“There’s room for everybody,” says Theresa Fall. And that everybody goes for her fellow restaurateurs in town as well as the balance of tourists and locals in New Paltz. The proprietor of Jar’d Wine Pub at Water Street Market, Fall recently opened another dining spot there, partnering with former Rock & Rye general manager Matthew Sweeney to launch The Parish Restaurant & Bar.
Taking over the upstairs space that most recently housed Bridge Creek Cafe, The Parish offers diners a taste of New Orleans and a bar with a view of the Gunks.
“It’s really nice that we’re having all these new restaurants opening in New Paltz,” Fall says. “When there’s an area with a concentration of dining, people tend to spread the love around. There’s room for all of us, and we all support one another, and love the fact that we have so many choices of different places to go now. It’s unusual that it happened all at once, but everyone is excited about it.”
Once The Parish is up and running, Fall plans to “go back downstairs” to Jar’d full-time and Matthew Sweeney will go solo running the new place. Fall says she’ll remain the “not-so-silent partner.” “I’ll be here, in and out, but this is his main thing. The hope is that people come to the market and go to both businesses. Each is a nice place to go for a drink first or after the other. I’m already seeing that happen.”
As events coordinator at Water Street, Fall looks at the big picture. “There are places that are just tourist-driven, and others that are local-driven, but there’s no reason we can’t do both here in this spot,” she says. “We have all types of people coming through Water Street Market. We see this as a place where the locals welcome the tourists. And with Matt and I both being local people, we’re familiar with everything and that familiarity helps.”
The Parish menu is predominantly Cajun and Creole, but the plan is to have something for everyone. There are vegan and gluten-free options, and a children’s menu is available. “There are a lot of tourists that support the market, and if there’s a family of five coming here we don’t want them turned off thinking it’s too spicy,” Fall says. A traditional burger will always be available — made from grass-fed locally sourced beef — and menu items that might be a little spicy prepared Cajun-style can be toned down to taste. Or the volume can be turned up, should that be the case. Diners are welcome to go into the wait-station and choose their own bottle of hot sauce.
Chef Aydan Tasciotti, most recently with Bridge Creek Cafe, has been “working around the clock on recipes and ideas,” says Fall. “And we had a chef who specializes in Cajun and Creole come in and consult with him. Aydan is very receptive to new ideas, and he’s on the same page as Matt and I on the menu. He’s got a great temperament for the kitchen and has been such an ease to work with. We’re loving his food and we couldn’t be happier with him.”
The menu currently offers selections that include a blackened catfish entrée ($18), served with smoked gouda grits and braised greens; a veggie and gluten-free Okra Creole ($14), composed of stewed vegetables, red beans and rice; Jambalaya ($20) made with chicken, shrimp and andouille sausage; and a southern-fried Bayou Pork Chop ($20) with mustard green gravy. The grass-fed local beef burger is $14 with a red bean and rice veggie burger priced at $11.
The kitchen will source locally as much as possible, Sweeney says, “wherever we can.” Coffee comes from the Mudd Puddle and some of the hot sauces from Evolutionary Organics on Springtown Road.
Sweeney, like Fall, has a long history in the restaurant business, including a stint as general manager at the now defunct Beso. “When that closed, I thought I’d take some time off,” he says. “But one of my bartenders, Cassie Fellet, called me within days and said she’d just bought a restaurant. That turned out to be Rock & Rye Tavern. I ended up being the manager there for five years.”
With Fellet selling that restaurant recently to Garvan McCloskey (who just opened “Garvan’s” at the site), and with Justine and Phil Leger deciding to sell Bridge Creek Cafe — Bridge Creek Catering is still going strong — for Sweeney the timing to go into business with Fall was just right. “It couldn’t have worked out better,” he says.
The two have been friends for some time, having met through working together in past restaurants. Fall has been encouraging Sweeney to go out on his own for some time, he says. “She really pushed me, telling me, ‘You need to do your own thing.’”
In addition to running the front of the house, Sweeney will tend bar a few nights a week; at least at first, as he trains new bartenders. Influenced by his time working at Rock & Rye — where, he says, “Cassie was like a chemist with her cocktails” — he’s come up with some signature cocktails for The Parish that can be a bit complicated in their preparation. His Monk’s Fire, for example, blends tequila or mezcal with green chartreuse, lime and Thai chili. And then there are the traditional New Orleans-style libations like the Ramos Gin Fizz, which combines gin, lime, cream, raw egg white, orange flower water and club soda.
“I have to warn the bartenders coming in that this isn’t just making a rum-and-coke,” Sweeney says. It’s challenging for bartenders, he adds, to juggle precise amounts of multiple ingredients for these type of special cocktails when you have a full bar, “but you’re doing something that not a lot of bars around do, and people love it.”
Capacity at The Parish is 15 seats at the bar and 18 in the dining room, with 55 seats out on the deck. There is plenty of parking. Diners who are familiar with the former cafe at the site will see a lot of cosmetic changes. Fall and Sweeney did the renovations themselves with the help of family and friends. The long mahogany bar was built by Johnny Poux, who did the bar at Jar’d, and local designer/florist Kelly Cleary-Gersec oversaw the whole aesthetic and will be doing planters outside. Jar’d bartender and former SUNY New Paltz art student Casey Taylor hand-painted the motifs (reminiscent of New Orleans wrought iron) on the center of each table, and Jeff Wilder did “everything from carpentry to electric to plumbing,” says Sweeney.
The biggest change was moving the bar to the side of the room where the seats face a wall of windows looking out onto the view of the Gunks. “We have one of the best views in New Paltz,” Sweeney says. “When the sun sets, this whole wall turns orange …. It’s awesome.” It was months of blood, sweat and tears, he adds, “but to finally open the doors and have people coming in and saying, ‘It’s beautiful’ has been a really great feeling.”
The Parish is open six days a week for now; closed on Wednesdays until mid-May when it’ll be open seven days a week during the busy season. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. weeknights and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturdays. Lighter fare will be served from 4 to 5 p.m. to allow the kitchen to transition from lunch to dinner. Brunch will run not only on Sunday mornings, but Mondays and Tuesdays as well, a nod to the days off of fellow restaurant business workers who go out Monday and Tuesday after working weekends. More information will be at the soon-to-launch website, www.theparishrestaurant.com.