Flavorful Ladle serves tasty fare in Highland

Pictured left to right are: Stacey DuBois, Matthew DuBois, Krista Ortiz, Cristina Ortiz, German Ortiz and Brian Hadden.

The Town of Lloyd has a brand-new eatery, this one outside the Highland hamlet – just across the street from the Rocking Horse Ranch, in fact, in the building that most recently housed the restaurant Piccolo Fiore, Paese Mio before that and in the old days, a tavern called McCabe’s.

Now rechristened The Flavorful Ladle, the place no longer bears any resemblance to a rural dive. The main dining room is bright and airy, with a high cathedral ceiling and brass chandeliers. Mirror panels line the back wall, making the room appear even more spacious. Rotted wood flooring has been torn out and replaced by painted concrete. The décor features black wrought-iron accents and a subtle Mid-Century Modern flavor that says “diner” without seeming too kitschy. White tablecloths are topped with plate glass, and the chairs evoke the bucket seats in a vintage Thunderbird, with quilted red leatherette cushions framed by gleaming chrome. When they aren’t serving guests, the wait staff keep busy spritzing the glass and chrome with window cleaner and wiping them down, so that everything sparkles with cleanliness.

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The service is attentive, and the visitor is made to feel as welcome by the staff as by the appealing ambiance. The menu (www.facebook.com/theflavorfulladle/menu) consists of classic diner comfort food, although, says co-owner Krista Ortiz, “We didn’t want ‘diner’ in the name. We wanted people to be able to make up their own minds about whether we’re a restaurant, café or diner.”

Krista’s husband and business partner Alfonso Ortiz, known to all as German, is the chef — not to mention the prep cook, food buyer and sometimes even the dishwasher. “He worked so hard to get to this. I’m so proud of him. No one helped him,” Krista says. Born in Oaxaca, German came to the US a quarter-century ago at the age of 15, working his way up through the restaurant business. The couple met when he was working as a cook and she as a waitress at the Colonial (now City Lights) Diner in Kingston; this is their first stab at running their own business together. Krista hasn’t yet given up her day job, in the accounting office for the Ulster County government. Their 11-year-old daughter Cristina, whom Krista wryly calls “the Princess,” has her own space set aside to hang out after school in the restaurant’s office, including a table dedicated to crafts. “She already made three paintings today,” Krista notes on the Saturday when the New Paltz Times came to investigate The Flavorful Ladle.

Getting this project off the ground has been a family effort from the get-go, according to Krista, who grew up close by, on Crescent Avenue. The Ortiz family now has a house in Hurley, but Krista’s Sutton and DuBois forebears have lived in the immediate neighborhood for generations. After another location they were scouting for a restaurant fell through, Krista started getting persistent phone calls from an uncle to tell her that the former Piccolo Fiore had come back on the market. Other relatives urged her to check out the space. “To keep them quiet, I came to look at it – and here I am.” When the down payment to purchase the building turned out to be more money than the couple could raise, the owner offered them a two-year lease-to-purchase arrangement that was too good to resist.

The Flavorful Ladle officially opened on June 5, and a Facebook page where Krista posts photos of the Specials blackboard three times a day has been the new restaurant’s primary way of connecting with customers so far. “We believe specials shouldn’t be off the menu,” she says, and they do indeed sound enticing. Portions are generous, and everything we tried was fresh, tasty and well-seasoned.

German doesn’t specialize in any particular type of cookery, but they are already beginning to experiment with regular weekly specials, such as Taco Tuesday and All You Can Eat Pasta Monday. So far, dinnertimes have been busiest, according to Krista: “We’d like to see more of a breakfast crowd.” Indeed, part of the place’s appeal is the fact that anything on the menu can be ordered all day; there’s no shutdown of the grill at 11 a.m. to disappoint late risers in the mood for brunch in the afternoon. Patrons can also call in ahead at (845) 261-2200 to pick up takeout orders, such as the Work Week Special: a breakfast sandwich with your choice of ham, bacon or sausage plus a cup of coffee to go.

The Flavorful Ladle is open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. You can find it at 591 Route 44/55 in Highland, or online at www.facebook.com/theflavorfulladle.

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