Editor’s note: It’s inescapable from just looking at the construction around town, and following the planning board’s sessions that there is a huge amount of activity in Woodstock, much of it centered around food.
So reporter Paul Smart and editor Brian Hollander took a walk, for Part I, just up Mill Hill Road from the golf course to the Village Green and counted the already operating, and what we know are soon to be, eating establishments. In Part II in the coming weeks, we’ll turn the corner and head out Tinker Street.
What began as a survey has turned up some interesting questions about parking, permits, grease traps and such, that we’ll try to get a handle on in this series…
By the time we had meandered up Mill Hill Road only to the Village Green in Woodstock, we’d passed 24 places to eat out of 67 businesses. That’s without rounding the bend and heading out Tinker Street. People had been speaking about the number of restaurants and places to grab a drink popping up in the last year, or set to open over the coming months. The idea was to take a look at what was happening with an eye to what the town had been in past lives.
“It’s great. It brings more people. The more the merrier,” said Giovanni Barbaro of The Green Palate, a food stand at the corner of Tinker Street and Rock City Road.
The day was sunny but just cool enough to make walking up Mill Hill Road from the 375 intersection pleasant. The crowds weren’t too busy yet every place that was open had customers even though it wasn’t quite lunch time.
Between me and Brian, we figured we had an overlapping three quarters of a century in town. Standing in the Cucina parking lot — where Deanie’s, Margaret’s, Legends, and The Emerson once was — we look across at The Creekside Grill, home to countless restaurants since the 1940s, and assess what we can’t see. To the east on Route 212 is New World Home Cooking, once home to The Getaway, a burger joint with music where Richard Manuel recorded his only solo album, live. The Red Onion’s out there, drawing a very regular and loyal clientele. The Lodge at Woodstock is reinventing itself as an inn, nightspot and fine dining establishment similar to what it was back when earlier restaurants set up shop there. Out where Maverick Road gets to 28 is Santa Fe, a scene in itself these days. But that’s another story…
Everything’s gotten closer to town in recent years. Deanie’s, which gained fame as a 1970s hotspot that drew the town’s hard-drinking rock and roll crowd, had begun as a trolley car with curtains and fine dining at the corner of Deming Street and Mill Hill Road. It went inside, had a fire and then resurfaced down the hill at the old Towne House, back when everyone drove everywhere and the DWI laws weren’t what they’ve been for the past 30 plus years now. But, we ask each other, is there more parking beyond the lots in crawling distance from the Village Green?
Across Mill Hill and a few dozen steps towards the center of the hamlet is Reynolds & Reynolds (R&R), new just last year, serving fine craft beers from the area, wine, and a limited but choice menu with a chicken pot pie people are talking about. The place has one of those classic old bar shuffleboard games, along with a friendly, unpretentious air. It’s where the Woodstock Walk In Doctor’s Office was for a few years. In neighboring Playhouse Plaza is Nana’s, the popular breakfast and lunch spot with take-out that’s become a local favorite ever since it first opened over a decade ago as Lori’s.
Across the street is a faux half-timber brick building, currently a bank. We remember it as Christie’s, a standard to generations, and later a French spot, one of the few restaurants to have disappeared in recent years.
Inside Bradley Meadows Plaza, where the Sunflower expansion is currently in the planning phase and is expected by many to include a sit-down eating option, are the sites of several other eateries now gone, as well as a new one nearing completion and opening in the coming weeks.
There was a popular breakfast/lunch spot called The Woodstocker there in the 1970s, and later The Threepenny. Still later, the First Wok.
We walk back to a soon to be new eatery that will be called A&P Bar, behind the Bank of America. The building once housed the grocery store, the A&P, hence the new bar’s name. Walls and windows are boarded up but kitchen equipment’s being moved in for Pierre-Luc Moey’s return to town after leaving to start Lekker in Stone Ridge.
What will be people be looking at from their outdoor tables? The back of Sunflower? Signs warning people to not trespass into the wetlands?
We’re intrigued but also asking whether this restaurant surge being planned for or just happening? Is the building inspector and county health department on top of all the needed grease traps, vents, and garbage needs for a place famous for the hungry bears that surround us on the edge of the Catskills?
We’ve passed non-food businesses, albeit many with snacks on sale. The Playhouse, a tattoo shop, Print Express, Evolve; three banks or credit unions, a few haircutting establishments, a tax accountant, Woodstock Building Supply; Rite Aid and CVS, Cumberland Farms and its gas pumps, the Mobil station, a cool laundry. Many, along with Woodstock Meats, have been around for a while and appear to be stable businesses, although Rite Aid’s fate with Sunflower’s expansion, has yet to be announced.
