The Catskill Mountains of New York have long provided a respite for weary city dwellers in need of an escape from the fast-paced grind and congested streets.
Although it’s just a few hours’ drive from New York City, the region feels far off into the country. All seasons offer inspiring natural beauty, whether it is the fresh-blooming flowers in spring, swimming holes in summer, colorful foliage in autumn or snow-filled ski slopes in winter. And it’s a perfect stopping point for road trips to farther locations like Rochester and Buffalo, N.Y., or Montreal.
Perhaps lesser known is the Catskills food scene, which focuses on local ingredients and pulls from a variety of cultures and cuisines. Whether you’re just passing through or staying a while, here’s a sampling of great restaurants in the Catskills to try, curated from my own adventures in the mountains.
Albergo Allegria is a beautiful bed-and-breakfast in the Northern Catskills with food options available to both guests and the public. Fill up on a big breakfast before hitting Windham’s slopes for the day or nestling in Albergo Allegria’s dreamy, storybook setting. Order a Western Sammi, Albergo Allegria’s take on a western omelet in sandwich form, stacked with prosciutto, provolone cheese, bell peppers, baked eggs and caramelized onions.
Patrons from outside the Catskills may recognize the business name from their packaged bread sold throughout the state, but the brick-and-mortar bakery is its own experience. The aroma of freshly baked bread and pastries hits you upon entering this popular breakfast spot. The full menu of breakfast and lunch items includes a variety of sandwiches, burritos and salads. My advice: order a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich on a brioche bun and all will be right with the world. Grab a slice of lemon poppy bread for the road to quell the late morning hunger pangs.
Chef Sohail Zandi and his wife Sara have created an experience that feels like a family celebration at this restaurant in the Catskills. Offering a nightly single sitting with a multicourse menu that changes weekly, their goal was to bring people together in the way that 19th century eating houses brought local diners and travelers together under the same roof. The pair host a Persian feast once every month that you will need reservations for far in advance.
Catskill Brewery’s taproom offers quality beer in a relaxed setting. The brewery uses local ingredients and emphasizes sustainability when making their “honest hardworking beer.” This might not matter much to consumers if the beer didn’t also taste good, but fortunately Catskill Brewery has a diverse variety of delicious beers. I prefer a simple take on beer, and their Ball Lighting Pilsner satisfies my taste for a cold one. However, Catskill Brewery has a full arsenal of IPAs for beer connoisseurs like their Milkshake IPA and citrus-flavored Grass Wagon IPA.
Momos are Tibetan, Indian or Nepali hand-wrapped dumplings stuffed with meat or vegetables and served alongside savory or sweet dipping sauces. They are best fresh from the steamer or the pan, so I recommend you grab a table and stretch your legs for a while. Catskill Momos has savory beef momos, as well as vegetarian and vegan options, and noodle soups with beef or tofu. Tibetan culture came to the region in the 1970s with the founding of the Karma Triyana Dharmachakra monastery in Woodstock, which is a wonderful place to learn about Buddhism or to spend time in silent reflection.
Chef Antonio Mora, aka Tiny, transforms the general stores of my youth into breakfast and lunch counters that serve classic sandwiches like New York City’s chop cheese and Chicago’s Italian beef. My first experience with Antonio’s cooking was at Russel’s General Store in Bovina Center, which he transformed into a similar must-stop haven for incredible sandwiches. At Hamden General store, you get all the comfort and nostalgia of Brooklyn’s bodega sandwiches, greatly enhanced by the chef’s skilled hand.
Peekamoose serves a rotating menu of American fare with a focus on seasonal, local ingredients. The restaurant is set against a backdrop of lush, green mountains, and its interior is much like a rustic cabin dining room. The menu features hearty dishes – the kind of meals well-earned by a day of hiking trails or working long hours. The fishermen’s stew brought me back to life on a bone-chilling winter evening. Packed with Prince Edward Island mussels, arctic char and octopus, it reminded me of my travels in Western Ireland, where fishermen’s stew was my favorite nightly ritual.
The Phoenicia Diner is a popular location for locals and weekenders, serving traditional diner favorites from skillful chefs who source local ingredients. Think: roadside greasy spoon meets the farm-to-table movement. Massive portions of comfort food will keep you fueled for a day of hiking in the mountains or for the long ride to the next stop on your road trip.
I’m a sucker for trout when I’m in the Catskills, and Phoenicia Diner’s Catskills Po’boy with cornmeal-crusted trout and all the fixings on a French baguette hits the spot. Wash it down with a bourbon milkshake and worry about counting calories some other day.
Both a general store and a restaurant, Rosie looks much like an antique store you might find on a country road. The shelves are packed with local, fresh products like pickled red onions, homemade hot sauces, local cheeses and a variety of snacks. They also serve delicious breakfast and lunch options, like the smoked trout pate on sourdough bread and mashed avocado with olive oil and tomato on a homemade bialy, as well as fresh-baked breads, cakes and cookies. Although it often draws a crowd, I promise it is well worth the wait for a seat. If I lived in Kingston, I would become a permanent fixture at Rosie.
Rough Draft Bar and Books is an independent bookstore with a cafe and bar. Come grab a drink while you are killing time, meeting with friends or reading a book in the warmth of the natural light that pours in through a wall of windows. The bar serves beer, wine and cider, as well as pastries and snacks. Follow their social media feed for popup events like pizza night or community-based events.
The first thing you notice when entering Silvia is the large open kitchen and wood-fired grill. Once you’re hit with the aroma of sauteing garlic and bread charring on the grill, you know you’re in for a fantastic meal. Silvia sources from local producers and serves pasture-raised chicken as well as grass-fed and finished beef. Their kitchen is GMO-free and ticks all the boxes of conscious eaters, but it’s also simply delicious.
I got the Local Mushroom and Pasta Rags, which came served in a bowl packed with broad pasta noodles, asparagus, black garlic butter, thyme and Parmigiano-Reggiano. It was salty and cheesy, and left me scraping every drop of flavor out of the bowl.
I popped into Tinker Taco for a quick snack while checking out Woodstock’s many unique shops along Tinker Street. It is true that their prices are on the steeper side, but my tacos were fresh, delicious and well worth the price point. Tinker Taco makes its tortillas from scratch each morning, which is evident in the taste. My selection of tacos – lengua, barbacoa and carnitas – were packed with meat, cilantro, onions, queso fresca and crema.
Kingston shares its name with the capital of Jamaica, so it feels fitting that there would be fantastic Jamaican food in town. Here they serve large portions of jerk chicken, curry goat or oxtails with rice and peas, plantains and veggie slaw, and the stewed meat options are tender, savory and packed with flavor. It may seem small and unassuming from the outside, but hungry travelers know that these are often the best places to grab a meal. This is filling, stick-to-your-ribs fare that will have you itching to come back.
True to its name, Van Smokey is a smoked meats shop as well as restaurant and hangout. Their menu is full of sandwiches, burgers and tacos that use the variety of meats they smoke. The house-made pastrami sandwich is worth the drive from any location. As sacrilegious as it may sound, it rivals the pastrami of New York City’s greatest delis.
What are your favorite restaurants in the Catskills? Share with us in the comments.