Photos courtesy of Bia
The Rhinebeck restaurant brings Gaelic tradition, upscale comfort fare, and local ingredients to its quiet corner of Garden Street.
The intersection of Market and Main is the starting point of life in Rhinebeck. It’s the axis around which restaurants and shops congregate, visitors crisscross, and cars cruise back and forth…often in search of a parking spot.
Yet something magical happens when you walk away from it all.
Don’t worry, you’re not going far. Instead, you’re strolling a block down West Market Street before darting down to the very end of Garden Street and into Garden Street Plaza (where, yes, there is a dedicated parking lot). It’s here, in a surprisingly quiet corner of Rhinebeck, that Bia awaits.
The first hint that Bia is something special lies just outside the archway to the patio. Upon passing the entryway, visitors can glimpse the twinkle lights that set a fairytale patio covered with greenery aglow. It’s charming, to be sure, and it’s exactly the sort of place that invites passersby to peek their heads inside, curious as to what makes this restaurant just so intriguing.
Admittedly, there’s a lot more than just a picturesque patio to tempt diners at Bia.
Open since spring 2019, Bia (pronounced bee-ya) brings a sliver of the Emerald Isle to the heart of Dutchess County. Named after the Gaelic term for alimentation, food, and sustenance, the restaurant is a passion project from proprietor and general manager Kyle Kelley, who cultivated his expertise at places like Mill House Brewing Company in Poughkeepsie and Gigi’s in Rhinebeck, and Chef Rich Reeve, who garnered quite the following during his time at the now-closed Elephant in Kingston. The concept for the eatery came to Kelley and his wife, Lisa, during their travels through Ireland, where they fell head over heels in love with the partnership between cuisine and community.
“There were a number of things about the dining and drinking establishments there that we were absolutely impressed with: the universally high quality of local ingredients; the soulful, elegant, and uncomplicated nature of the dishes; the gracious hospitality; the pride in local ale and spirits…which, when you talk about it, starts to sound a lot like the Hudson Valley,” Kelley says.
Upon his return to the Valley, he connected with Reeve to flesh out the concept for an Irish restaurant in the region. The duo, both of whom have Irish heritage, chose Rhinebeck for its charming, dynamic spirit, a spirit which Kelley was already familiar with during his time working in the restaurant industry there. Located on Garden Street, Bia is just far enough away from the heart of town without being so isolated that diners don’t want to venture too far away from the arts and culture in the community to find it.
More than your standard fine dining destination in the Hudson Valley, Bia fuses comfort flavors with authentic cultural fare. Kelley curates the beverage menu, while Reeve, who also operated the kitchens at Brady’s Pub in Poughkeepsie and 23 Broadway in Kingston, helms the culinary program. It’s a partnership that works beautifully, and one that has continued to evolve during the COVID-19 crisis.
When the pandemic first hit the Hudson Valley and restaurants across the region shuttered operations, Bia took advantage of the downtime to perfect its patio for outdoor dining and craft a new menu designed to connect friends and family and celebrate the bounty of the Hudson Valley. Moving away from more formal offerings, the new menu is something of a choose your own adventure format that allows diners to customize their culinary experience. Depending on the occasion, they can stop by for a small plate and a glass of wine or extend the evening with shared plates, mains, and delectable desserts.
In ode to Bia’s Irish theme, the menu is a true harmony of Hudson Valley ingredients and Emerald Isle tradition. Diners can commence their meal with house Irish stout and treacle bread, a slightly sweet and nutty bread sprinkled with toasted dillisk seaweed and served alongside cultured Irish butter. It’s the perfect amuse bouche for a main course that leans into beautifully apportioned platters of local meats and produce.
The New York Rohan duck leg confit, for instance, is a showstopper atop a warm bed of beluga lentils with charred citrus for juicing on the side. Equally impressive is the venison schnitzel, which uses prime cuts from Highland Farm in Germantown to craft crispy schnitzel that’s artfully stacked atop a fingerling potato salad with a zesty cranberry orange marmalade.
And those are just the mains. There are side dishes, too, and they just might steal the show. After all, it’s hard to deny the appeal of charred Brussels sprouts drizzled with a fermented chili black bean sauce and puffed quinoa. And did we mention the royal trumpet mushrooms? They’re the sort of thing you could – and should – order per person, since the addictive combination of garlic parsley butter with porcini cocoa dust and runny egg yolk is too tempting to want to share.
Since detail is key to everything Bia does, the restaurant brings this same thoughtfulness to its dessert menu. Crafted in partnership with pastry chef Terese Cathy Fantasia of T-Spoon Desserts in Red Hook, the offerings include a Murphy’s stout and bitter chocolate pudding and a tarte au citron with lemon curd and berry compote, to name only a few delights.
Of course, anyone who visits Bia for a meal would be remiss to let dinner go by without ordering a cocktail. Thanks to Kelley’s bartending expertise, he’s an expert hand at crafting seasonal drinks with flavor pairings that are just as curious as they are enticing. Take, for example, the “Grape Expectations” cocktail. Made with silver tequila, mezcal, concord grape shrub, cocchi americano, absinthe, and black pepper, it delivers sweetness with a bite that only makes diners want more.
And, thanks to the warm and welcoming atmosphere that extends across the 26-seat outdoor garden patio and into the 36-seat interior and bar, visitors can linger over cocktails and tempting treats as long as the evening allows. Bia is the sort of place that families and friends visit for an unforgettable meal, one that partners fine Hudson Valley dining with an intimate atmosphere that just so happens to be a stone’s throw away from the center of Rhinebeck.
Looking ahead, Kelly is excited for diners to experience his hidden corner of the Hudson Valley. With a new menu, a beautiful patio with heating lamps ready to go, and a curated dinner service that runs Thursdays to Sundays, Bia is Irish hospitality in the Hudson Valley at its finest.
22 Garden St, Rhinebeck