How much can you eat Part II

Editor’s note: Last week, curious as to the direction business in Woodstock is taking and noting a large amount of renovation, while cognizant of other projects in preparation, reporter Paul Smart and editor Brian Hollander took a walk up Mill Hill Road from the Route 375 intersection and counted 24 places open or opening soon where you could find something prepared to eat, and or drink, out of 67 businesses.

This week, we walked out Tinker Street from the Village Green, to see how many more there might be.

In Part III, we’ll examine if such a concentration is sustainable.

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We’re walking again, looking for restaurants and other food businesses.

Last week we noticed how things were congregating closer to the center of Woodstock, at least in terms of places where you could grab a bit to eat or something to drink. Then again, we headed from the intersection of Mill Hill Road and Route 375 to the Village Green. This week, we’ve headed out from the center towards what Brian said many used to talk of as the “Wild West.”

Businesses at the center of Woodstock shift slowly. Retail will change positions over the years, moving from a side street to the Village Green vicinity, say. Occasionally something new settles in, like a real estate office, new gift shop with strong aesthetics, or a foodie destination with a track record, like Shindig, Fruition Chocolate, Provisions or Tinker Taco Lab.

Standing across from Oriole 9, where Mower’s and Happy’s markets existed before the place started shifting to restaurant and hang out mode in the 1980s, we list what we see: Win Morrison Realty, Trading Post, Freewheel Pottery, Woodstock Design, Jean Turmo, Jarita’s, Changes. On the other side of the Green there’s Pondicherry, Loominus, Lily’s…

Little Apple, serving healthy fare with a bright look to it and outdoor seating, seems to have become a lasting presence. More retail completes the block — Topka, Golden Notebook, General Supply, Pleasures, Little Village — until you get to Joshua’s, largely unchanged for decades at the corner with Tannery Brook, its biggest addition being an upstairs aerie from which one can watch the center of this town as if on surveillance duty.

Taco Juan’s, closed during much of the winter these days, centers the block with a surly sense of nostalgia for a town starting to fade away. Nearby is a narrow window, where Vidakafka sold high-end lingerie for decades until this spring, with notification of a coming eatery: Sharkie’s Meatballs.

Turning around we note various retail stores, most owned by longstanding Woodstock shopkeepers who spent years waiting to move into such prime real estate, along with the Reformed Church, Woodstock Artists Association & Museum, and the Kleinert/James Arts Center and its crafts shop. Out front of WAAM is a new hot dog cart serving handmade Provisions food from just up the street.

“The face of Woodstock literally hasn’t changed since the day I walked in to town,” in the late 1960s, Brian notes, listing a few embellishments here and there. He remembers the News Shop, Carey’s Deli, The Little New England Restaurant, Forno’s pharmacy, with its ice cream counter, Loretta Klein’s…

We peer down Tannery Brook Road, all retail now and then, except for a time when one of the town’s few pizzerias, The Millstream, operated out of what is now the office at the Woodstock Inn. The current Center for Photography at Woodstock once had a cafe, and before that was the famous Cafe Espresso and Tinker Street Cafe where The Nook once operated. Next to that is the old Ann Leonard Gallery, now home to Woodstock Wines and Provisions, the latter being a takeout place with a couple of seats which keeps winning the number one spot in Woodstock’s TripAdvisor foodie listings.

Ducking back along the creek across the street, past the popular Cupcake shop that hasn’t opened yet for the day, we come across Tinker Bar and Tinker Taco Lab, whose proprietor Jim Jennings now owns the entire complex of buildings fronting on to Tinker Street.

Scott Morgan of Anatolia, a carpet shop that’s held down this corner of town for decades, along with Dharmaware, talks about all the cafes that have occupied the space next to him over the years, including a crepe shop, Bluestone, and Elijah’s Cafe. We all get to talking about how hidden away the restaurants and specialty food spots in Woodstock are, and how people still complain about there being “nowhere to eat.”

“There’s so many places now selling something or other that’s related to food,” Morgan adds. “It seems that people want something that’s really good, and not a quick fix. Palates have changed; expectations are higher.”

We ask if he’s noticed a difference between Woodstock to the east of Tannery Brook, and the western side of town.

“People don’t know where the parking is here, even though there’s a municipal lot,” Morgan answered. “More importantly, we really need a crosswalk at Tannery Brook. I’d say a third of the people in town never cross the street there.”

We make mental notes: that decision about the crosswalk is the state Department of Transportation’s, a notoriously opaque agency. Furthermore, better signage might beckon. Or a few more destination restaurants?

Morgan adds that he’s heard one of the buildings just up the street from him may becoming a restaurant.

As we return to Tinker Street we hungrily eye the nearby Town Hall building, Woodstock Hardware, the Christian Science Church and reading room next door, as well as the expanse where the Woodstock Library and Lasher’s Funeral Home have stood sentinel for generations just up the street.

