Lifelong Saugerties residents Gabriele Maestri, Mike Craft and Gretchen Gehring opened The Avenue Steakhouse in December 2019, and have been serving up gourmet dishes with a carefully curated menu ever since.
The location, formerly Emiliani restaurant, was actually owned by Maestri’s uncle. Maestri was working at another Saugerties’ eatery – his parent’s Land & Sea Grill and Steakhouse. Both restaurants closed in 2018 and Maestri moved on to cook at another eatery.
“We saw Gabe at another restaurant and we said, what do you want to do?” said Gehring about the restaurant’s fruition. “We said if someone else takes over this spot we’re going to be really upset it’s not ourselves.”
The Avenue Steakhouse is one of only two steakhouses’ in Saugerties. Maestri said what’s unique about The Avenue is its New York City style – plus its specialty in dry aged prime beef and fresh seafood. The steak is dry aged inhouse to help the meat develop flavor and become more tender.
The menu, partly inspired by what Craft and Gehring have and have not liked from the many restaurants they’ve dined at, offers a variety of entrees. The selection of seafood includes jumbo dry-packed scallops, stuffed colossal gulf shrimp, seafood fra diavolo, sesame encrusted ahi and more. When it comes to steak, the restaurant has its popular dry-aged steaks, which includes bone-in strip, t-bone and a prime porterhouse. The wet-aged steaks include strip, filet mignon, bone-in cowboy and an angus ribeye. The menu also includes pasta and chicken options as well. Maestri and Gehring said the customer favorite is the seafood martini appetizer, which includes gulf shrimp, blue claw crab and lobster tail set in a spiked cocktail sauce – set of course in a martini glass. Aside from that, other popular menu items include the Maryland lump crab cakes, oysters, lobster bisque and French onion soup. On Wednesdays, the steakhouse has a special burger and brew night.
“Our food comes in on any day of the week that we need it,” said Gehring. “We use certain distributors that are experts on the fish. We look for the best ingredients that we can possibly have.”
Gehring said the restaurant aims to locally source its ingredients when p. In fact, over the summer they grew their own herbs and vegetables at a farmstead in Blue Mountain.
“I planted myself many, many, many cucumbers, tomato plants, watermelons, peppers and more,” said Gehring. “We had six acres to grow whatever we wanted.”
During our visit to the restaurant, we saw Blanca Aponte, a bi-weekly regular, sat at the bar top enjoying a burger.
“This is the best place around,” said Aponte, who has lived in Saugerties for 21 years. “It’s family-owned, the food is fresh and unique. Some people might say it’s expensive but it’s not – you’re getting good quality food. I love good food and this is the only place I go.”
Aponte also commended the chefs at The Avenue for accommodating special requests for each order, especially when it comes to allergies.
“We have a very loyal following,” said Maestri about the restaurant’s customers.
Being fourth-generation Saugerties residents, Gehring said she knows almost everyone who comes to dine. If not, she can bet the people are probably from out of town.
When the restaurant was in the hands of Maestri’s parents, the outside of the building had gold paint and inside customers would find maroon carpet and “Pepto pink” walls. Once they signed the lease, Gehring took the interior renovation into her own hands. They gutted the floors, replaced them with wood, re-painted the bar, added a new cherry wood bar top, created a beautiful brick statement wall and made the tone of the entire restaurant a timeless neutral metropolitan gray. The kitchen was replaced entirely. Gehring did a handful of DIY, adding touches of silver glitter and lights throughout.
“This is what Saugerties needed,” said Aponte.
The restaurant has become a destination for special occasion dining. It’s seen a number of small parties, rehearsal dinners, and even a wedding engagement. The menu is customizable for private events as long as enough notice is given. Right now, the team is planning for a wedding next year.
Recently, it held two special wine dinners. These offer five crafted courses with complementary wine pairings.
“We want to try to do one every quarter,” said Maestri. “It’s a nice Friday night and everybody looks forward to it. It’s a nice event.”
The Avenue Steakhouse, located at 147 Ulster Avenue, is open between Wednesday and Sunday, with cocktail service starting at 4 p.m. and dinner starting at 5 p.m. To learn more about the restaurant, visit theavenuesteakhousehv.com.
With the Covid-19 pandemic, The Avenue Steakhouse is open for dining in and take out. Customers should call in advance to ensure there is room. The restaurant is following all of New York State’s protocols. During the beginning of the pandemic, the restaurant took part in feeding over 600 people in need with Ulster County’s Project Resilience. Additionally, the restaurant operated out of a food truck for some time when indoor dining was not allowed.