Just a few yards off Route 209 in Stone Ridge, at 7 Old Route 209, stands an eatery known in recent years for its high-end live music offerings on Saturday nights – “75 percent jazz,” according to Mark Usvolk, who owns the business along with his wife Roni. After having to close down for the first year of the pandemic, Lydia’s Café was able to reopen in May of 2021, with outdoor seating and a little stage set up on the flagstone patio for the band. The cuisine in the evening is as sophisticated as the music, with Roni’s crispy duck “reputed to be the best in the Hudson Valley,” says Mark.
Before Lydia’s was a Café, it was Lydia’s Country Deli, run by Roni’s mother, an accomplished baker. Mother and daughter had previously run the Good Hearth Bakery in Emmanuel’s Marketplace a little further up the road. Upon taking over the Country Deli in 1994, Lydia served breakfast and lunch daily while Roni and Mark took care of the night life. “The crowd was very diverse: mostly blue-collar in the daytime, more New York City at night,” Mark recalls.
In 2006 Lydia retired and sold the business to Roni and Mark, who ran the entire enterprise with intermittent assistance from Roni’s brother, Wesley Haynes. But it kept them busier than they wanted to be – especially since both had other careers. Mark is a bass player who also practiced architecture and residential design; Roni had an art degree, a background in modeling, some years in the Army and now runs the couple’s Airbnb next door to the restaurant.
Push came to shove in 2020 when the need for social distancing forced them to shut down the breakfast/lunch operation, with the exception of preparing “meals on wheels” for the Town of Marbletown to deliver to needy, elderly, ill and isolated residents. While reviving outdoor dining on Saturday nights only in 2021, the Usvolks got busy making extensive renovations to the interior of the Café, painting the walls black at one end where the musicians set up and preserving more of a country-kitchen feel with a cheery black-white-and-red color scheme in the rest of the large dining room.
And now the daytime crowd is returning, as Lydia’s is serving breakfast and lunch once again, under the aegis of Wesley’s Way Café. “We approached Wesley, offering to lease him the space during the day and keep doing music at night,” Mark explains. “He’s an exceptionally hard worker. This is his first chance to have his own business.”
“I learned to bake from my Mom,” says Wesley. “I’ve been working here off and on since Mom bought it in ’94. Before that I worked at Mohonk. That’s where I learned to cook breakfast…I used to run the omelet station. I’d have six, seven, eight pans going at once.”
During the 15 years or so that Wes worked behind the stove at Lydia’s in the daytime, he spent his evenings cooking at the Reservoir Inn. He also put in some years in the kitchens at both hospitals in Kingston, learning the ins and outs of preparing meals for patients with strict dietary restrictions.
The standard offerings at Wesley’s Way are a trimmed-down version of the previous Lydia’s breakfast/lunch menu, which means that he’ll be slinging mostly old favorites of the daytime crowd. “It’s good old country home cooking, just like your Grandma used to cook for you. Everybody says I offer the best egg sandwich in town,” says Wes. His well-honed omelet-making skills will continue to come in handy, as a build-it-yourself three-egg omelet with your choice of two fillings from a selection of three meats, six vegetables and a variety of cheeses is featured at the top of the breakfast menu.
But he also likes to stay “flexible,” and plans to vary the menu with specials, such as vegetable quesadillas and his signature smoked-turkey-and-sweet-potato hash. The corned beef hash that Wes makes himself is also very popular, especially served as a platter. “All our meats are prepared on premises: corned beef, roast beef, ham and turkey.” Wes bakes all the sweet pastry offerings in Lydia’s kitchen as well, while the breads and rolls are sourced from Deising’s. “We try to shop local,” he says.
According to Mark, the new arrangement of splitting the management with his brother-in-law is working out great. “Wesley hit the ground running,” he says. “For 17 years we saw this place as a curse, and now we see it as a blessing.”
Wesley’s Way Café is open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, from 7 a.m. to noon on Sunday and is closed on Monday. To place an order for takeout, call (845) 687-6373. To view the full menus, or find out what bands will be playing at Lydia’s in the near future, visit www.lydias-cafe.com or www.facebook.com/lydiasdeli.