Paltzonians, rejoice! Another fine new restaurant and tavern has opened downtown, expanding our culinary and beverage choices. With 16 newly installed taps, one of them employing the trendy new nitro pouring technology, Schatzi’s caters especially to lovers of craft beers. And its proprietor, Jeremy Phillips, is a hometown boy who has already established a great track record with the casual gastropub’s three-year-old sister establishment in Poughkeepsie.
Located in the space next door to Snug’s that most recently housed the Huguenot, and before that was called 36 Main, Schatzi’s New Paltz has undergone a partial renovation, with only two of its predecessor’s many taxidermy specimens left up on the walls and the previous dark-blue cavernlike atmosphere lightened somewhat. Metal beer signs from many prestigious microbreweries now adorn the west wall, and the east side, where the bar is, sports four flat-screen TVs. When this reporter recently visited, two were displaying basketball games and two cooking shows — all with the sound turned down, and classic rock piped in at a decibel level that permits easy conversation.
Phillips grew up here, excelling in a variety of sports before graduating from New Paltz High School in 1999; he still keeps in touch with some of his teachers and coaches. During his student years he worked in the kitchen at the Loft (where Á Tavola is now) and tended bar at P & G’s. A business career then took him to Albany and Saratoga before landing in Poughkeepsie, but he says that he always wanted to open a restaurant in his hometown. “I was targeting New Paltz to open one, but then the Poughkeepsie space opened up, and it was too good to pass up,” he recalls.
The original Schatzi’s Pub & Bier Garden — located on lower Main Street across from the Cunneen-Hackett Arts Center — is blessed with a surprisingly large and lovely sheltered rear courtyard that provides an oasis from the urban grittiness of downtown Poughkeepsie. But the kitchen is on the small side, which means that the menu is focused primarily on high-end “bar food” with a tilt toward German cuisine. Schatzi’s Pub & Bier Garden of New Paltz offers the advantage of much more kitchen space and equipment, so the menu selections have been “almost doubled,” according to general manager Matt Krieger, with many more sandwich and entrée choices.
But Schatzi’s initial popularity was built on its delectable array of “share plates,” designed for experimental pairing with the establishments’ ever-rotating selection of craft beers. Phillips says that big groups of brew connoisseurs often come in, order one of almost every appetizer and everything on tap that day, passing it all around to discover “crazy combinations that go well together.” Indeed, even a solo diner (or luncher) could hardly go wrong substituting two of three of the terrific appetizers for a traditional dinner.
This reporter had the opportunity to taste small portions of several of the more popular menu items (along with a flight of four beer samples), and I’m pleased to report that everything was delicious and beautifully prepared. Even heavy German dishes like potato pancakes were fluffy in the middle and perfectly crisped on the outside; the homemade spaetzle mac & cheese is an apotheosis of comfort food. The Schatzi Burger was voted the #13 burger in the nation on BuzzFeed. The Reuben sliders are amazing; the Food Truck Tacos combine grilled pork belly with kim chi that adds zing but isn’t unbearably hot. The sauerbraten meatballs are savory, light and juicy, served in a tangy sauce that Krieger proclaims “so good I could take a bath in it.” But my favorite dish was a special soup-du-jour: a carrot/coconut purée topped with chickpeas that were dusted with a dried chili rub, then fried to a crunch, finishing with a drizzle of scallion oil. It was a great belly-warmer for a raw day.
Now that warmer weather is on the way, chef Zach Wade — who got his on-the-job training with Ken Thurston at Nick & Johnnie’s in Palm Beach, Florida and Gianni Scappin at Market Street in Rhinebeck — has plenty of ideas for lighter dishes for the spring/summer menu, and tries out new specials daily. The New Paltz menu already has more selections geared toward a population with a lot of vegetarians, vegans and health-conscious folks than the Poughkeepsie clientele. And Wade cooks as much as possible with fresh, locally sourced ingredients, recently switching Schatzi’s source for German sausage specialties to Elia’s Meat Market of Highland. “We’re into supporting Mom-and-Pop food providers,” says Krieger.
In addition to an imaginative and diverse beer list, handily categorized by style — IPAs, wheat beers, Belgians, stouts and porters and so on — and accompanied by alcohol content levels and food-pairing suggestions, Schatzi’s also serves wines from California, Italy, Germany, Spain, Argentina and New Zealand, plus a seasonal selection of gourmet cocktails. An outdoor Bier Garden along one side of the building is undergoing landscaping right now and expected to open to the public by the time it really feels like spring. But don’t wait too long to check out Schatzi’s; since it opened on Valentine’s Day, it has already been drawing enthusiastic crowds. Once rock-climbing and hiking season is upon us, you may have to wrestle the day-trippers from New York City for a table.
Schatzi’s Pub & Bier Garden of New Paltz is open for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Sunday from 12 noon to 1 a.m., and has just begun serving brunch from noon to 3 p.m. on Sundays. It opens at 3 p.m. on Mondays and is closed on Tuesdays. Check out the special Mondays Are the Wurst, Pierogi Night on Wednesdays and Nacho Night on Thursdays. Schatzi’s is located at 36 Main Street in New Paltz. Call (845) 255-1203 if you’d like to reserve a table. To view the full menu, visit www.schatzispubpk.com; daily specials are announced at www.facebook.com/schatzisnewpaltz.