodness, oxtails run out the door — people get four dinners at a time,” Santiago says, explaining her recipe (sort of): “They’re broiled to get the fat off; then they go in the pressure cooker, which tenderizes them; then when they’re almost cooked I do all this other secret stuff.” Sides like mac and cheese and seasoned collard greens “are to die for,” she declares, while the blackened salmon steak ($11 for a full order) has proved a surprising hit with the young crowd. “They can’t get enough of it.”

» Next stop: Cave Mountain Brewing Company, Windham

 

 

Cave Mountain Brewing Company

5359 Rte. 23/Main St., Windham
518-734-9222

The deal: Taco night

“Unexpectedly delicious!” declares one online reviewer of the pub grub at this year-old brewery. No surprise, four nights of the week, the specials are beverages. But the other three nights, the deals are on food. Monday is $1 taco night; Tuesday, it’s $5 for chicken wings (about 10 to a serving, mild or hot, with sauces to jazz them up); Wednesday you get fish and chips for $5.

The tacos — hearty nibbles made with beef, lettuce, tomato, and cheese — are the big favorite, reports Amber Adams, who opened the brewery with her chef husband, Tim, last fall. “There seems to be a competition for who can eat the most — I think the record is 21.”

The young couple (he’s 36, she’s 24), worked in restaurants before turning their home-brewing hobby into a venture that Tim describes as “a large home brewery, or a miniature microbrewery.” The conical fermenters, on view in the pub, allow them to make only ales, but those range from lighter brews to richer stouts, as well as some fruit and wheat beers. There’s no beer snobbery though — if you want a Bud, they have it, as well as a full bar for the margarita/mojito set, and a little wine.

“There seems to be a competition for who can eat the most”

The brewery is set in a Victorian storefront on Windham’s main drag, with a cheery orange dining area and a bar overlooking the adjacent kitchen. Wood floors, TVs, and a couple of couches keep the mood casual. “It’s very laid-back, very kid-friendly” Amber stresses. “We wear jeans and a shirt as a staff uniform, and the food is served in baskets, or on paper plates.”

The pulled pork sandwich (for about 10 bucks) and the Angus strip steak (for $20) were such popular specials they now appear on the regular menu along with burgers, ribs, and such.

The brewery has attracted a mixed crowd of skiers, hikers, and locals of all ages. “Early, we get families and elderly people, and as the night goes on, the younger drinking crowd comes in,” Amber says. Things get lively on Thursdays, when there’s a house band and open mike for wannabes, and at Friday’s theme parties during ski season.

» Next stop: West Taghkanic Diner, Ancram

 

 

Chicken tortilla at the West Taghkanic DinerThe West Taghkanic Diner’s chicken tortilla certainly draws a crowd

West Taghkanic Diner

Rte. 82 at Taconic Parkway, Ancram
518-851-7117

The deal: Mexican Fiesta Night

This landmark diner, with its neon Indian-chief sign, has been turning out classic eats in a classic Art-Deco-meets-the-’50s setting since 1953. It’s such a classic, in fact, that several movie scenes and TV commercials have been filmed here.

Lhyussine Siba bought the diner 18 months ago, and wisely changed nothing except to replace the worn blue booths with new red ones. (“Call me Siba, it’s easier,” says the Moroccan-Portuguese native, whose first name kicks off with not one, but two silent letters.)

Travelers often opt for the Big Chief Breakfast: a $6.25 plate piled with eggs, buttermilk pancakes, bacon (or sausage or ham), home fries, and toast — enough calories to hold many people until dinner

West Taghkanic Diner chef/owner, Lhyussine SibaWest Taghkanic Diner chef and owner Lhyussine Siba

As in most diners, the menu is pretty cheap anyway, though this place has the distinction of having had its freshly made food and generous portions praised by Michael and Jane Stern, the duo who long traversed the United States sampling the best regional fare for their Roadfood books. Jane was partial to the turkey dinner, but other travelers on the Taconic often opt for the Big Chief Breakfast, a $6.25 plate piled with eggs, buttermilk pancakes, bacon (or sausage or ham), home fries, and toast — enough calories to hold many people until dinner. Since breakfast is served all day long, it can even be dinner, if you like.

