It’s about the community, they say.
“We’re not a coffeeshop and we’re not a restaurant,” says Jake Stortini of the place that he co-owns with Jesse Feldmus. But Murray’s, their place in Tivoli, clearly boasts the best of both, serving an enthusiastic clientele. Tivoli is a quirky little hamlet just north of Bard College, with a lively social scene and some good restaurants; but until three years ago, it was lacking this kind of cozy gathering spot. “There was a big need for a coffeeshop in Tivoli,” says Jake, who met partner Jesse their freshman year at Bard.
All kinds of people from diverse walks of life keep the “all-day brunch café” crowded every day (except Wednesdays, when it is closed). Jake recounts as an example a story about the 82-year-old local couple sitting at a table near a couple of Bard students. They all struck up a conversation, and the four delightedly ran into each other again there another day.
And many of the regulars keep coming in for the imaginative sandwiches, salads, egg dishes and other brunchy dishes cooked by executive chef Amy Lawton, who has been with them since they opened three years ago. Formerly at Wild Hive in Clinton, her roots are in local food, her employers say: “She’s the textbook locavore.”
Chef Amy planted a lush garden in back of the restaurant to provide ingredients from curly kale to nasturtiums that are as local as it gets; and as soon as the kitchen closes at 4 p.m., she’s out foraging, currently for mushrooms. Everything else is nearly as local, sourced mostly from local producers – within 40 to 50 miles at most, Jake says – and with sustainable growing practices as well.
Each Saturday there’s a new menu, but always an egg sandwich, a breakfast burrito and the popular kale and eggs ($9). On a recent incarnation of the menu, the egg sandwich came with cheddar or chèvre ($3.50), with bacon, sausage or greens available as extras ($1.50) and a melted Camembert and tomato option on the week’s offerings ($10). The burrito was stuffed with black beans, cilantro pesto, sharp cheddar and scrambled eggs, with chipotle sour cream on the side ($9). The Apricot Party (Jesse’s fave, $5) with blackberries, oats and a baked biscuit with whipped cream on top, is morphing as we speak into Peaches & Cream, as fresh local peaches come into season. Another current favorite of Jesse’s is the dandelion greens salad with garlic scapes, tomato and mozzarella in a balsamic vinaigrette topped with brioche croutons ($10).
A large variety of creative salads, wraps and soups featuring local, in-season ingredients rounds out the menu. All baked goods are made in-house; at a recent visit there were fresh zucchini bread, hippie cookies and biscuits in both regular and jalapeño.
Beverage options range from a seasonal cucumber cooler to evolving flavored fresh-squeezed lemonades. You may have tasted watermelon or Thai basil lemonade, or maybe hibiscus mint, lavender or black raspberry. Watch for a jalapeño version coming up soon. Flavored simple syrups are made in-house to add to coffees, like vanilla, chocolate and cinnamon, and they make a popular spicy vanilla chai from scratch as well.
Last but not least – “the coffee is as important as the food,” they say – is an ever-refillable $2 mug, so you can enjoy the free WiFi for a while. This “culinary coffee” is roasted in small batches by the Philadelphia company Atelier La Colombe, which offers organic fair-trade beans, single and blends, in a range to please every taste, from Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico. Bags of La Colombe are also available at Murray’s to take home.
Dark wood floors and tables don’t keep Murray’s from feeling airy, bright and homey. A current photography exhibit (the art changes every couple of months) is by Sam Rosenblatt.
Three years ago, at age 20, these guys opened the place to fill a local need for a coffeeshop, but Murray’s is ever-evolving. First they supplemented the baked goods that go so well with fine coffee by adding breakfast sandwiches; then that evolved into a full menu of brunch options. They even served dinner for a year, but then opted to stop. “It was great,” says Jesse, “but we would rather stick to what we do best.”
Future plans include an open-minded, following-the-seasons approach and seeing where things go. In any case, it seems to be working, and Murray’s is loved by Tivolians and visitors alike. Jesse and Jake are too busy to even spend quality time with their cat, named (of course) Murray. “On weekends you can’t move in here,” says Jake.
Murray’s is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day but Wednesday, with the kitchen closing at 4 p.m. Find it at 76 Broadway on Tivoli’s main drag, at (845) 757 6003 or www.murraystivoli.com. Read more about local cuisine and learn about new restaurants on Ulster Publishing’s www.DineHudsonValley.com or www.HudsonValleyAlmanacWeekly.com.