There are two new spots in the Valley that I’m looking forward to checking out: Bocuse at the Culinary Institute, dispensing sublime French food amid three-million dollars’ worth of splendor where the ritzy Escoffier used to be; and, at the more casual end of the spectrum, the refurbished Phoenicia Diner, which I’ve been reliably informed is doing a similarly sublime job in the breakfast and lunch department. Anyway, tout le monde will be writing about Bocuse, because it’s three-million dollars’ worth of fabulosity, so here’s the lowdown on the Phoenicia Diner.
It first opened in 1962 on Long Island, presumably called something else. Then, in the 1980s, the glass and chrome building was moved to Route 28 in Phoenicia, where it was the scene of much egg slinging and coffee pouring until it closed in 2011. Last September the new owner, Michael Cioffi, reopened it, all spruced up. Cioffi is a former TV and movie set builder from Brooklyn with an appreciation for ’60s style as well as tasty comfort food. “We’ve had a weekend home in Margaretville for 22 years,” he says. “I’ve been eyeballing the diner for all that time as we drove past. When I sold my construction business, I thought it would be a fun challenge to reinvent the diner, and myself.”
Cioffi hired Mel Rosas, a young chef who’s worked at Bread Alone and Sweet Sue’s (two other casual hotspots), to do the cooking. Rather than the typical umpteen-page menu, Phoenicia Diner offers a well-edited line-up of favorites, all cooked to order from scratch, using good stuff like grass-fed beef and fresh ingredients, local when possible. Prices are very affordable as well. Best-sellers so far are the breakfast skillet dishes, especially the Wild Hive Farm polenta and corned beef hash. “We even make our own corned beef,” Cioffi adds. The menu, printed on the placemats, mentions nearby attractions, so you can plan activities as you fuel up. Or just gaze out the big windows at the view of Mount Tremper across the road.
Since opening in mid-September, Cioffi’s new endeavor has been “going great,” he says. “We’re hitting the ball out of the park.”
The diner is at 5681 Route 28, about 6 miles or so north of the Woodstock turnoff.