Another draw for several years has been Mexican Fiesta Night on Saturdays (and sometimes Wednesdays, too, but call to check). All the usual south-of-the-border suspects are available — burritos, quesadillas, fajitas, tacos — as well as drunken pork chops and tequila lime chicken, and all for prices ranging from $5 to $8. “There’s also a Mexican steak for $10.99,” notes Siba. “It’s a big steak and the only thing that’s expensive.” Sangria at $2.29 a glass adds to the festive mood.

» Next stop: Momiji, Stone Ridge

 

 

Mimiji's lunch bento boxGrab lunch in a Bento box at Momiji

Momiji

3649 Main St./Rte. 209, Stone Ridge
845-687-2110

The deal: $10 Lunchtime bento box

If you like your bargain dining in a simple, serene setting, the bento box lunch at this calm Japanese spot should do the trick. Rong Jian Ye (better known as David), opened the restaurant in April last year, and is the “sushi chef, cook, host, waiter — dishwasher sometimes,” he says, laughing. “It’s been crazy this year.”

Ye, a lanky, pleasant young man from Southern China, learned to cook Japanese food at his uncle’s restaurant there, when he was a teenager. After coming to the U.S., he trained for several years in Manhattan, and then cheffed at Hokkaido in New Paltz, a Japanese spot belonging to another uncle. “I don’t even know how to cook Chinese food,” Ye says.

His menu offers all the classics: sushi, sashimi, and special house rolls; teriyaki and tempura dishes; and hot pots

David Ye of Momiji“David” Ye, chef and owner of Momiji, a traditional Japanese restaurant in Stone Ridge

His menu offers all the classics: sushi, sashimi, and special house rolls; teriyaki and tempura dishes; and hot pots. At lunch time, you may spot local teachers and business people tucking into the popular $10 bento box. You can have either chicken or shrimp tempura; or chicken, beef, salmon or calamari teriyaki (calamari and salmon are the favorites, according to Ye). All come with either a California or a tuna roll, salad, and rice, with a bowl of miso soup to start. It’s a fresh and satisfying lunch that feels healthy, as well — a budget bonus. Wine, beer, and a small sake list are there for those who don’t get sleepy after drinking at lunch.

Momiji has the traditional, uncluttered décor you’d expect, with wooden floors, black chairs, a kimono displayed on one wall, and a few Asian accents. The airy dining room is separated from the sushi counter by an open wall of bamboo poles, with branches of silk maple leaves. “Momiji is the Japanese word for maple tree,” Ye explains. “And Ye means ‘leaf’ in Chinese.” That’s neat. (By the way, don’t miss the bathrooms — they’re neat, too.)

» Next stop: Poughkeepsie’s Melting Pot

 

 

Poughkeepsie’s Melting Pot

If you have a yen for ethnic food, head on over to Poughkeepsie’s Arlington neighborhood, where you’ll find a cluster of inexpensive eateries offering cuisines from around the globe. Lucky for us, the HV offices are right around the corner; here’s what our editorial staffers had to say about five of these storefront restaurants.
Molé Molé

Molé-Molé

805 Main St., 845-452-9704

Looking for south-of-the-border cuisine without leaving southside Po-town? This little tienda — easy to spot with its lime-green storefront and orange roof — is more than your average taco joint. Patrons enjoy their grub to fast-paced Latin tunes; colorful posters and doodads fill each nook and cranny; and little bottles of hot sauce sit on every table, just waiting to burn your taste buds off. The menu’s loaded with stuff to make mouths water: tamales in corn husks, marinated “shrimp loco,” even veggie chimichangas for herbivorous types. We especially love the chili verde: grilled pollo accompanied by black beans, rice, tortillas, and slathered with spicy tomatillo sauce. Chow down under the umbrellas out front, or emigrate to the northside locale across from Marist College. Muy delicioso! — Jessica Friedlander

Thai Spice

Thai Spice

28 Raymond Ave., 845-486-8888

Tucked between an art gallery and a sushi spot, Thai Spice is a casual, cozy eatery offering such standards as pad thai (a rice-noodle dish sautéed with eggs, scallions, bean curd, ground peanuts, and bean sprouts) and chicken satay (grilled chicken marinated in Thai herbs and served with peanut sauce). Among our favorites is kang massaman, a curry dish made with coconut milk, potatoes, onions, peanuts, and your choice of chicken, beef, pork, vegetables, tofu, shrimp, or squid. Lunch specials (served with salad and soup) are just $6.96 and $7.95. The décor — which includes kalaga wall hangings, elephant-themed artwork, and strings of Christmas lights — isn’t fancy, but the atmosphere is warm and welcoming. — Valerie Havas

