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Last Chance Cheese and Antiques Cafe Restaurant Review in Tannersville: Gourmet Food and Dining in Greene County

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During the week, Tannersville is a quiet little Greene County village that looks much as it did during its Catskills heyday, when the mountains were studded with Dirty Dancing-style resorts. On weekends in winter, the 500 or so residents are joined by swarms of skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers and other snowy-activity enthusiasts who drift into town after disporting themselves at Hunter Mountain, which is a few miles up the road. On summer weekends, the town comes alive with bikers, hikers, and various outdoorsy types, along with a raft of low-key second-homeowners.

last chance cafe chef waitstaffAbove: Last Chance manager Michael Thorpe, owner Dave Kashman, and waitresses Sabrina Svwech and Jaki Elmo-Emel; the bison burger (below) comes topped with garlic goat cheese and sautéed onions

bison burger

Among the local charms are Rip Van Winkle Lake, where you can boat, fish, or let the kids romp in the playground or zip around the skateboard park. There’s a nine-hole golf course; bike paths; hiking trails; and the Mountain Top Arboretum, where nature lovers can ramble over 23 acres of trees, shrubs, and plants tough enough to grow at high elevations. Cultural highlights run from music festivals to the Crazy Race, in which participants tear down Tannersville’s Main Street in homemade “vehicles.”

In recent years, several buildings in the village have become tourist attractions themselves. Spruced up in vibrant pastels as part of the Paint Program — a scheme dreamed up by a local artist and implemented by the Hunter Foundation — they’ve drawn media attention as well as tourists, and give the village a lively look. 

One of those gaily painted buildings houses the Last Chance Cheese and Antiques Cafe, a quirky gourmet store and eatery that’s been a Main Street fixture since 1971. In its earliest incarnation, Last Chance was an antiques shop with a sideline in bongs and head-shop paraphernalia, opened by Brooklyn transplant Loren Kashman. Back then, Kashman was, as he puts it, “a long-haired hippie” who soon realized that there wasn’t much demand for antiques and bongs among the après-ski set doing much of the spending in town. But they did buy the snacks and munchies he offered. So he branched out with soups, sandwiches, and simple fare, and went on to add imported and specialty beers and cheeses. After the building was badly damaged in a fire in 1977, Kashman restored it and reopened using half the space as a gourmet shop specializing in cheeses, and the other half as a homey restaurant, decorated with antiques and bric-a-brac for sale. Fondue, all the rage in the 1970s, has been a staple all along, and remains a favorite. 

(Continued on next page)

» 10 Can’t Miss Dishes: the fondue at Last Chance Cafe
» Visit Last Chance Cheese and Antiques Cafe in Tannersville, NY
» Go to www.lastchanceonline.com
» Go to the Hudson Valley Restaurants Guide
» Go to the Hudson Valley Food & Drink Guide

 

 

s'moresMarshmallows for Campfire S’mores are toasted tableside

Nowadays, the gourmet side includes about 100 cheeses, some of them local, as well as honey, nuts, dried fruits, teas, coffees, and a nostalgic assortment of fudge, licorice, nonpareils, and old-fashioned candy. The menu in the cafe has barely changed since Kashman developed it, still offering homey comfort fare: soups, salads, sandwiches, pastas, a few BBQ and fish dishes, and pub-food classics like French dip and steak frites. And cheese platters, of course. Chicken pot pie and French onion soup are best-sellers year-round, and so is the house invention: the knish-wich, a grilled knish stuffed with corned beef, pastrami or turkey, cole slaw, and melted cheese. Do-it-yourself s’mores have been a mainstay over the decades, too. The bottled beer selection hovers at around 300 choices, and there are wines and cocktails as well.

A few years ago, Kashman’s younger son, Dave, gave up his career in finance in the big city and came home to Tannersville with his wife to raise a family. Dave and his dad gutted the onetime liquor store and deli next to Last Chance, and transformed it into a pub with a classic mosaic-tile floor, a marble bar, and walls hung with prints and blow-ups of vintage postcards illustrating the mountaintop’s history. In June 2010, they debuted as the Last Chance Tavern, a year-round, Friday- and Saturday-night venue for late-night eats with live music, to which the mixed crowd often responds by dancing between the tables.

last chance cafe interiorThe tavern’s Catskills-inspired decor

Offbeat as usual, Kashman connected the tavern to the gourmet shop by a “secret entrance” — doors disguised as shelves of honey and beer that swing open when the tavern revs up for business after 7 p.m. Unlike most taverns, this one is furnished with a grand piano, which broadens the range of musical possibilities. This summer, chamber and jazz musicians will join the roster of rock, blues, and other performers.

On August 17, the Last Chance may be your first chance to see someone play a theremin, the electronic instrument whose tremulous otherworldly tones are produced by the thereminist moving his hands in the air between two high-frequency antennas. Now where else can you nosh on a knish-wich, buy part of the decor, get gourmet goodies and licorice to take home, and watch someone play an instrument without touching it?

Last Chance Cheese and Antiques Cafe
Lunch and dinner Fri.-Sun. Appetizers $8.99-$22.99, entrées $10.99-$26.99, desserts $4.99-$16.99. Tavern open Fri.-Sat. 7 p.m.-midnight

» 10 Can’t Miss Dishes: the fondue at Last Chance Cafe
» Visit Last Chance Cheese and Antiques Cafe in Tannersville, NY
» Go to www.lastchanceonline.com
» Go to the Hudson Valley Restaurants Guide
» Go to the Hudson Valley Food & Drink Guide

 

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