Eclectic vegetarian restaurants are not a dime a dozen, so people flock to Tivoli from Albany, Putnam County and southwestern Connecticut to taste tempeh fries with a Thai barbecue sauce and imaginative sushi-inspired rolls, plus salads, sandwiches, luscious baked goods and other fare at Luna 61. From the staunchest carnivores to the gluten-avoiding vegan, people have been raving about Luna since it opened 17 years ago – first in Red Hook for 11 years, and now Tivoli for the past six.
“It’s wonderful to have a food business in the Hudson Valley,” says Peter Maisel, co-owner with wife Debra. Maisel explains that when they first opened, the farm-to-table craze was just beginning, after it had migrated from the West Coast eastward. But fresh, quality organic ingredients to star in the restaurant’s many dishes are no longer hard to find. The growing season has gotten longer lately, thanks to innovations in farming such as tunnels, greenhouses, hydroponics and creative ways to keep ingredients from apples to sweet potatoes in cold storage. This means that there’s more fodder for the eclectic menu, from herbs to baby greens, lettuces and kale, and it’s available longer.
Luna 61 sources from local purveyors like Hearty Roots, Loose Caboose, Continental Organics in Middletown, Montgomery Place Orchards and Migliorelli Farm. Cheeses come from Real Live Food Company and Sprout Creek Farm, while other items come from farther afield, like some highly acclaimed Vermont cheeses, organic wines from South America, France, Italy, Australia (bottles $30 to $36 per) and organic beers –15 of them – like Wolaver’s from Vermont, Peak from Portland, Maine and selections from Germany, Belgium and England.
Fitting in perfectly with Tivoli’s funky collegetown vibe, Luna 61 is smack in the middle of the village. It has a bluestone patio perfect for fair-weather dining, which leads to a new building that emerged phoenixlike when the previous one burned to the ground several years ago. The exterior blends right into the streetscape, and once inside you find yourself in an airy bi-level space that appears taller than it is wide, yet somehow cozy, with titillating neon-green walls. Plants are everywhere, including bamboo and narcissus that seem to be trying to stretch to the high ceiling, and a spiral staircase near the entrance leads to a loft for extra seating. It also hosts private parties for as many as 30: great for celebrating Bard students, book clubs and even professors who like to hold classes there sometimes.
At the previous location at 61 East Market Street in Red Hook (hence the 61 in the name), Bard students had to walk about a half-mile from where the campus shuttle bus dropped them off, and this deterred some, especially in iffy weather, Peter says. Now the shuttle drops them off much closer and has a later schedule. The Maisels, Tivoli residents all along, can now bike to work. And the present spot seats more people: a plus.