Open for Business: Canoe Hill

A charming collection of cocktails and local dishes in Dutchess County.

At the end of a little wood-paneled alleyway on Millbrook’s main artery is Canoe Hill, a humble new eatery and watering hole for booze-sippers furnishing a refined appetite.

Just inside you’ll find the bar, alive with conversation between locals and wanderers ordering classic, coupe glass cocktails, toasty Old Fashioneds, or zippy sips like an Aperol Spritz. If bar stools aren’t your scene, just keep walking through; this lake house-like hub’s nooks and crannies are lined with oak bistro tables set for a proper dinner, too.

Canoe Hill opened in December under owner Michael DelGrosso, a Pennsylvania native turned Brooklynite turned Valley transplant who was raised in a food savvy-family. “My knowledge of cooking comes from watching and listening to my grandmothers, my dad, everyone,” says DelGrosso, who heard many stories of his restaurant- and amusement park-owning grandfather. “It’s just what we did; we cooked and entertained.”

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DelGrosso earned his official industry stripes working in several New York City restaurants — some being big-name culinary celebrities, though he won’t say which — before moving to the Valley to serve seasonal eats, crisp cocktails, and oysters on the half shell. The restaurant’s moniker emerged from Canoe Hill Road, a winding route he used to take into Millbrook’s small locale. “I wanted some kind of connection with the town,” he admits.

But perhaps a connection to the land speaks louder than just the restaurant’s title. Unlike most establishments, DelGrosso steers Canoe Hill away from falling under the murky, pop-culture category of “farm-to-table.” Whenever possible, he instead relies on the food around him to speak for itself on an ever-changing menu. (You know it’s fresh when there’s no freezer or microwave in the kitchen.)

Within the first few months of opening the place, DelGrosso offered seasonal items like the tender spiraled Porchetta with creamy polenta; the Vermont white cheddar Grilled Cheese with pickled red onions; and crisped Duck Fat Potatoes, roasted to the perfect consistency and served with a Sriracha aioli. At the moment, DelGrosso estimates that he gathers food from about 35 farms within the area: Walbridge, Sprout Creek, and Stonewood Farm among them.

One thing that remains constant at Canoe Hill — other than the stately, white-speckled wood stove stationed in the back — is its black chalkboard on the dining room wall, always etched with the festive, cold-water oyster selection. More often than not, locals will meander into the restaurant after 9 p.m. for the $1 oyster deal, delightfully slurping down one of the six-or-so varieties — served with mignonette and lemon. Skeptics may wonder, dollar oyster deals in the Hudson Valley? But rest assured: “We can get just as good oysters here as they do in New York City or Boston,” DelGrosso says. Just ask the well-informed staff, who sit down right before service to try the daily oyster tastings and wine pairings.

What’s next? DelGrosso plans to open the string-lit patio sometime this summer, so guests can enjoy the warm air as they sip spirits, toss back shellfish, and share snacks well into the night.

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3264 Franklin Ave, Millbrook; 845.605.1570;

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