Dave Amato idolized his grandfather, the larger-than-life Joseph “Skookie” Amato, a powerful union boss known for his fedora and sharply pressed suits. The youngest of nine grandchildren, Amato was constantly by Skookie’s side when he was semi-retired from the Hutton Brick Works Company in Kingston and was struck by his standing in the community and his vast circle of admirers—people he had fought for as president of the Brickhandler’s Local 1467 from the 1950s through the 1960s.
“I remember as a kid going to different places with him, and everyone everywhere knew him,” says Amato, the owner of the newly opened Brickmen Kitchen + Bar in Uptown Kingston, an ode to Skookie and those who made a living off the region’s long-gone brickyards. Amato, who is also the owner of Ole Savannah Southern Table & Bar in the Rondout, says Skookie “had a giant personality and was very charismatic. He made everyone feel important.”
Skookie, also known as “Papa Joe,” was a hero to Kingston’s brickmakers who toiled at the more than 100 brickyards that once operated up and down the Hudson. The region was the brick-making capital of the world at the turn of the century. Fittingly, Amato’s new venue bears a rugged beauty reminiscent of Kingston’s industrial past. A wall of exposed Hutton-made bricks was a keeper in the redesign of the former Boitson’s space. One side features an open kitchen with 44 seats and the other a casual bar with high-top tables. Amato has also updated and enclosed a portion of the back deck.
He describes Brickmen Kitchen + Bar as a gastro pub of the finest order—“a little bit of everything with a twist.” He tapped Dale Miller, one of only 69 certified master chefs in the United States, to help develop a dynamic menu. Miller is a member of the Culinary Institute of America’s alumni board and lifetime member of the Honorable Society of the Golden Toque and World Master Chefs Society.
Lunch, served from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., has its own highlights such as build-your-own burgers, Baja shrimp tacos, a prime-rib sandwich, and a Thai curry chicken salad wrap. On the salad side of things (also served during dinner), the selection is large, including the cranberry-walnut (the official Brickmen salad); kale and shaved Brussel sprouts Caesar salad; and Asian chicken salad with shredded Napa cabbage, bell peppers, snow peas, carrots, crispy chicken, and sesame-ginger dressing. There’s also an option called the “Ramped-Up Quinoa Bowl” with roasted sweet potato, chopped kale and toasted almonds.
Among the appetizers are lollipop-style chicken wings with gochujang sticky plum glaze, Tuscan-roasted cauliflower with garlic, lemon, pepper and Grana Padano, and Kobe beef sliders with onion-bacon jam, Gruyère, and baby arugula. Brickmen features a seafood and sushi bar complete with raw oysters, Maine lobster, ahi tuna tacos, and a showstopping seafood tower piled with shrimp, lobster, oysters, and clams.
For meat lovers, there are plenty of steak options ranging from Cajun ribeye to a 38-ounce Tomahawk. Poultry picks include a 24-hour brined organic roasted chicken and spicy “Angry Bee” fried chicken, drizzled with hot honey, and served with mashed potatoes and sweet corn crème brûlée. Other entrées run the gamut from Maine lobster pie to a vegetarian noodle bowl with bok choy, baby carrots, and shiitake mushrooms.
Brickmen also serves craft cocktails—everything from an espresso martini to the swanky-sounding “Don Juan,” made with Don Julio Blanco, jalapeño agave syrup, and grapefruit and lime juice. If beer is your thing, there’s something for everyone, from the thirst-quenching Kold One produced by the Mill House Brewing Co. in Poughkeepsie to Brick Row Red, a smooth, malty ale.
For Amato’s father, Anthony (known as “Red”), the opening of Brickmen in April was an intensely proud moment. “This place just brings tears to my eyes,” says the senior Amato, who ran a restaurant in Kingston called Papa Joe’s in the 1970s. “To think that Dave did this for my dad—his grandfather—and all the guys who were part of the brickyards is a very special thing. He was a legend, so it’s fitting that we remember him this way.”
Brickmen Kitchen + Bar
47 North Front Street, Kingston