Even when he isn’t wearing his Gardiner town supervisor hat, Carl Zatz is the kind of guy who relishes being in the thick of things — and his new business venture is where he’s putting that to the proof. “It’s a perfect storm, to be part of downtown Gardiner and in the hamlet,” he says of his hours — mostly on weekends — spent wearing an apron in the Village Market and Eatery. “More people come to speak to me here about issues with the town than at Town Hall. There’s often a line outside my door.”
The establishment at 125 Main Street, which went for ten years under the name of the Village Market and Bakery, was acquired by Zatz in August 2014. Goodies baked daily on the premises — including muffins, croissants, banana bread and fabulously chewy oatmeal/raisin cookies — are still featured, but the new owner says that it’s now “a very different place. It’s much more about casual dining, people hanging out.”
A “key component” of the transition to “Eatery,” says Zatz, is “a real push toward fast, friendly customer service…good, quality food served at the table.” There is still takeout, of course, but the emphasis is now more on making the place into a sit-down restaurant and community hub.
The café-style menu offers breakfasts and lunches as mundane as an egg on a roll for two bucks or as gourmet as a trout BLT on grilled sourdough bread for $10.95. Build-your-own omelets, burritos and salads are specialties, along with chicken wings with a choice of four sauces, made-on-premises pot pies and a formidable dish known as The End that resembles Rochester’s notorious Garbage Plate: a serving of macaroni-and-cheese topped with a hamburger topped with chili. Awesomely potatoey-tasting homemade potato chips and your choice of salad are served alongside most meals.
Those grass-fed burgers come from Gardiner’s own Kiernan Farm, and other locally raised meats from Full Moon Farm are incorporated in the menu as well, such as the sausage in the chorizo, white bean and kale soup. “We try to use as many local products as we can,” says Zatz. “We sell tons of pies, jams and jellies from Wright’s Farms, and we plan to expand to more and more farms.”
Other plans for the near future include expansion of the Eatery’s very successful Saturday-night concerts to Friday evenings, Sunday brunches and possibly a midweek open-mic night. Most days the place closes down at 4 p.m., but on Saturdays starting in December, it has become a real concert venue, offering a dinner menu and live music. “We start early enough that it ends at 9 o’clock,” Zatz explains, at which point “Half the crowd look at their watch and go home, while the other half go on to catch another show in New Paltz or the Falcon.”
The musical offerings are “mostly blues, jazz, funk,” and Zatz says that he tries to “reach farther than the immediate circuit,” with bands coming in from Middletown, Putnam and Westchester Counties and New York City. “We’ve established ourselves to the point where now artists are calling me.” Willa McCarthy and Chris Vitarello played there last weekend; next Saturday will feature the Jeremy Baum Trio. There’s no cover charge if you want to hear a band, but “We encourage you to eat. The waiters wear you down.”
The Eatery can seat up to 50 on music nights, according to Zatz, and he says that “The acoustics are great.” It’s a funky, friendly space, with enamel-on-wood paintings by Ryan Cronin on the walls and mismatched furniture, some evoking country kitchens and some 1950s diners. There is a long L-shaped bench with little round bistro-style tables for one or two, which the owner describes as “very Montmartre,” and a well-broken-in wooden farmhouse table to accommodate large parties. On it sits a sign that might do good service at Town Board meetings: “This is a communal table. No Fighting. Talk Nice.”
The atmosphere is kid-friendly, and the unisex bathroom includes a deep shelf that doubles as a changing table and free disposable diapers in the medicine cabinet. These amenities are among what Zatz calls “little ‘surprise-and-delight’ features — things that make a good community establishment.” He also plans to supply a water bowl out front for dog-walkers, access to a tire pump for cyclists coming from the rail trail and tourism advice for people just passing through Gardiner. The idea is to become an appealing destination both for locals and out-of-towners.
And chances are that if you’re a resident with a beef and you can’t find the town supervisor at his desk at Town Hall, you’ll be able to find him in his tiny office or mixing dough in the rear kitchen at the Village Market and Eatery. “If you’re going to love a town, you might as well be here all the time,” says Zatz with a smile.