It’s probably a good thing that Ann Marie Corso and Gerard McCluskey opened their new Walkway Café and Catering Company in January during the off season, because as soon as the warm weather hits, they’re going to be even busier than they are now.
The locals have already discovered them — McCluskey says they have a loyal following among nearby residents after just ten weeks or so in business. But they’re also ideally located on Haviland Road in Highland, walking distance from the Hudson Valley Rail Trail and Walkway Over the Hudson, situated just right to feed all of those pedestrians who will soon come out in force with the warm weather this spring.
Those walking through the café doors will find a bright, spacious 38-seat dining room, its walls adorned with photographs of local scenery and a handful of electric guitars. McCluskey jokes that with the tables coming from Highland’s recently closed Casa Mia restaurant and the chairs coming from an Irish pub, the dining room reflects a blend of Corso’s Italian heritage and his Irish background: “a little Gaelic, a little garlic.” Along one wall, eight tall metal stools are pulled up to a counter with a window view for diners there, and when the weather permits, there’ll be seating for another dozen or so people outside.
Walkway Café and Catering Company — not to be confused with a previous “Walkway Café” that used to be in the area — is truly a family business. The couple have six children between them; daughter Gabriella, 13, will often be found working behind the counter and son, Thomas, 9, helps with baking. Corso’s mother and father, Theresa and Bob (former restaurant owners themselves), come in on a daily basis to assist and McCluskey’s mom is a regular, too.
Milton native Corso operated her own bistro (Ann Marie’s Bistro) in Saugerties for ten years and says she’s been in the restaurant and catering business all of her life. McCluskey, who hails from Wappingers Falls originally, was a cook in the Navy years ago and worked in a few restaurants, but his occupation for the past few decades has been running Gerard McCluskey Landscape Design, specializing in stone work.
Everything in the Walkway Café is made fresh daily on site except for the bread and bagels, which come from Rockland Bakery and Lox O’Bagels in Saugerties. Glass cases in the café are filled with homemade baked goods that Corso says she bakes pretty much continuously throughout the day and evening to ensure a steady supply of freshly baked goods.
Croissants are baked each morning. The bakery selection depends on what Corso is inspired to make that day: it could include blueberry or strawberry-banana scones, lemon cupcakes, coconut macaroons or Ghirardelli dark chocolate brownies.
Breakfast is a busy time, with build-your-own omelets featured along with popular pancake options and breakfast specialties; “some traditional, some not,” says Corso. They even make homemade Italian sausage on the premises and roast their own turkey and roast beef.
Wraps are big at lunchtime, as is the chicken salad and a selection of entrée salads, and their chili won the recent “Best of Fest Chili Cook-off” out of two dozen entries at February’s WinterFest in Highland. Corso is assisted in the cooking by experienced chef Oscar Sanchez (known for his homemade soups, she says) and a friendly staff who all “jump in” and do what’s necessary.
Notable among the take-out options are sweet and savory pies that can be eaten on the go, designed to appeal to those Walkway and rail trail visitors.
Complete dinners are offered daily for under $10; the couple says they’re making a point of keeping the prices affordable. Options change daily and are often posted on the café’s Facebook page; selections might include lemon chicken with rice and veggies or lasagna with salad, and as with the baked goods, portions are generous. Food items are sold by weight, as well, and take-out is available as is local delivery. Liquor is not available, and the couple say they’re not sure yet if they’ll offer beer and wine in the future; time will tell.
Walkway Café and Catering Company is located at 6 Haviland Road in Highland, just off of Route 9W before the Mid-Hudson Bridge entrance. For more information, call (845) 834-3777 or visit “Walkway Cafe and Catering Company” on Facebook.com.