Running a restaurant is no walk in the park. If we’re talking analogies, it’s much more like a long-distance obstacle course, where each new leg of the journey is rife with unexpected hurdles and roadblocks.
In Rhinebeck, Josh Kroner has been running the restaurant marathon for the past 20 years. This fall marks the completion of his second decade with Terrapin, the farm-to-table eatery, bistro, and bar that charms locals and visitors alike with its fusion of New American and world cuisine.
“It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since I opened Terrapin in West Hurley,” Kroner admits. Yet the facts are the facts. Kroner took a chance on the original Terrapin in 1998 after transforming it from the Red Vest, a failing Ulster County restaurant that cost less than his rent in New York City. Five years later, he relocated to Rhinebeck, where he has remained ever since.
Chef Josh Kroner / Photo by Roy Gumpel
Throughout the years, Kroner and Terrapin, which won two Best of Hudson Valley awards in 2018 (Best Farm-to-Table Restaurant and Best Dutchess County Restaurant), have remained true to their roots. As a chef, Kroner makes it his mission to serve only those foods that he wants to eat. If it doesn’t taste or feel good to him, then it doesn’t go on the menu.
Of course, that’s not to say that Terrapin hasn’t changed in the past twenty years; on the contrary, it’s progressed with the times so well that it feels just as contemporary as any newcomer eatery to the Valley. The evolution is thanks, in large part, to Kroner’s open mind and evolving palate.
“Over time, a new concept of ‘good food’ arose,” he explains in regard to the food scene in the Hudson Valley. “The idea that good food is food that tastes good has always been extremely important to me, but what the ingredients are, and where they come from, are now of equally important consideration.”
On the menu, that mentality translates to crowd favorites like the barbecued duck quesadilla with mango-avocado salsa and Uncle Vinny’s Special Rigatoni, a family recipe that showcases the power of simple, fresh ingredients. It also influences the seasonal menus, which blend approachable eats with Hudson Valley ingredients. This fall, for instance, Kroner plays with comforting fall flavors like squash and game. He also takes inspiration from his recent travels in Italy, where he went on his honeymoon this summer. Starting on October 5, diners can experience the tastes of Europe firsthand in autumn dishes like marinated sweet and sour shrimp and onions over polenta or pumpkin ravioli with pecans and a brown butter-sherry sauce.
Pumpkin ravioli from Terrapin’s fall menu
Overall, Kroner keeps in mind the evolving ways in which people like to eat.
“People aren’t eating the big meals they used to eat,” he notes. To cope with the fact, he focuses on tapas and small plates in both the Red Bistro and the dining room spaces. He also allows for greater flexibility and fluidity between the two rooms. Diners can browse the bistro menu in the dining room, if they so choose, or order a hamburger off the dining room menu itself.
“You can’t stand stagnant,” he says.
In fact, “stagnant” seems to be far outside the realm of Kroner’s vocabulary. In addition to manning what is arguably Rhinebeck’s most eye-catching restaurant (the 200-year-old church building is impossible to miss on a drive through town), Kroner also serves as a regular presence at the Hudson Valley’s many culinary events. This October, for instance, the chef has three upcoming to-dos scheduled.
On October 7, he’ll host a Kids’ Taste and Talk at the Rhinebeck Farmers’ Market to teach young foodies how to prepare a seasonal meal. After that, on October 14, he’ll cook alongside a number of Hudson Valley chefs at the Culinary Institute of America’s Chefs for Clearwater fundraising dinner. He’ll join Chef Terrance Brennan of Brennan Hospitality Group, Chef Beau Widener of Crabtree’s Kittle House, Chef Brian Kaywork of the American Bounty Restaurant, Chef Jason Potanovich of The Bocuse Restaurant, and Chef Kristina DePalma of the Roundhouse to serve a multiple-course, farm-to-table meal that aims to raise awareness for sustainability and food ethics in the Hudson Valley. Finally, on October 23, he will donate a portion of Terrapin’s funds to Blythedale Children’s Hospital as part of the organization’s Dine Out for Blythedale fundraiser.
“I’m really enjoying it now,” Kroner says. “I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to do what I do for the past 20 years.”