Approachable, affordable, and a fun place to hang out—those are three core values Christopher Dorsey kept in mind when he opened Kip’s Tavern last October. “I wanted everything about this place to be approachable,” he said. “The food. The space. The staff.” He’s also determined to keep prices low which means entrées are under $25 and a decent glass of wine costs 10 bucks. No wonder Kip’s has attracted a loyal following way before its first anniversary.
The 100-year-old building that formerly housed the restaurant China Rose, was boarded up and dark inside when Dorsey first saw it. After months of hard work, it’s light and airy. A marbled quartz bar is lined with tan leather bar stools; contemporary black tables and chairs dot the dining room and riverside patio; and eclectic artwork lines the walls. Inside and out, the river takes center stage and yes—Dorsey quips, “I am such a Pisces.” Pisces are known to love water and to make people happy, so it’s a win-win.
Dorsey comes from an upstate food and beverage family with businesses in Oswego, a city along Lake Ontario 35 miles northwest of Syracuse. His grandparents’ Italian restaurant was founded there in 1954 and is still going strong. His parents run a beer distributorship. Dorsey attended the Culinary Institute of America to focus on the business side of things and has worked at several top Manhattan restaurants including Blue Water Grill and Monkey Bar.
In 2020, Dorsey and his partner moved upstate full time and after a much-needed break, he decided to open his own place. Originally, the restaurant was called The River Room but it was changed to Kip’s Tavern—his family preferred it and his partner’s last name is Kipp. Later, Dorsey learned that Rhinecliff’s Kip House was one of America’s oldest bars (circa 1703). Kip’s Tavern was clearly meant to be.
The menu features elevated comfort food cooked up by Christina Ramirez, formerly of Tannersville’s Deer Mountain Inn and The Dutch in Saugerties. Dorsey keeps the menu small so Ramirez can unleash her creativity on three to four seasonal specials a night like pasta primavera with freshly picked tomatoes, zucchini, sweet corn, and basil. One of the specials, shrimp scampi, proved so popular it’s now on the main menu. Mushroom risotto with mascarpone and truffle oil and chicken pot pie are also favorites. The cheesecake recipe comes from Dorsey’s Italian grandmother and the Beijing peach cocktail with jasmine tea-infused vodka hails from Monkey Bar. Dorsey recently launched Saturday and Sunday brunch which caught on right away. Guests keep coming back for eggs Benedict with fresh crabmeat and chocolate chip waffles with caramelized bananas.
Kip’s Tavern is settling in nicely—but the enterprising Dorsey isn’t done yet. He’d like to open other Kip’s Taverns in the Hudson Valley, farther upstate, and possibly in the city. Until then, head to Rhinecliff for the convivial atmosphere, delicious, affordable dishes, and some of the best river views in the Valley.
1 Shatzell Avenue, Rhinecliff