Boitson’s, the Uptown Kingston eatery on North Front Street, owes its existence to an exceedingly rare stroke of good fortune: an inheritance from a Brooklyn landlord, a retired Ukrainian-American sailor who befriended his tenant, Maria Philippis, and kept in touch even after she moved away to the Hudson Valley. Philippis, who worked in her family’s Long Island restaurants while living in the north Williamsburg brownstone, had always wanted her own place, and the surprise inheritance from Alexander Boitson upon his passing in 2007 finally made it possible.
In gratitude to her benefactor, Philippis named her Kingston restaurant, which opened in June 2010, after him; and the 1940s-era nautical-style décor – complete with navy walls, sleek bar and bathroom murals inspired by a World War II sailor’s tattoos – was designed as a kind of living memorial, where, according to Philippis, “the Ukrainian-American sailor could get a decent plate of oysters and everyone is warmly welcomed.” Boitson’s draws crowds for its tried-and-true standards – burgers, steak frites, fried chicken – vegan dishes and weekly specials, keyed to the seasons and utilizing fresh, local ingredients whenever possible.
“We’re conscious of what our clients want,” said Philippis, who is as rooted in the restaurant business as one can be, with her brother, father and uncle all owning successful places. “It’s a lot of hard work, giving people what they want and putting out really good, fresh food.”
Philippis, who owned a weekend house in Stone Ridge and had an antique store in Rosendale before opening Boitson’s, has taken to Kingston like a fish to water: Last year she bought the building next door, which enabled her to expand the deck in back. In the warm-weather months, patrons can enjoy a surprise view of the Catskill Mountains at the outdoor bar and lounge area, furnished with couches.
With the purchase, she also gained two storefronts. One was occupied briefly by the furniture retailer Spruce and has also been the site of several pop-up galleries showcasing Philippis’ friends’ work. The other is home to longtime tenant Colonial Health Food. Upstairs, she rents out two apartments, decorated in Mid-Century Modern, to travelers. The rates are $175 a night on weekends and $135 a night during the week.
Philippis has gone out of her way to acquaint her guests with Kingston. She has driven a few of her guests downtown, to the waterfront – a surprise to many of them, who didn’t know that Kingston was on the Hudson River – and said that most visitors are entranced by Kingston. “We should take a step back and look at what we’ve got. It’s a gorgeous city,” she said. “We need to invest more in infrastructure, parking, transit and signage.”
Philippis was one of four businesspeople who organized Uptown’s New Year Eve extravaganza, which attracted a few thousand people. “The turnout was unbelievable,” she said. That collective effort exemplified another aspect of Kingston that Philippis loves: the supportiveness of the business community. “We eat in each other’s places, and we all try to plan together,” she said.
Philippis, who juggles managing the restaurant with taking care of her two-year-old son, said she believes that this summer will be a turning point for Kingston: “I give it another year, and then Kingston will be on the map.”
Boitson’s is open from 5 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and from 5 to 10 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday and Monday. Brunch will be served from 12 noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday starting May 6. Entrées are priced from $14 to $28.
Boitson’s, 47 North Front Street, Kingston; (845) 339-2333, www.boitsons.com. Read more about local cuisine and learn about new restaurants on Ulster Publishing’s dinehudsonvalley.com or hudsonvalleyalmanacweekly.com.