Zorona

Zorona

48 Raymond Ave., 845-471-8838

This family-run spot offers Middle Eastern fare. The spacious interior seats about 60; the décor includes a traditional dining table — low to the floor, covered by a tapestry, and surrounded with cushions — and a TV tuned to an Arabian channel. The menu has all the dishes you’d expect (hummus, shish kebab) as well as less familiar ones. For diners new to this cuisine, the $9.99 “mixed sampler” allows you to choose five items from a list of 14. Our personal favorites: tabbouli salad, bulgar wheat tossed with finely diced cucumbers, tomatoes, and lots of parsley in a lemony vinaigrette; and shawarma, marinated broiled chicken strips scented with cumin and coriander. Not that adventurous? They do burgers and wraps, too. — Polly Sparling

Saigon Café

Saigon Café

6A LaGrange Ave., 845-473-1392

Vietnamese fare features raw vegetables and salads to a greater degree than other Asian cuisines, and the freshness of the food is what stands out most at Saigon Café. Husband-wife team Hung and Hue Truong run the restaurant by themselves — Hue in the kitchen, putting the catering experience she picked up back in Vietnam to excellent use; Hung in front, chatting up customers in a cozy space full of the stunning photographs he’s snapped on return trips to his native land. We especially recommend the flavorful lemongrass beef over vermicelli and the perfectly crisped spring rolls. — Greg Ryan

Kismat

Kismat

50 Raymond Ave., 845-473-5850

This traditional Indian restaurant is sure to be easy on the wallet. Lunch is just $4.95, and dinner costs around $10. Upbeat music and flowing curtains lend an air of Bollywood to the small space. We sampled the lamb vindaloo, a spicy staple of Indian cuisine. Another favorite, doi murghi — chicken curry with yogurt and coriander — is a mild dish, perfect for newcomers. One item on the menu is sure to please even the most picky palate — hot naan bread, served fresh from the oven. Another plus — each dish can be prepared mild or spicy on request. — Lindsay R. Brown & Tiffany Riccio

» We voted Kismat “Best Indian Buffet You Don’t Know About” in 2008!
» Next stop: Meal Deals

 

 

Meal Deals

Not in the mood for tacos or barbecue? Restaurants of all types are offering special menus at bargain prices. Here are a few of them:

Cathryn’s Tuscan Grill
91 Main St., Cold Spring. 845-265-5582
In honor of the Quadricentennial, Cathryn’s offers Sunday brunch for $20.09. Start your day with a glass of Champagne or a mimosa. Follow it with soup or salad and a hearty breakfast, Italian style: eggs with tomato-porcini mushroom sauce, smoked salmon and mascarpone cheese, or grilled New York strip steak (available 12-3 p.m.).

The Bird and Bottle Inn
1123 Old Albany Post Rd., Garrison. 845-424-2333
Every Thursday is “Warren’s Tavern Night” at this historic 18th-century inn (which was originally called by that name). The restaurant celebrates its opening year with a three-course meal for $17.61. Sample the inn’s seasonal tavern fare, such as corn crepes, beer-battered fish, and homemade pasta. Choose from a selection of delicious desserts, too.

The Big Easy Bistro
40 Front St., Newburgh. 845-565-3939
Is a trip to New Orleans too big for your budget? Then try the Big Easy’s dinner special for two: a bottle of red or white house wine and two entrées for $32. Favorites include grilled hangar steak with bourbon gravy, shrimp gumbo over rice, and chicken breast with peppers and Creole sauce. Available Sunday through Friday.

The Village Tea Room
10 Plattekill Ave., New Paltz. 845-255-3434
Serving up traditional Irish fare without the pub atmosphere, this cozy spot offers a nightly prix-fixe dinner for $22. Shepherd’s pie, cottage pie, and Ballycotton fish pie take turns as nightly specials. Dinner comes with a choice of soup or salad, as well as one of the restaurant’s homemade desserts.

Steel House Restaurant
100 Rondout Landing, Kingston. 845-338-7847
Steel House offers a meal just like Grandma used to make — and at a price that Grandpa wouldn’t have minded paying. Diners can choose one appetizer, two entrées, and two desserts for just $30. The menu includes Italian classics like spaghetti and meatballs and chicken Parmesan. Beginning this month, they are offering family-style dining on Sundays, with a different entrée each week, for $10.95 a person.
— Lindsay R. Brown

 

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