The Best New Places to Eat and Drink in Kingston, NY
Kingston, New York, hasn’t been this hot since the British burned it to the ground in 1777. While the pandemic has upended traditional business practices, some new spots in town are finding innovative ways to survive. Kingston was designated as New York’s first capital in September 1777; the following month, the British incinerated it in retaliation for the Americans’ victory at the Battle of Saratoga. During the 19th century, Kingston produced natural cement, but synthetic cement killed that off at the turn of the 20th century, and the city struggled again until 1956, when IBM opened a 2.5 million square-foot facility there. Alas, IBM shuttered the plant in 1995, and Kingston’s fortunes tumbled once again. Recently, chefs, restaurateurs, hoteliers, and boutique owners have flocked to Kingston to set up shop in its elegant colonial buildings. This concludes our history lesson. Here are some of the city’s best new spots.
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Hotel Kinsley and Restaurant Kinsley
Taavo Somer, the man behind Freeman’s, a restaurant/bar/taxidermy display on New York’s Lower East Side, has partnered with developer Charles Blaichman to open a boutique hotel and two restaurants. Blaichman was attracted to Kingston’s distinct architecture and approached Somer, who now lives in the Hudson Valley, about collaborating.
Hotel Kinsley is a comfy-chic 43-room hotel that will be set in four historic 19th century buildings. Right now, there are ten open guest rooms located in a former bank building that also houses a small bar, a restaurant, and the check-in desk which is tucked in a former bank vault. Rooms have a mid-century modern vibe with high ceilings, marble bathrooms, and SMEG mini-fridges stocked with local treats. The hotel’s new Pearl Street Building with its tile-framed fireplaces and Danish mid-century furnishings is opening for reservations later this month.
The Kinsley restaurant boasts Chef Zak Pelaccio (of Hudson’s James Beard Award-winning Fish and Game) as its consulting chef and features his take on New American comfort food. Located in the bank’s former lobby, the large restaurant has plenty of room for social distancing and is decorated with potted plants and orange velvet settees. The space is surprisingly intimate given its soaring ceilings. A large print of George Harrison looms beatifically over the room. Somer has also converted 50 feet of the loading zone into a 30-seat outdoor space with heat lamps and planters filled with grasses and flowers. Highlights include pan-seared calamari with mango brown butter and key lime tartar and Pelaccio’s signature cheeseburger topped with cheddar, caramelized onions, and pickle aioli.
Designed as a counterpoint to the more formal Kinsley, Lola is a casual Italian spot serving antipasti (get the potato croquettes with salmoriglio, a Sicilian sauce of lemon, olive oil, garlic, and oregano), pastas, wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas, and soft serve ice cream with a selection of toppings from Swedish fish to amarena cherries. There are innovative cocktails, like the smoky Night Animal made with jalapeño-infused mezcal, St. Germain, cucumber, and lime, and the Ray Davies made with amaro, sweet vermouth, and cola extract. After emerging from shut down, Lola started a delivery program that continues to be very popular.
This Parisian-inspired cocktail lounge is located in the former Cornelius Tappen House, one of Kingston’s oldest homes. The tiny stone saltbox houses five spaces, including a fabulous outdoor pavilion dotted with fairy lights that was once a bank drive-through. The kitchen is tucked in the former teller’s room. Crown is a passion project of interior designers John Krenek and Jamie Niblock, so expect lots of leopard print—one of the duo’s signatures—along with mink-colored walls and plush red velvet banquettes. Bartender Pia Bazzani, formerly of East Hampton hotspot Nick and Toni’s, creates exquisite seasonal cocktails like the Louise made with rye, Benedictine, apple brandy, sweet vermouth, and bitters. Cocktails are available to-go in single drinks or as servings for 4-5. After the pandemic, Crown plans to host Musical Theater Piano Nights, singalongs with Henry Koperski, who has collaborated with Alan Cumming, and monthly burlesque performances. For mid-century furnishings and fanciful gifts, check out Krenek and Niblock’s nearby store, Exit Nineteen.
Kingston Bread + Bar
Before committing full-time to bread, Aaron Quint worked in tech during the week and at his Kingston Bread Lab on Saturdays. He sold bread out of his house and then at Rough Draft Bar and Books. Last fall, he partnered with Anthony and Amanda Stromoski, who own Rough Draft, to open Kingston Bread + Bar, an all-day bakery and bar. Breads include Upstate Levain (a half white/half whole wheat peasant loaf), classic sourdough, and a sourdough baguette. There’s also a “Daily Lab Loaf” and Saturday’s is Ancient Grain, a rotating loaf made with ancient grains like Einkorn Wheat, one of the world’s oldest. All are available to go, as are housemade cocktails, local smoked salmon, and other provisions.
One of the pleasant surprises that Quint has experienced during the pandemic is the demand for his sourdough starter. At the peak of sourdough mania, he sold 35 starters in a single day. The feedback from customers has been amusing. “I got a few pictures of some beautiful loaves folks had made with my starter but I also got a few emails that were ‘OK, I bought a starter. Tell me how to make this into bread.’” Quint has also been donating fresh bread to local charities, and says in some ways, the pandemic has forced him and his crew to focus on what’s important and refine their product. As a result, he says, “I truly believe we’re making the best bread and pastries we ever have.”
Front Street Tavern
Frank Guido has had restaurants in Kingston for over 50 years; he’s best known for Frank Guido’s Little Italy, a family-style Italian restaurant, and Mariner’s Harbor, a seafood spot where Frank Sinatra once passed out 50-dollar bills to the staff after dining there. His latest venture, in partnership with his son Mark, is a gastropub with a diverse selection of comfort foods. So far, business has been good—especially thanks to a fabulous rooftop deck. In addition to the weather-permitting rooftop, the elegant tavern has a welcoming bar and a large dining room perfect for social distancing. The menu features everything from pub standards like shepherd’s pie and fish and chips, bang bang shrimp with sweet chili sauce, and pork schnitzel with cabbage.
Six More Spots to Check Out
This list only scratches the surface. Rough Draft Bar and Books is located at Four Corners, the only intersection in America where the buildings on all four corners were built before the Revolutionary War. The rustic, stone-walled building has bibliotenders who can recommend a beer, a snack, and a good book. Bluecashew Kitchen Homestead offers kitchen supplies and classes; Ester Wine specializes in spirits from boutique distilleries and biodynamic and natural wines, and Lis Bar serves contemporary riffs on Polish standards. Kingston Standard Brewing Co. serves craft beers alongside oysters, and recent James Beard Award nominee Top Taste specializes in spicy Jamaican cuisine.