Photos courtesy of Grainne
Grainne operates out of Ulster County’s former Duo Bistro with multiple menus, fresh-baked goods, and a market full of Hudson Valley products.
Kingston’s food scene is dependable, while ever-evolving. Because of this, grabbing a bite to eat in New York’s first capital is always a pleasure, since each visit brings new and delicious offerings that beg to be sampled. So, in a city with rich history and tons of culture, a restaurant needs to bring big personality to make an impact.
Enter Grainne. Stepping into the shoes of beloved former gourmet haven Duo Bistro, Grainne (and its inventive market) is not short of character or personality. The women-owned restaurant boasts several menus full of interesting takes on food that people adore.
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It’s fitting that an eatery located in the same city as the Hudson River Maritime Museum also draws nautical inspiration. Grainne is the Gaelic name of Grace O’Malley, a legendary pirate queen who’s been written about by everyone from James Joyce to Broadway’s Claude-Michel Schönberg (of Les Miserables).
“We consider ourselves pretty strong women in a field dominated by men, and we felt a pretty interesting parallel to her life,” Chris Campbell explains. Campbell runs Grainne as its executive chef, while co-owner Jennifer Cruz helms the bakery and pastry program.
They each dreamt of opening a restaurant for years, and brainstormed ideas for dishes both together and separately throughout their 25-year journey in the food industry.
Campbell picked up a vast range of styles from many influences. She spent time cooking for a team of archaeologists in the Dordogne River Valley of France, picking up grandma-style French cuisine. She fell in love with fusion food in southern California, right on the border of Mexico. She even got a taste of traditional Italian while visiting the “the boot.”
A semi-pro forager and master butcher, Campbell earned a Master Meat Crafter certification from the University of Wisconsin. She’s lived in the Midwest, South Carolina, and Vermont, mastering local ingredients and flavors along the way.
“She’s really cool,” Cruz says. The two have been friends for years, and worked together in several establishments. Cruz also brings varied experiences to the table. She is a graduate of Hyde Park’s Culinary Institute of America and has held several pastry chef positions in the Hudson Valley in addition to being a restaurant manager.
“I just missed being in a bake shop,” Cruz admits. When the two decided to take on Grainne as a concept, they ran wild with ideas. Fervently dedicated to crafting delicious food, Cruz and Campbell scoured through old notebooks and memos to bring their best to the community of Kingston.
Cruz’s creations would certainly elicit a handshake from Paul Hollywood — or anyone with a hankering for baked delights. At Grainne, simple additions and substitutions make for incredible eats. Walnut cardamom chocolate chip scones, peppery Kardemummabullar (Swedish-style cinnamon rolls), and earl gray-lavender macarons round out some of Cruz’s divine dishes.
“Chris says something, and I say something, and we write things down and make them happen,” Cruz notes of their collaborative creative process.
Visitors should be equally excited for Campbell’s projects. With her training, the full flavors of the Hudson Valley have a chance to reach their potential. Menu highlights include roasted duck pho, pickle-brined fried chicken, and outstanding hot pretzels.
Keeping things organized, Grainne has several menus from which to order: breakfast, brunch, day, something simple, and dinner to go. (If you’re grabbing brunch, do not miss out on the smoked trout spread.) Another host of to-go options can be found at the Market at Grainne.
Soups, breads, assorted cheeses, and more join a slew of baked goods inside the Market.
“It’s…part grocery, part local market, part bakery, and whatever else we can stick in there that people will want,” Cruz says.
The Market operates next-door, where Duo Bistro once ran a small food market. It’s taken diligence in addition to creativity and expertise to make Grainne a reality.
“Not to overly emphasize the pirate theme, but we’re running a pretty tight ship right now,” Campbell jokes. Opening a new business during a pandemic brings many challenges, but the food speaks for itself, as does the overwhelming support of everyone who’s walked through their doors.
“Someone came in the other day and said that our burger was the best burger they’d had in 10 years,” Campbell says. “We’re so grateful for the support, and really hoping this takes off.”
Their gratitude extends to the Kingston community far past kind sentiments. The duo regularly drop off meals to the community kitchen in Kingston. Most of their products and ingredients are sourced hyper-locally in the Hudson Valley. They also have a pay-it-forward program, where diners can pay for someone’s meal.
“If someone comes in and needs something, even if it’s not on the board, I’m going to feed them. We’d never let someone go hungry,” Cruz notes. “We want to give back, we want to help take care of the community that’s been so welcoming to us.”