Twenty years after opening their first Kitchenette in Manhattan’s Tribeca — followed by a second restaurant on Amsterdam Avenue near Columbia University — chef-owners Lisa Hall and Ann Nickinson have brought their home-style dining concept to the Hudson Valley. The High Falls Kitchenette opened in May, right across the street from The Eggs Nest.
The decor is funky casual, with colorful mismatched metal tables along one wall and booths painted an electric lime green along another. Servers wearing brightly colored t-shirts and bandannas are relaxed. The rustic log railings outside have been painted white, and the casually painted sign out front pretty much sums it up: “home cooking,” “burgers and fries” and “pies and cake.”
Nickinson and Hall refer to their baked goods as their “calling card.” Bread is baked fresh daily, and the bakery case is full of layer cakes, fruit pies, hand-decorated cookies and cupcakes made with sweet butter, pure vanilla extract, Belgian chocolate and Dutch cocoa. “We’re confident that once people get to know us, they’ll use us as a resource for wedding and birthday cakes,” said Nickinson. “And as the holidays become closer, we’ll do Thanksgiving pies and Christmas cookies. We pride ourselves on the fact that we’re scratch-baking and everything is done in small batches.”
The menu is all about comfort food; turkey meatloaf and mashed potatoes, buttermilk fried chicken and scratch-made biscuits, homemade mac-and-cheese and chicken pot pie. “It’s all the classic things that have been in vogue for 50 years and will be in vogue 50 years from now. I feel comfortable saying that these things are ‘tried and true.’ But that’s not to say that we don’t do things a little more… I don’t like the term ‘upscale,’ but Lisa and I believe that it takes just as much talent to make a perfect blueberry muffin as it does a croquembouche. We’re homespun, but it doesn’t matter what you’re making if you execute it well.”
In fact, Nickinson declines to name a particular specialty of the Kitchenette, saying that while people gravitate toward certain things, her philosophy is that everything on the menu should be good, or it shouldn’t be there. The menu will be switched up twice a year, due for a fall update next month when cool weather favorites like Shepherd’s Pie and hot roasted turkey dinners will replace the stuffed clams of summer. Certain staple dishes will remain.
The full bar offers the tried and true, as well, along with a selection of specialty drinks. They serve a house-made pickle in the Bloody Mary — the same homemade dill spear served with sandwiches, fried as an appetizer occasionally and chopped up in the tartar sauce served with fried fish — and they do a range of house-infused vodkas that include a roasted beet-infused and an Earl Grey tea-infused vodka that could go nicely with a splash of seltzer and simple syrup, said Nickinson. The Kitchenette makes its own pink lemonade, she added, which can be served as a cocktail combined with vodka.
The two women first formed their business partnership in 1994 to open the first Kitchenette, but they’d already worked together in kitchens for years. Although their backgrounds couldn’t be more dissimilar — Hall attended the French Culinary Institute and went on to work in Paris, while Nickinson is a self-taught chef who simply loved to cook — the two found that their aesthetics for food and the way they worked together was compatible.
When they’re in the city, they alternate between the two restaurants there, with one of them in each place supervising the kitchens. Now with the High Falls location added, one of them will remain in the city and the other will be here all the time. “We just rotate,” said Nickinson, “and while we don’t stand behind the line any more, both of us are cooks and we oversee everything.”
And despite the city credentials, they’re hardly newcomers to the area; both have owned homes in the Hudson Valley for years and before starting the Kitchenette in 1994, Nickinson owned and operated the restaurant Good Enough to Eat. “We’ve been talking about doing this for years,” she said. “We really came up here with the idea of doing weddings and catering, and we weren’t sure if we were just going to have a kitchen and do events out of that, but it all came together with this building.”
The 60-seat restaurant has a private room off to the side that seats an additional 60 people for private parties. They do off-site catering as well, and menus can be customized.
The Kitchenette, 1219 Route 213 in High Falls, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and brunch on weekends. Hours are Monday and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. They’re closed on Tuesday and Wednesday and take cash only. For more information, call (845) 687-7464 or visit www.kitchenetterestaurant.com.