Route 9—the loathsome stretch connecting Beacon and Poughkeepsie, rife with heavy traffic and generic shopping plazas—is, sadly, a fact of life for those living in its vicinity. Most locals, especially those who are hungry, do their best to avoid it like the plague.
And, at first glance, who can blame them? The strip of road is notoriously littered with chain restaurants featuring familiar, watered-down iterations of one cuisine or another, easy to pass up in favor of more thoughtfully prepared fare. But look closer at some of those nondescript shopping plazas and you’ll find the road is actually home to a range of ethnic eateries that make the drive more than worth it (even at the peak of rush hour). Saigon Pho, Palace Dumplings, and Krishna Indian Grocery are three continental Asian food specialists each doing something better than anyone else in the area.
Saigon Pho, located at 1582 Route 9, offers some of the best Vietnamese cuisine around. Owners Luan and Mary, high school friends from Vietnam, opened the shop after moving to the US five years ago. Luan personally greets guests at the door with a soft and pleasant demeanor, and is always delighted to guide those unfamiliar with the menu’s lesser-known authentic options. His recommendations include the bun dac biet— vermicelli noodles with crispy pork, crispy egg rolls, and shredded carrots—and the bun bo hue—a beef-and-noodle dish served in a lemongrass-infused broth.
But you won’t be disappointed if you visit strictly for the Pho. The base broth simmers for 14 hours, gently coaxing juices from a large brisket. An order of the Pho Chin comes with slices of the resulting sumptuous meat, and the option to add generous heaps of basil, jalapeño, and bean sprouts for a bright kick. Whatever you choose, Saigon Pho’s playlist promises to serendipitously manage your feast: You may just find yourself ecstatically slurping up silky noodles as the bird-like whistle register falsetto cadence of Minnie Riperton’s vocal on “Lovin’ You” floats in the background.
About a mile north, you’ll find Palace Dumplings in another shopping plaza located at 1671 Route 9. The restaurant was opened in April 2011 by married couple Joe Conetta and Jenny “Yanmei” Hu. They make 30 varieties of dumplings to order using the century-old family recipe Hu’s grandmother and great-grandmother used at their own restaurants in Harbin, China.
Most choices contain something savory and something crisp wrapped in thin, handmade dough, and steamed to perfection. Standout offerings include the pork-scallion, the beef-watercress, and the shrimp-chive options. If you’re one for dipping you have your choice of four house-made sauces. The orange sauce, made with vinegar, garlic, and mustard, is the liveliest, followed by the spicy peanut sauce, the sweet ginger sauce, and a soy sauce. They all pair exceptionally well with the crisp Tsingtao, a Chinese Pilsner.
If you’re looking for a quick vegetarian take-out option, try the homemade Masala Dosa at Krishna Indian Grocery—2300 Route 9, Poughkeepsie—which is available Mondays and Fridays. Spicy potato-and-pea filling is cloaked in a pillowy, fried dosa wrap made from fermented dough. Opt for a cup of lentil soup served on the side, all for around five bucks. If you can’t find any options to satisfy your Eastern cravings, the small spot also features a well-rounded stock of Indian ingredients and a knowledgeable staff to help you recreate an authentic dish at home.
Drive home with a full belly and a big grin, surprisingly grateful you’re on Route 9 and not some boring highway.