Faded silk flowers on the porch tables, a box requesting donations for the food bank, posters of events plastered on the windows, artwork and shark jaws displayed around the room, dinosaurs and odd toys here and there, a bumper sticker on the cash register that says, “Support Your Local Skateboarder” and the funky old glass door that finally closes on its own: These should all sound familiar to anyone who has had the pleasure of coming to the Last Bite for what I believe is the best cup of coffee in High Falls. Here, breakfast and lunch are served up in the casual atmosphere where weekenders crowd in with the locals.
“What makes the Bite really awesome is the diverse clientele,” says owner Scott Albright. “Sometimes I look out from behind the counter and see the contractor sitting next to the actor sitting next to the movie special effects guy and the hunter and the artist. Everybody mingles together and ‘conversates.’ To me that’s the Bite.”
The place is unpretentious, which must be a comfort to glitz-worn celebrities. Movie stars who have made second homes in the region might expect nothing more than a nod, if that, from other customers. Indeed, High Falls seems the perfect place for world-renowned artists to hole up and work; think Marc Chagall.
Albright says that the décor, if you can call it that, evolved from the former owner’s Goth theme, and he kept some of the vampire elements to pay tribute to what the Bite once was. So, a skull and a few statues share space with an old cuckoo clock hanging from a center post. The menu is graffitied in chalk above the espresso machine and juicer; no two tables are alike, the chairs are all mismatched and a concrete counter lining one picture window seems like nothing more than a nice afterthought. The barn wood paneling on the walls comes from an old structure in Kerhonkson that the one-time contractor dismantled. “It made the renovation affordable, and it fit the 1800s building,” he says.
Albright grew up in Stone Ridge and has lived here all his life. “I stumbled into the Bite as a customer. It was smaller at the time, and they only did egg sandwiches in the morning and soups and sandwiches for lunch. The previous owner was getting burned out with the business after three years and was looking for a change. I was a stonemason and contractor for about ten years, and I was extremely burned out and tired. I made an offer to buy her business. She was emotionally invested in the place, so we became partners at first. As a contractor, I was able to do a full renovation; it used to seat only about ten people.”
Now on busy mornings, he and his staff might serve ten people or more every few minutes, taking orders by phone and speedily producing delicious wraps and sandwiches for walk-ins. But if you sit, you can dawdle over a cup of coffee and read the newspaper or catch up on the local gossip. The rush of customers might swirl around you, but there’s always the view of trees across the road to enjoy. Meanwhile, delivery trucks arrive daily. With only 600 square feet of floor space, storage is a challenge.
Albright has recently announced a change in the menu. With winter coming on, they will be eliminating some of the sandwiches and start making hot rice bowls. “I hired a new chef to come in and teach us, and we’ll be using organic rice. Our business goes through phases: It slows down in the winter, so this new menu will be good for the season.”
He talks about being wedded to his business. “Now I’m here seven days a week, 12-hour days. It’s demanding, but I’m single. As for the staff, it’s not a career for people, but I’m proud of the fact that we keep staff on for two to four years. I still have a staff member who worked for the old management, going on six years now. My manager, who just moved on, was here even longer than I have been.”
“We’re contemplating closing one day a week; we’ve been a seven-day-a-week establishment forever. I’m leaning in that direction, but picking what day to close will be difficult. What keeps us in business is the fact that we have regulars; we have a strong community base. In the past, we’ve had poetry nights and music, but there are tenants who live here as well.” The building is old, he explains, and holding events at night was like “being right in their living room.”
Anyway, he likes the idea of serving breakfast and lunch and closing at 3. “You get up in the morning and it’s really early, and you think, ‘Oh, god – another day.’ But once I get outside, step out of my door – you feel like you’re ahead of everybody when it’s dark and there’s nobody else out. You have your day started.”
After running the Bite for half a decade, he says that there is no rhyme or reason for anything in food trends. “One day we’ll sell a hundred omelets, and the next day nobody will order an omelet. What I have learned is: Don’t try to figure it out. Just be prepared.”
An avid rock-climber/skateboarder/surfer, the 35-year-old exudes a hyperenergetic vibe and admits to being an adrenaline junky. “In the winter I live in Puerto Rico. I work basically long hours here in summer and fall, then I take off for five months. Last winter I rented a food truck called Jack’s Shack and ran the Last Bite out of it. In Puerto Rico nobody does breakfast, so I saw a need. I used their food truck in the morning, and at lunch they’d come and take over. I’m looking to do my own thing, so that’s in the works.”
He loves the island and the culture. “It’s three hours away on a plane; everybody speaks English; it’s beautiful; the people are super-friendly. It’s a different lifestyle.” The change of pace took him a while to adjust to, as the laid-back atmosphere is not your typical New York pace. Now he gets it, and imagines that he’ll retire there someday.
In the meantime, dedication to making what he calls “a proper egg sandwich” and pleasing his clientele is occupation enough. “I’m really proud of the community aspect of the business,” he says. “It’s like Cheers without beer. Cheers with eggs.”
The Last Bite, weekdays 7 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m.-6 p.m., 103 Main Street, High Falls; (845) 687-7779, https://thelastbitehighfallsny.weebly.com. The Last Bite is now hiring.