It’s midafternoon, you’ve just had a nice hike in the Gunks or completed an apple-picking expedition at some orchard in the Wallkill or Rondout Valley, and you’re feeling in need of some refreshment and a comfy place to sit and chat. So where do you go for a light meal and a cold brew?
There are lots of good choices in the neighborhood of the Ridge, but one area favorite has been offline for more than a year now: the Egg’s Nest, that quirkily decorated, cozily charming little bistro on the corner of Mohonk Road and Route 213 in the heart of the High Falls hamlet. After 43 years of operating the restaurant/tavern by day and decorating its interior and exterior with vividly painted murals by night, Richard Murphy and his wife Gillian decided that it was time to retire. So the Egg’s Nest officially closed its doors on July 30, 2016, Richard’s 72nd birthday.
It was a standing joke between Richard Murphy and fellow restaurateur John Novi, who opened the more upscale Depuy Canal House diagonally across the street at around the same time, that together they had made “downtown” High Falls the Center of the Universe. With both restaurants out of business as of late last year, many local residents found themselves mourning the loss of that center of culinary gravity and social levity. Where does one go for a late lunch or an early dinner, with the obvious choice of the Egg’s Nest gone? And what would become of the beloved watering hole and its uniquely cluttered, colorful aesthetic?
Word on the street was that Murphy would only sell the place to someone committed to preserving its iconic cultural heritage. There was no question that four decades’ worth of accumulating layers of bric-à-brac could use a thorough dusting; but there was also no question that the Egg’s Nest’s eye-popping visual busyness constituted a large part of its appeal, its sense of friendliness and community. Folks just liked to gather there, even when they weren’t particularly hungry. On top of that, the food was good, multicultural and affordable. None of the regulars wanted to see it gutted, sanitized, turned into something slick and trendy.
But it wasn’t long before word got out that the Murphys had found their ideal buyers: a young couple with creative backgrounds who wanted to spruce the place up without compromising its signature look and homey feel. Eric Silver, an actor who grew up in Woodstock, and his wife Cristina, a visual artist born in New Jersey to a South American family, were working in the restaurant world in New York City after nearly a decade on the West Coast and looking for a place to make their own in a smalltown setting. Then one day, Cristina spotted a real estate ad for the Egg’s Nest and showed it to her husband.
“In California, we missed having a sense of community,” Cristina recalls. “Something was always calling us back here [to the East Coast]. When I saw so much community love for this place, I said, ‘That’s what we want.’” “It was karmically and energetically right,” agrees Eric, who remembered his mother having talked about lunching there with her hiking group when he was still a child. His vision for the restaurant is as what he terms the “third place,” with the first being home, the second one’s workplace and the third “a place to gather, to escape from the outside world.”
Fast-forward to last weekend, when the new Egg’s Nest had its soft opening. The interior is now spic-and-span, with several layers of hanging tsatskes peeled down to reveal more of Murphy’s intricately painted murals. Worn carpeting has been replaced with softly shining hardwood flooring, and around the bar, the intricate paintings have given way to a collage of vintage Saturday Evening Post covers meant to evoke the building’s pre-Murphy history as Ed & Fran’s Tavern. They set the bar area apart visually from the dining rooms and porch, which largely retain their Murphy-era décor.
Longtime aficionados of the Egg’s Nest can breathe a sigh of relief: The place, though less cobwebby, is still very much recognizable. Eric speaks of exercising a “process of curation and art direction” in the Silvers’ approach to renovating the building: “We want people to feel that we treated it as a living, breathing museum, a canvas…. Our goal throughout the process was to retain a lot of the character and magic that Richard created. But we wanted to add a bit of our own personalities as well, with both the food and the décor.”
The partial menu developed for the soft opening weekend reflects that wish to meld continuity with innovation. A section is devoted to “Egg’s Nest Favorites” like the classic burger, the Thanksgiving sandwich, the Frida Kählo Bowl, chipotle chicken wings and the steak quesadilla. But Richard’s strong emphasis on Southwestern flavor combos will now give way somewhat to Cristina’s childhood love of empanadas and Eric’s upbringing on New York deli staples: “food that resonates with us.” Sandwiches and salads still form the heart of the menu, and for the first time, says Eric, “We will now be having eggs at the Egg’s Nest” on a consistent basis, with breakfast dishes always available at lunchtime. Sleepers-in, rejoice!
The Silvers promise that vegans and vegetarians will always find something appealing on the new menu, and use of locally sourced, sustainably grown ingredients will be emphasized. Already they are obtaining their pork from Kinderhook Farms and chicken from Campanelli’s, and the rich, rejuvenated agricultural legacy of the Rondout Valley means that abundant fresh local produce will be available for much of the year.
For those who come in for drinks, local microbrews and ciders will also be available on tap and in bottles. And the Silvers have retained some talented mixology consultants to help develop a line of appropriately quirky signature cocktails, with locally meaningful names like Splendor in the Grass, Parsonage Punch, Discovery of Cement and Murphy’s Law. But mostly, the good news for longtime fans of the Egg’s Nest is that the best of the past has been preserved. “Retaining the essence of it is key,” Eric says.
While a Grand Opening date has not yet been scheduled and the full menu is not yet available, the new Egg’s Nest will be open on Labor Day weekend from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. No reservations are taken; just show up, ready to relax, nosh, imbibe and have fun. For more info, and to put yourself on the e-mail list for future announcements, visit www.theeggsnest.com or www.facebook.com/theeggsnestest1973.