Can downtown New Paltz handle another breakfast joint? Or, once McFoxlin’s gets its beer-and-wine license (expected by mid-June), another place to choose from an impressive array of craft beers in the evening? So far, so good, says proprietor Emily Fox, who opened her doors to the public on May 6. “I’m shocked by how many regulars we have already,” she says. “I want it to be a little community hub where people can sit with a laptop.” McFoxlin’s business motto is “Fancy beer, fancy coffee, no fancy people.”
Though the new café in the cozy space that used to house End Cut at 5 Church Street is currently open only from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., it’s already being discovered by a diverse cross-section of Paltzonians and weekenders alike, according to Fox, from new parents with babies to rock-climbing hipsters to SUNY professors. Some good karma may have attached itself to the place when it was an Indian restaurant, along with the vestiges of Indian art still posted on the bathroom doors: Fox has a special affinity for the subcontinent, having first traveled in India at age 16 and worked for several years between high school (in Maine) and college (at Bard) at a nongovernmental organization there called Project Why, which operates schools in slums for migrant children.
For now, the big draw at McFoxlin’s seems to be the breakfast-all-day menu, whose impressively diverse toast menu – all under $10 – transcends the once-trendy, now-ubiquitous avocado to include salmon, mushroom and beet toast. You can get your egg “in a basket” (of grilled sourdough bread) or poached and perched atop a salad that features whatever berries are in season at the moment.
Healthful, locally sourced ingredients are emphasized, with plenty of offerings for vegans and meat-eaters alike. The BLAT – like a BLT, but with avocado, plus cream cheese, served on ciabatta – is a popular lunch item, as is the black bean cashew burger. Feeling self-indulgent? Try the All Day Sandwich, which includes both bacon and salmon from local smokehouses.
Coffees are of course featured, the beans obtained from Manhattan-based Café Grumpy and brewed on an automated, self-cleaning espresso machine that can be programmed via Wi-Fi. Having never worked as a barista, Fox makes it a point of pride to be lousy at “latte art.” However, she does make the base herself for the carrot maple latte; beet, turmeric and blueberry honey lattes are also available.
Presiding over the kitchen at McFoxlin’s is Ashley Nickell, an “amazing chef” who grew up in a restaurant-owning family in Florida before relocating to Newburgh. Nickell has appeared on celebrity chef competition cable TV shows including Hell’s Kitchen with Gordon Ramsay and Cutthroat Kitchen, Fox notes. “I just wrote a menu of all the things I wanted to eat,” says the proprietor, and then handed it over to Nickell to work her magic.
Fox’s own kitchen passion is craft beer; she has already qualified for Level I Cicerone certification – “the equivalent of a sommelier for beer” – and is currently deep in her studies for Level II. She has worked hands-on with brewers and developed recipes that repurpose the spent grains from the beermaking process, including granola bars and dog treats. The granola bars will eventually be a component of the box lunches that Fox wants to make available to hikers and climbers – but only once the café is open for evening hours, so that the vintage lunchboxes that Fox has been collecting can be returned at the end of a day of active recreation.
Those hikers will want to quench their thirsts as well, of course. McFoxlin’s bar features 12 tap lines, one of which Fox wants to devote to cava – “the Spanish version of prosecco” – and the rest to craft beers and hard ciders that aren’t the same ones to be found everywhere else in New Paltz. “Food is good, but beer is what I’m really excited about,” she says. “We want the Hudson Valley to be the Napa Valley of beer…It’s a natural evolution for the Hudson Valley; we have great agricultural land, and those products grow really well here.”
Once the beer-and-wine permit comes through, McFoxlin’s hours will be extended to 9 p.m. on weeknights, 11 p.m. on weekends. Fox says that she hopes to host events in the evening hours such as tastings, a beer trivia night, educational events, fundraisers, movie nights and the like. Mostly, the concept is to make the café feel like an unpretentious and welcoming space. “It’s important to us to create a home and community in New Paltz because we’re transplants,” she says of herself, a Mainer, and her romantic and business partner, Brendan McLaughlin, an Alaskan (he’s also the “handsome lawyer” mysteriously alluded to on the McFoxlin’s website). “We want to make the community happy. That’s what’s going to make us happy.”