Kingston’s historic Stockade District has been teetering on the brink of revitalization for ages, but now, with so many cute shops and good places to eat sprouting amid the stone houses and 19th-century architecture, it seems to have finally tipped over into actually being revitalized. Yay! Even if you’re compelled to shop in a big box store at the ugly end of Kingston, skip the “food” at mall central and head Uptown for some real food in an eatery with some personality. Duo Bistro Bar at 50 John Street is one casual contender. It opened last April in the space that used to be Gabriel’s, serving a late breakfast and lunch. Recently, the duo of chefs who launched the place, Juan Romero and Niels Nielsen, started to “emphasize dinner,” as Romero puts it. “First we wanted to make sure we got our ducks in a row, and see what clientele to expect,” he adds. It’s a move that also jibes with the recent advent of their beer and wine license, which brought an end to the Prohibition Dinner Menu (as in: bring your own bathtub hooch), because now you can get a microbrew or a glass of wine. “All genres are covered,” Romero notes of the in-progress wine list, and bottles start at a modest $20.
The beef enchiladas special
The chefs met in Saugerties when Romero was cooking at Love Bites and Nielsen at Miss Lucy’s. When they launched this joint venture (which Nielsen jokes they briefly considered calling Bipolar), they spiffed up the small storefront with a new bar overlooking the open kitchen, painted the walls sage green, and became woodworkers long enough to make the tables and bar top from a tree that blew down in Hurricane Irene.
Romero calls the menu “eclectic comfort food with up-to-date touches.” The chef’s breakfast is a favorite, and so-named because Romero has been making it for himself for years. “It’s real simple — scrambled eggs, bacon, jalapenos, goat cheese and garlic, tossed with raw spinach and sprouts, and served with toast,” he announces, making it sound healthy and indulgent at the same time. The organic cheeseburger on a house-baked bun ranks high, and so does the chicken sausage, also made in house, with roasted garlic and sage, oven dried tomatoes, and a dash of spicy harissa. The bistro is right behind the County Courthouse, so you may see a lawyer or business type getting on the outside of a filet of ribeye steak with eggs, smashies, roasted mushrooms, toast and salad — and for only $14, so you don’t actually have to be a lawyer to afford it. Specials might be seafood risotto cakes or beef enchiladas. The gumbo is delicious, and so is the chicken salad. Oh, and the french fries. Look for fresh baked breads and pastries on weekends.
In the works for Monday nights: the Groaning Table, which Romero describes as an event “based on the Southern tradition of serving family style… everybody can get together and bitch about their week.”
Duo is open daily from 10 to 3:30, (earlier on Saturdays); and for dinner Friday through Sunday. A webpage is in the works; meanwhile you can find the menus and tantalizing pictures on Facebook. Better yet, go there in Real Life.