A philosophy of food grows out of basic needs being filled, along with the honoring of traditional tastes and recipes and social customs. Such is the case for Natasha Witka, hometown Catskill woman who brings a Polish theme to her New York Restaurant in the village.
“It has always been a passion for me to be in the kitchen,” says Witka. “I started cooking around five years old, as my mom tells the story. Although I had taken a career path and moved away after college, there was always something about the restaurant industry: the adrenalin, the drive that empowered others, just to have such a team build something. Currently we have 33 employees on our team. I am first-generation from Poland; my parents were both born there. I spent time there growing up. Our household was centered on Polish comfort food. That’s what I learned to prepare, and I wanted to give that statement of culture within a nouveau American menu.”
The 100-year-old building housed a restaurant during Prohibition. “There were other locations that we looked at. But I was from here. I graduated from Catskill High. I found myself coming home every weekend and wanting to be back here. I felt there was a niche that needed to be filled here, as a watering hole in the village proper. This building had been abandoned for almost nine years. We bought it in 2014, and it was a yearlong project to reverse the village being ready to condemn it. Thinking about the last four years seems like a blur.
“We have a private dining room, which we offer complementary for special events, birthday parties, showers, even business meetings. The space is soundproof with special acoustic insulation in the walls. We – my brother and my GM, whom I grew up with – we don’t make any decisions without the others. We try to collaborate, even with the menu. The color scheme and casual, dim lighting has the comfort and feel of an extension of my living room. We partnered with the village arts ambassador to have a rail system installed to exhibit local artists’ work on the walls. Jazz musicians play at Sunday brunch and change out weekly. Every couple of weeks they have a jam session; Pamela Pentony of Bard College is our music curator. She even brings in her students.”
The menu includes American staples, such as sirloin burgers and sandwiches, as well as European-style artisan flatbread pizzas, and an array of traditional Polish recipes, including house-made pierogis and golabki. Rooted in those dishes Witka remembers from her youth, the offerings include house-cured meats, European-style café favorites and specialties such as seared salmon with celery root. Check out the full menu online, which will soon be switched out with heartier items to satisfy autumnal hungers. Staple vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options are available, too. One long wall is taken up with a well-lit, well-stocked bar that serves up a variety of seasonal craft cocktails, local draft beers, dynamic wines and a variety of New York State small-batch spirits. A brick wall opposite and low ceiling give the dining area a cozy feel.
That basic philosophy? It’s summed up in a slogan that seems to have stuck over time: “Make pierogi, not war.” Check out Taco Tuesdays or Wine Down Thursdays. Happy Hour runs Monday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m., featuring $4 appetizers, drafts, wines and cocktails. There’s live music on Friday and Saturday nights from 8 to 11 p.m., and Sunday Brunch from noon until 3 p.m. with smooth jazz to make it all go down nicely.
New York Restaurant, 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Sunday, 9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 353 Main St., Catskill; (518) 943-5500, www.nyrestaurantcatskill.com.