â€‹With its marble tabletops, sleek black banquettes, and moody lighting, Gaskins in Germantown has a gorgeous, upscale ambience. Which might lead you to believe that the menu will be expensive and maybe even a tad pretentious.
Not to worry. It’s true that Chef/Owner Nick Suarez trained at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan and cooked at Danny Meyer’s Michelin-starred the Modern. But it’s also the case that he beat out celebrity chef Bobby Flay with a mac-and-cheese hot dog on a Food Network competition.
“Our menu is mostly classic American dishes and comfort food favorites,” says his wife, Sarah, who manages this brand-new restaurant, which opened just last June. Here you’ll find a mac-and-cheese side dish (baked in a wood-fired oven and served in an adorable ramekin), pulled pork sandwiches with green beans on the side, fish and chips, and spicy fried chicken with polenta. Side dishes are priced in the $8 to $12 range, although entreés can climb to $30.
The Suarezes take full advantage of area food purveyors. Kinderhook Farm in Ghent supplies grass-fed beef for the restaurant’s popular burger as well as its braised lamb belly taco. Uber-fresh veggies from local farms are splashed all over the menu. Last summer, when sugar snap peas were at their peak, they only needed a squeeze of lemon, a dollop of crème fraîche, and a sprinkle of toasted cashews to shine. A salad of summer squash, mint, and shaved Ricotta Salata flew out of the kitchen. Even the cocktails have Hudson Valley cred. You’ve heard of the Manhattan? Here it’s the Germantowner, made local with warm and spicy bitters from Field Apothecary & Herb Farm, an in-town business.
The couple seems to have pulled it off effortlessly, but in fact they’ve both put in long years in the restaurant trenches. When they met at a foodie event in New York City in 2009, Sarah was managing a small beer bar, and Nick was working at Wine Spectator as a tasting coordinator. After they paired up, Sarah went on to work the front of the house in some very well-known NYC venues (Diner, Marlow & Sons, Roman’s), while Nick moonlighted at culinary school. In December 2011 he left his day job, and the next month opened the Backyard Cooking Company (a catering biz that’s currently on hiatus).
Sarah is originally from Orange County, while Nick grew up in Westchester and Connecticut, so it wasn’t that big of a geographic leap when the couple married and moved to Germantown in 2014 with the intention of opening a restaurant. “We knew we wanted to be somewhere rural, but still close to our friends and family in New York City,” says Sarah. “I have always dreamed of having my own restaurant, as I’ve worked in them since I was 16.”
The stars aligned, and an 1890s general store that needed some work became available on a corner location. Best of all, it came as a complete live-work package, so that the couple could move in and have a zero-mile commute. “We knew we would be literally living at the restaurant anyway,” says Sarah.
While the 50-seat dining room is often full, there’s always room at the bar for a quick beer or cocktail. Come hang with the lifelong locals, weekenders, and new transplants — all of whom find something to love here.