We sidle up to a low building across the driveway from the Old Forge Building where one half is papered with notification of changes at D-Day, including a May reopening. The other half is nicely-labeled with the words “Three Turtle Doves.” We notice a woman walking up from rear-of-the-building parking and ask her if she’s planning to open a food-related business but no, she says, that’s her boyfriend Jim Jennings of Taco Lab’s line. She’s opening a retail business geared towards jewelry and other fine items. She admits there’s just too much to do, for she and Jennings, to be able to open this Memorial Day weekend. She points down the street to the next building, a blue house, at 95 Tinker and says that is where a restaurant’s going in.

“Everyone’s really secretive about all this though,” the new shopkeeper continues. “We went to lunch with the new Joyous Lake people, who are friends, and even they wouldn’t disclose their place’s new name.”

We talk about how secretive everyone’s becoming about their menus and “concepts,” from A&P Bar on Mill Hill Road to whatever the Phoenicia Diner’s owner is planning for the shuttered Gypsy Wolf structure up the street a mile.

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“It’s interesting to hear the gossip from old-times in town,” the woman adds. “All you hear is, ‘Can you believe they painted that black?!?’”

Brian mentions how such talk is Woodstock’s latest answer to senate investigative panels.

At the next building, owner Tony G. of Vintage Modern says he’d asked the mystery owner of the mystery spot next door to him if he was opening a restaurant.

“I’d heard restaurant. Then I heard nothing. So I asked him is it was going to be a restaurant,” he said. “The guy replied, ‘It’s nothing.’”

He talks about how eateries involve paying the town money for parking. We make more mental notes as Tony G. adds how much he loves food.

We get into a discussion with some more store owners along this stretch about how many changes they’ve seen since the growth of Airbnb rentals in Woodstock. Everyone thought people would be walking everywhere but no, they drive…slowly. They double park in the middle of streets looking at their phones. Maybe that’s who’s eating all the new food in town? We make more notes: to call Airbnb and some other tourist towns to see what they have to say about sudden restaurant spurts.

Brian recalls living on this side of town. We walk past Overlook Bike Shop, which used to be Usher’s, a breakfast place, and then Katz’s Delicatessen. Had there been a divide in town way back when? Always has been, he replies. East side, west side.

We pass more longstanding businesses with several newer enterprises in between. Gilded Carriage has always been about cooking supplies and sundry treasures, not food directly. In the back of the building occupied by Euphoria Yoga is where Carey’s Deli moved from the center of town when Zane Zimmerman ran it, which we discussed with hilarity last week.

The old train station Victor Basil had brought over from Browns Crossing in Olive, a community now under the Ashokan Reservoir, has become the homey and fun Station Bar… as well as a popular spot for people looking for parking, out back. For many years it was Melody’s Hair Station. Nancy’s Artisanal Creamery, in the town’s old post office, seems to be drawing people even before it opens for the day, even though it serves only dessert (which at this point we both count as food).

“There was Wahid’s first video shop in there where the stained glass place is. WDST was over there,” Hollander says, pointing to 118 Tinker Street, an older home that I last remembered visiting during its short life as an online soft porn chatroom production center, but now houses offices. We go back behind the main Tinker Street structures to a world of smaller homes jumbled up to the creek and Comeau property. You can feel an older Woodstock, but also a hint of more short term rental treasure pots to come.

Out front of Woodstock Pizza Theater, next to Upstate Films, we look west and talk what’s there now, as well as what was there then. Sunfrost is popular for breakfasts and lunches, a locals hangout to this day. The Bear Cafe, we recall, had to change its menu back to what it’s been for 30 plus years after loyal customers rebelled against a new chef’s ideas. The Little Bear’s what it’s been for a generation; Commune Saloon has become seasonal, but uniquely Woodstock to those first getting to know the town. Cub Market’s become an institution due to hard work and good product. Gypsy Wolf, once the Watering Troff and Whistler’s, is awaiting that new concept and menu we spoke about earlier.

Eventually, if you head west, you get to what was once Tiso’s and now is The Pines; Catskill Rose; the old La Duchess Anne in Mount Tremper, (not the original one, which burned in the late 1990s) now the Four Corners Country Inn.

Some of its places are changing, some have stayed the same. Brian remembers when White Water Depot was a hot night spot for music and how the roads headed out that way had small stores where you could pick up sandwiches, milk, or various owners’ specialties, in Lake Hill, Willow, Wittenberg and Zena. There was a drinking spot up Ohayo Mountain then, called Rolling Acres, where the road starts to really wind, steep. The term “bucket of blood” bars came up, along with a host of other places people would head out to from the center of town to eat and drink…in all directions.

Brian counts up the 20 more eateries we’ve passed or counted this walk, and adds them to the previous week’s 27. We see that the ratio of food places to retail has maintained its density across town and we pass more questions and talking points to follow up on back and forth: What types of food are people looking for, or offered, and will that change as new establishments open over the coming year? Did Woodstock simply shift, over a lifetime, from a town where everyone would drive out for music, drinks and whatever they needed to sustain themselves in the absence of cable and streaming television, to a town of visitors looking for unique dining experiences, including places to pick take-out up from? Whatever happened to the catering world that once serviced the recording industry all over town?

This time we forgo stopping anywhere to nosh over ideas as we head back towards the Village Green. We’ve already got plenty to digest before we start making a meal of all we’ve harvested by next issue.