We stand outside of Wok & Roll, part Chinese restaurant and part music venue complete with an ice cream window. It was once the site of Dot’s, another ice cream spot on the western side of the long building, and then a Stewart’s store (you can see it’s outline to this day). The two buildings were conjoined with an enclosed breezeway when it was Duey’s, another non-fancy breakfast and lunch spot known to generations of a certain type of Woodstocker as the sort of spot you could hang out in for hours without having to spend much.
Across the street is Catskill Mountain Pizza, located in the former Ken’s Esso, and drawing a regular crowd with its fine, expanding affordable menu. Across the street again is the legendary old Joyous Lake building, which once upon a time housed Taco Juan’s before becoming a noted juice bar, bar bar, famous nightclub, and eventually Not Fade Away, selling t-shirts and designs. It’s major renovation has it now painted black with new windows and a larger deck, with a brand new interior for the much anticipated new cuisine spot from New York chef and caterer Doris Choi. And then across from that is a wooded glen that recedes bucolically from the street where two longstanding Woodstock offices, one an architect’s and the other an attorney’s, are currently being prepared for reopening this summer as a wine bar, in one, and a bagel shop in the other.
A lot of money seems to be settling into these and other places as we start up the last segment of Mill Hill Road into the center of Woodstock. Millions? We’ve run into quite a few local craftspeople hired for specific elements of the work, talked to architects Jess and Les Walker about their plans for A&P Bar, The Lodge, whatever Joyous Lake ends up calling itself, and the former Gypsy Wolf spot out on the west side of town that the owner of the hugely successful Phoenicia Diner is coming up with plans for.
But meanwhile, our sole Indian eaterie, The Mountain Gate, seems to have expanded since we last looked. Was that in recent years? Sharing the front of its building is Not Fade Away, Muse 3, a tarot reader, the stairs that lead up to Tom Fletcher’s gallery. We joke about how many still eat regularly at the Lutheran Church’s regular soup kitchen evenings, and how good the food donated by local restaurants and shops has become over the years. We head back to Maria’s Bazaar, which has shifted away from its many takeout items to wood-fired pizza and sandwiches, along with some booths and outdoor tables.
The Landau, once the Woodstock Pub, gets chock-a-block with tourists starting next week, but still draws locals. We remember someone once calling it and the sorts of places the town used to be filled with — the Sled Hill Cafe, The Elephant, Rosa’s Cantina, the Sea Horse — as drinker’s restaurants. The sort of places where you might find Jimi Hendrix playing ping pong, or members of The Band dribbling sandwich sauce on their shoes while drinking concoctions like the “Go-Faster” double-fisted.
Bread Alone, where a gallery stood for years, has a line for lunch already and it’s not even noon. We can smell the scent of boiling hot dogs waft over from the flea market, past where the tea shop is now.
Again, the retail businesses are largely what they’ve been for years: Catskill Art Supply, Woodstock Framing Gallery, Mirabai, Sparkle, Candlestock, Pegasus, Tinker Toys, Grace, Clouds. Yes, more real estate offices with their windows filled with offerings, new tea shirt and gift emporiums where batik and sundries once rode king.
We’re at the Green, Woodstock’s epicenter. We look into Shindig, (once the Corner Cupboard) crowded from morning to night now. The Garden Cafe has grown where the a local pizza joint was for years, its garden a particularly pleasant and popular spot. Yum Yum, next to the Music Shop where one of the town’s two banks was for many moons, also keeps growing. And The Green Palate, all ready for the summer readying to roar in, even though it’s products now move all year round on shelves in stores in a growing radius from town.
The newly renovated Colony has food but isn’t open at this time of day. We note how the Woodstock Guild tried a cafe up at the Byrdcliffe Theatre a few years back, just as the Center for Photography at Woodstock did. Neither made it. Eateries are eateries, the town’s foodies like their restaurants and take-out places pure.
We gaze out past the Green and Oriole 9, where Mower’s Market followed in a long line of grocers, and tell stories about Zane’s deli open late at night where you could make your own sandwiches and open the walk-in beer cooler and find a couple of guys sitting in there, swilling them down.
Are restaurants are the only businesses that will still work reliably here? But how will everyone survive the winters? Is Woodstock destined to become a Provincetown, a Cape May, with great eats for a few months each year.
We figure we have much to research before we resume our journey across town. We need to get at just how much this town has changed, and how ready it’s made itself for what may yet be to come.