Featured courtesy of Sweet Sue’s
The beloved breakfast spot in Phoenicia gets a new look—and a new life. (But don’t worry, the pancakes are still on the menu!)
Thirty-nine years. That’s how long Sweet Sue’s has been one of the Catskills’ most beloved (and busiest) breakfast institutions. One of the biggest draws? The delicious, enormous pancakes—one of owner Sue Taylor’s secret recipes.
So, it’s no surprise that customers were crushed when, in 2020, the eatery announced it was closing. But locals didn’t have to go without their favorite morning spot for too long, thanks to friends Ben Crespi and Noel Wiggins. These entrepreneurs are longtime fans of the charming town of Phoenicia, and decided it was worth investing back into the adored hotspot. Wiggins had plenty of hospitality and real-estate experience as a building developer, and Crespi had been a manager at several restaurants in Brooklyn. The duo decided to combine forces—and they even convinced new pal Sue Taylor to share her top-secret pancake recipe with them. “We had lunch with Sue many times,” says Crespi. “A lot of new restaurants were opening in the Catskills, and Noel and I saw this as an opportunity to keep a beloved brand, instead of shutting it down and opening up another Brooklyn restaurant extension.” (They both split their time between their homes in NYC and Phoenicia.)
After buying the building in March 2021, they spent several months updating the interior with a new slate floor, soft gray walls, and plenty of greenery. The original booths are still in place accompanied by new tables for two and a coffee and pastry bar by the front door. “It’s warm and modern but also very cozy and homey,” says Crespi. In May 2022, Sweet Sue’s reopened as an all-day café, serving sandwiches, fluffy waffles, soups, salads, and those famous pancakes.
“Sue had 18 pancakes on her menu and we kept a bunch of them,” says Crespi, noting that customers can once again indulge in the popular Blue Monkey (bananas and blueberries) and lemon and ricotta pancakes. But they’re also proud of new additions: cold-smoked Faroe Islands salmon atop a potato latke with horseradish sauce, and house-smoked pastrami sandwiches with chipotle aioli on a ciabatta roll. Crespi speaks highly of their Belgian waffle, which is half dough, half batter, and made with pearlized sugar. “I’d been making it for my kids for years,” he says, “We jokingly call it the ‘best waffle ever.’” Many Sweet Sue’s customers agree.
Like most restaurateurs in the Hudson Valley, the new owners wanted to incorporate locally made and grown ingredients. They teamed up with Heavyfeather Coffee in Mt. Tremper, and many dishes feature eggs from Feather Ridge Farm in Elizaville, Phoenicia Honey Co.’s honey, and Cody’s Sugar Shack maple syrup.
While the restaurant has been packed since it reopened, people are welcome to linger. “We built two 10-foot-long communal tables in the café area, which create a very social atmosphere,” says Crespi, adding that their fast internet and WiFi extenders attract people to hang out. “It’s become a great place to work and grab a breakfast sandwich.” (Or order a drink—they have a full liquor license and serve up fun cocktails like their White Russian chai tea.) “Our front house manager is a former mixologist,” says Crespi. “So we’re sort of that crossover between café, restaurant, and bar.”
So far, their goal to keep Sweet Sue’s as close to the original has paid off. If you’re visiting on the weekend—go early or plan to wait in line. “We have so many people coming through sharing their stories of eating at Sweet Sue’s for decades,” he says. “They are very happy that we nailed the pancakes!”