For foodies in the vicinity of High Falls, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that two long-established popular local eateries have recently gone out of business. The good news is that the operators of one of those restaurants have relocated to the other and plan to reopen it this week under a new/old name, in a move that brings them full circle.
According to Marie and Brian Murphy, who used to run the Inn at Stone Ridge at the Hasbrouck House on Route 209, owners Suzanne and Dan Hauspurg decided about six months ago to put that historic stone building on the market. The Murphys were reluctant to take a chance on possibly not having their lease renewed by a new owner, so they began looking around for a new site for their restaurant and catering operation.
Enter Brigitte and George Nagle, proprietors of the long-running Northern Spy Café, which occupies a hilltop site just west of “downtown” High Falls that was previously home to another long-running restaurant of reverend memory known as Top of the Falls. The Nagles, who kept wildly differing hours because she’s a schoolteacher, wanted to spend more time together, said Marie, and asked the Murphys if they were interested in leasing the Northern Spy.
It was perfect timing, and a sort of karmic homecoming for Brian, who grew up in High Falls and graduated from Rondout Valley High School. For it was at Top of the Falls, some three decades ago, that Murphy got his first taste of life as a professional cook; and now he’s back with his growing family in tow.
“When he was 15 years old, Brian crashed his friend’s moped, and he needed to get a job to pay for it,” Marie related. “So he took a job as a dishwasher at Top of the Falls, where his friend Mike Ryan was a chef at the time.” After a while Brian was broken in as a prep cook, and Ryan — who is now godfather to the Murphy’s eight-year-old daughter Emma — eventually talked him into attending the Culinary Institute of America. Brian’s subsequent career included about ten years as a sous chef for John Novi at the DePuy Canal House just down the road; a chef stint at Good Enough to Eat, which occupied the building at 155 Main Street in between its incarnations as Top of the Falls and Northern Spy; another at Scribner Hollow in Hunter, where he met his wife about 15 years ago; and an executive chef gig at Mariners’ Harbor in Kingston.
The Murphys took over operations at the Inn at Stone Ridge at Dan Hauspurg’s invitation in 2009. “We did the whole restaurant, we did weddings, had a family,” said Marie. Their two younger daughters, Allison and Lily, are two years and eight months old respectively.
“I’ve been in this building three different times,” said Brian, as the couple and their crew — many of whom came along with them from the Inn at Stone Ridge — rushed to get the former Northern Spy ready for a midweek soft opening, with the two older girls darting about amidst a clutter of cartons. “We ran the Inn, but it didn’t feel like this place feels. It connects more with the community.”
“The Hasbrouck House is intimidating to some people,” agreed Marie. “Our vision was to have local people feel like they could come in after work. Even if they work in construction, they could go to the bar and have a beer and a burger, and not feel like they have to get dressed up for dinner.”
The Murphys are hoping that the less imposing frame building — henceforth to be known as Murphy’s Bistro and Tavern at the Top of the Falls — will prove more conducive to their vision of “comfortable, casual family dining.” Although, unlike the Inn at Stone Ridge, Murphy’s Bistro will be open for lunch, the menu offerings won’t change that much from what Brian and his kitchen staff created in their previous location: “simple, high-quality, farm-to-table cooking,” using locally sourced ingredients as much as possible and including “lots of vegetarian and gluten-free items.”
Brian’s signature dish, beef Wellington, will be back by popular demand, with the meat provided by the Hudson Valley Cattle Company in Marbletown. “We’ve got a great following,” said Marie, “a lot of local customers who have become amazing friends.” Their eldest daughter already has considerable experience as a hostess, and according to her mother, “People actually call up and request to be seated by Emma.”
The Murphys also plan to plant a garden on-site to supply fresh herbs, tomatoes and other vegetables in season. The hilltop site consists of considerably more acreage than is apparent from Route 213, including a meadow spacious and level enough to put up a tent for outdoor weddings and other large social functions. “There’s also a nice little pergola. We put lights around it,” noted Marie, who is the events planner in the family. “People can have rehearsals out there, garden parties…” The catering end of the business will soon be up and running, with the dining room already booked for a couple of private events; and as for weddings, “Actually, we have one for this year already!”
“The whole plan here is to purchase the property eventually,” said Brian, who seems delighted to be back at his home base. “Marie pretty much runs things. Me, I’m just the kook in the kitchen.”
Beginning this week, Murphy’s Bistro and Tavern will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays; it will be closed on Mondays. Tuesdays through Fridays there will be a Happy Hour with $5 appetizers from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday will be Pasta Night with a $14 special, Wednesday Mexican Night for $12 and Thursday Prime Rib Night for $19. A $25 four-course dinner special will be served on Sunday from 3 to 6 p.m. Check out the mouthwatering lunch and menus at www.murphysbistroandtavern.com, and call (845) 687-7298 for reservations.