Heading up the River

Nick and Sarah Suarez, Gaskins, Germantown

One year ago, Nick and Sarah Suarez, veterans of the Manhattan and Brooklyn restaurant and wine scenes, became yet another example of a couple leaving high rents and hectic lifestyles behind. He had been an assistant tasting coordinator at Wine Spectator magazine, then trained at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan, cooked at Danny Meyer’s Michelin-starred The Modern, and bested Bobby Flay in a hot-dog Throwdown on Food Network. Sarah, who has worked in restaurants since she was 16, managed Diner and Marlow & Sons’ two farm-to-table restaurants in Brooklyn. 

Nick and Sarah met in 2009, when Nick’s brother introduced them at a Slow Food BBQ event in Queens. They married in 2014 and knew early on that they wanted to work together. In January 2012, they opened Backyard Cooking Company in Brooklyn. But, they felt the best setting would be away from New York’s crazy, costly lifestyle, after seeing too many colleagues finding it tough to perform the balancing act unless they brought in a manager. They wanted to remain in charge. 

The Hudson Valley seemed a natural fit. Nick grew up in Westchester’s Briarcliff Manor, Sarah in Orange County’s Warwick, and they catered events in the Valley. They also had friends nearby, including the owners of Kinderhook Farm in Ghent. An 1890s former deli in Germantown at the corner of Church and Main Streets provided the perfect venue. It had been vacated but retained its good bones, which they renovated into a casual gathering hub. They painted it a bold blue, renovated a deck for outside seating and made the second level their home; they opened in June 2015.

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Rather than go with a long, complicated repertoire, they designed a short, accessible, farm-to-table, American-inspired menu of what they might prepare at home—and which would appeal to a range of ages and pocketbooks—such as salads, burgers, pastas, fried chicken, and desserts like a heavenly strawberry/rhubarb shortcake. “We wanted this to be home to everyone,” says Sarah, who manages the front of the house. In the past year, they’ve garnered great reviews and press from online sites. 

They’ve also managed to find that elusive work-life balance, by closing Tuesdays and Wednesdays. “I place my orders Tuesday morning, and then we head out,” Nick says. They closed this past January and headed to Mexico City and Nicaragua. “It’s hard work taking care of others, but we knew if we didn’t take care of ourselves, it wouldn’t be good,” Sarah says. 

And they’ve mastered the yin-yang of being together. “We’re honest with one another and give constructive criticism,” Nick says. Sarah adds: “This life may not be for everyone, but it works for us.” 

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