Kingston’s Stockade District has seen dramatic changes during the last decade, with increasingly diverse restaurants filling previously empty storefronts, transforming the historic neighborhood into an up-and-coming foodie destination.
The first of three new venues opening this summer is Wilde Beest, which debuts on June 13. Executive Chef Chris Turgeon, formerly executive sous chef at Chicago’s Michelin-starred restaurant 42 Grams, is one of five friends investing time and energy in the restaurant.
“I’m super fortunate to be taking this on with a team of people who really know what they’re doing,” says Turgeon of his partners Sous Chef Russell Prickett, Eric Donaldson, Oshan Jarrow and Greg Ryan.
Before the team of friends could man the kitchen and dining room, they had to sand the floors, paint the walls, and pitch in to create the restaurant’s modern, nature-inspired aesthetic.
“None of us had a lot of money,” says Turgeon. “We’ve been trying to figure out how to do this for a while.”
The restaurant’s snow white and sage green interior is brightened by Carla Rozman’s wall-size interpretations of Audubon prints, furniture carved from Vermont Butternut wood that was chopped by Turgeon’s grandfather, and braided seat backs that remind the chef of his childhood Vermont holidays. These elements soften the bright space, which has an open kitchen.
“We have that old vibe,” says Turgeon, “But we made it fresh.”
The menu also honors the chef’s culinary memories. The small plate titled An Apple A Day features shaved green apple, kohlrabi, a snow of hazelnut, frozen shattered cheddar, dill creme fraiche, and chive blossom. The subtly unfolding flavors were inspired by Turgeon’s memories of roast beef sandwiches with red onion, arugula, apple, and horseradish.
“That’s a plate you can get at almost every cafe but then you take those flavors and deepen them and make them a little more complex and present them in a different, more nuanced way.”
Turgeon is passionate about introducing diners to new flavors and takes pride in presenting some less popular vegetables in tasty new ways.
“It’s wonderful when they try it and say, ‘I like it, yeah!’”
The interior of Wilde Beest
Having worked in Austin, Turgeon says he sees a similar scene emerging in Kingston.
“There’s some things about Kingston that really remind me of the Austin I loved,” says Turgeon. “It’s happening on a smaller scale but those vibes are there. The strong old guard musicians, new musicians happening, a vibrant art scene, offbeat culture, it’s very pedestrian-friendly, cool shops. Two record shops within a block, a cool barber shop, with guys doing it old style. I love that.”
He’s ready to contribute to the scene’s vibrancy with some deliciously different food.
After the apple small plate he might recommend delicately charred octopus and roasted, marinated tomatoes in shisito puree, paprika oil, and a splash of squid ink, or a larger plate containing akaushi beef, with seared shallot and grilled broccoli leaf, in double Worcestershire sauce alongside a red radish gel. Dessert might be a deconstructed candy bar, a mascarpone sundae with salted caramel, marshmallow, and Spanish peanuts. It’s fine dining, but fun is the idea.
“We want to do fine dining for everybody. Come here in flip flops and shorts and listen to loud music. We don’t want any pretense to it.”
The five-friend crew did not need much advertising. By leaving the restaurant windows uncovered while renovating, they attracted passersby, often opening the door to chat and make new friends, many of whom are eager to sample their cuisine. The restaurant’s name, which is Dutch for Wild Beast, also prompted attention.
“We started looking at names,” says Turgeon. “It’s an old Dutch town. We’re five guys who all have beards. It kind of made sense, the whole notion of ‘wilde’ beasts.”
Samplings from the Wilde Beest menu
Also soon to open are Palizzata on Wall Street and Crown on Crown Street.
Palizzata, owned by Joseph Cafaro of Tony and Nick’s in Ellenville, will serve authentic Italian cuisine made from minimally processed ingredients, sourced from both the Hudson Valley and Italy. Cafaro also plans to serve some favorites from his Ellenville location. Authentic is the key word.
“We will be bringing dishes actually found in Italy, such as Vitello Tonnato, roasted veal loin with a tuna anchovy sauce, coming from the Piedmont Region in Italy.”
The new restaurant, located on the corner of Wall and John Street, is split into three sections, with a tavern for drinks and light bites, a dining room, and a private room that can host parties and business meetings.
Cafaro credits part of the success of his Ellenville restaurant to the town being a food destination and offering multiple places to dine. That’s certainly the case in Kingston. The more restaurants, the merrier.
“I feel uptown Kingston is having its own little renaissance,” says Cafaro.
The city’s restaurant scene owes some of its vitality to local resources.
“When I visit small towns in Italy, it’s so wonderful to see the regionality,” says Cafaro. “Each town has one local cheese shop, a butcher. The restaurants serve the local wine and beer as well as dishes found just in that town or surrounding areas. Most regions in Italy even have their own pasta shape. All of those ideas, I see here. We are surrounded by countless farms and breweries.”
Around the corner on Crown Street, Jamie Niblock and John Krenek, owners of the stylish mid-century modern furnishings store, Exit Nineteen, are busy transforming the historic Cornelius Tappen House into a Parisian style lounge. While they plan to serve some food, primarily snacks, the focus will be on drinks and socializing.
The house, occupied by Cornelius Tappen during the Revolutionary War, previously served as a post office and a bank. The former drive-through bank window is being turned into a three-season room with a communal table and bar. Not only does the future lounge have three interior rooms, it has a side garden and more space in the back.
“It’s scheduled to open the end of June, and it’s going to be very moody, dark moody and sexy,” says Niblok.
The lounge will offer party space.
“We’re very honored to be the stewards of this space for however long,” says Niblok. “We’re thrilled.”