Restaurant Review: West Main Kitchen & Bar

An innovative new eatery breathes life into a sleepy stretch of Wappingers Falls’ main drag

Like teenage guys everywhere, Steve Wrobel and Anthony Michelin loved to eat. The buddies, who graduated from Roy C. Ketcham High School in Wappingers Falls in 2007, were particularly fond of the nearby Roma Deli and the local Panera Bread. “Were we foodies? Nah, not at all. We really loved sandwiches and pizza; that was our thing,” says Wrobel. “Still, we always joked around about opening a restaurant one day.”

That day happened in April, and rest assured, the era of hoagies and pizza is firmly in the past. West Main Kitchen and Bar, a 50-seat eatery located in a nondescript building on the west end of Main Street in the village of Wappingers Falls, is a pleasant surprise: a sophisticated, yet down-to-earth spot that is offering up inventive cuisine.

Joking aside, restaurant ownership seemed like an unlikely destination when the two left high school. Wrobel focused on liberal arts at Dutchess Community College and Michelin headed to New York City to study architecture. But after one semester, Wrobel knew he needed to switch gears and enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. After completing his degree, Wrobel landed a chef position at Abruzzi Trattoria in Patterson, followed up by a stint as head chef at 52 Main in Millerton, a tapas bar named by this magazine as one of the best new restaurants of 2013.

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steve wrobel and anthony michelin top sirloin steak

High school buddies, and now co-owners, Steve Wrobel (left) and Anthony Michelin. Above right, the top sirloin steak with caramelized Brussels sprouts

Still, Michelin longed to have his own place, and he and Wrobel began the search for a space. They spent nine months renovating the building, which used to house Ciccio’s Family Restaurant. “We did it mostly ourselves,” says Wrobel. “We were in there everyday with masks and hardhats. We did end up consulting a decorator. We knew that we weren’t going for fine dining; we wanted to create a comfortable dining experience.” Now, the pair both work six days a week, Michelin as the chef; Wrobel heads up the front of the house. In addition to the dining room, there is 50-seat banquet room for private parties upstairs, as well as a separate bar area with 11 stools.

“This is a cut that is not normally used… it’s very tender. In fact, we don’t marinate it with anything because it just doesn’t need it”

A friend and I visited on a recent Saturday night; we were both pleasantly surprised with the modern ambience when we walked through the door. “It has been a big surprise to a lot of people,” says Wrobel. “We cleaned up the outside a lot. Many people walk in and say, ‘Oh wow, I wasn’t expecting this.’”

Seated at a table in the center of the room — decorated in brown with red accents — we quickly dug into our bread and immediately deemed it delicious. The extra-fresh, French-style baguette was served with olive oil infused with roasted garlic and rosemary. I also ordered a delicious glass of sangria. In this case the red wine was boosted with brandy, triple sec, and fresh fruit, including raspberries.

For our appetizers we shared one of their signature flatbreads and the crispy Rhode Island calamari. I am not a fig fan, so I was a tad leery of the grilled flatbreads that featured pureed figs mixed with Mascarpone cheese, spinach, and soppressata. They were simply out of this world. “A lot of people tell me they don’t really like figs, but I kind of force them to try it,” says Michelin. “They are usually surprised. The flatbreads are pretty popular.” The other option featured goat cheese, zucchini, squash, peppers, and onions in a basil pesto oil.

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The calamari was also a winner. Tossed in a seasoned flour and then flash fried in oil for only a minute, the squid was the perfect consistency — slightly crunchy, but not at all chewy. The ample portion was served with a house-made tomato sauce and lemon aioli.

creme brulee west main kitchen and bar interior

All desserts are made in-house, including the almond vanilla crème brûlée (above left)

For dinner, we bypassed the “Hand Held” section of the menu, which features six sandwiches including the very popular burger, made with Vermont White Cheddar Cheese, bacon, chipotle aioli, and frizzle onions; shrimp tacos, and the braised short rib grilled cheese, among others. According to Michelin, the root beer braised short ribs are probably the best seller. I opted for the sirloin steak and was delighted with the large portion that arrived. Served with horseradish smashed potatoes and caramelized Brussels sprouts, the eight ounces of beef were extremely tender and expertly seasoned. “This is a cut that is not normally used; it’s off of a beef shoulder,” says Michelin. “Years ago, people would use it in ground beef or throw it out. It is very tender. In fact, we don’t marinate it with anything because it just doesn’t need it.”

My companion chose the scallops, which were served with a chorizo potato hash in a mix of house tomato and roasted red pepper sauce. While the juicy diver scallops were expertly seared, we both found the spicy potatoes a tad overpowering for the delicate scallops.

A particularly nice bonus at West Main is the option to switch out your house salad (which accompanies all the entrées) for one of four specialty salads for an additional $2. This is well worth it. The poached pear salad was a fantastic mix of greens, local Basque pears with the skin still on, Gorgonzola, and candied pecans. The fried goat cheese salad was also outstanding.

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We barely had any room for dessert, but after learning that they are all made from scratch, we took a deep breath and ordered the warm apple cranberry bread pudding, as well as the chocolate pudding, made with a dark Belgian chocolate. The bread pudding was warm and wonderful, composed of challah bread that had been soaked in heavy cream, eggs, and sugar, and apples that have been sautéed in Myers dark rum and brown sugar.

Service throughout the evening was prompt and very friendly. At the end of this month, Michelin plans to switch the menu, something he’ll do twice a year. “We’ll probably change the taco, and do a couple different fishes,” he says. “We’ll have a mahi and a red snapper. We are going to do falafel — I’m excited about that. We started making our own sausage here now, and we are going to grind our own meat for meatballs. It’s our own special blend. We did that for New Year’s — it was really popular.”

Adds Wrobel: “We’re always thinking of new things. We have a good amount of regulars, but we’re also getting new faces everyday.”

If you go…

West Main Kitchen and Bar
2710 West Main St., Wappingers Falls. 845-297-0510; www.westmainkitchenandbar.com

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