It’s hard to find good nightlife in Ulster County these days, especially in the dead of winter. Unless you’re part of a wedding reception, Kingston’s night scene all but died after BSP was unceremoniously shuttered. New Paltz is decent, but only if you’re a college student. Woodstock caters to well-to-do music fans. You’re in and out. Where can a regular person do some down-and-dirty bar hopping and hanging with fun-time locals and tourists late into the night?
You have to get a little out of county limits and head north to Hunter Mountain, the foot of which is dotted with bars and restaurants that mostly cater to skiers and snowboarders. And let’s just say skiers and snowboarders have been known to party. Pre-pandemic winter weekend nights here are legendary.
Yes, Hunter took a big, multi-year hit from the pandemic, and the scene is still in recovery. A lot continues to work against the area. The lack of natural snow and colder temperatures, a dearth of local service workers (due in part to the lack of affordable housing) have been challenging. So far this year, fewer trails and services have been available. Despite these challenges, the Hunter’s lodging is booked solid on enough weekends that life is finally starting to surge back, at least on Friday and Saturday nights.
A rollicking and well-attended New Year’s party ended 2022 on an optimistic note, and a colder forecast for upcoming winter weeks offered some hope the party was just getting started.
The sprawling Hunter Mountain resort is ground zero for the good times in town. With a few different restaurants and bars to post up at, you’ll find the not-so-outdoorsy people staying warm here throughout the day, ready to receive the cold masses from the mountains looking to warm up with a tasty meal and beverage.
Many Hunter Mountain patrons opt to remain on-property during most of their stay, with the convenience of many amenities packed into one general location. But don’t forget what the rest of the town has to offer at the foot of the mountain — small-town charm and big-party energy.
Ronnie Mac Gregor’s Pub is the locals’ choice. The pub menu runs deep with fried classics, perfect for soaking up the wall of alcohol behind the bar. It’s stripped-down, bare-bones and divey. The jubilant chaos of a packed Ronnie Mac Gregor’s has no parallel on the mountain. If you come to indulge and be a gracious guest of the late-night stewards of this town, there’s a good time to be had at Mac Gregor’s. One-star Yelp reviewers wouldn’t understand.
Van Winkle’s is another no-frills bar and pub, a throwback to a simpler time when the only expectations of patrons was a cold beer, a hot meal, and welcoming service. If you’re a foodie looking for an Instagram-worthy dish or a craft cocktail, read on. But if you want to immerse yourself in Hunter local culture, this is where the characters come out. The menu is a grab-bag of nationalities. The portions are generous, and the undistracting ambience puts the focus where it should be: on socializing.
Jägerberg Beer Hall and Alpine Tavern is a mouthful to say and to experience. Their menu is full of well-reviewed German fare like Bavarian pretzels, sausage and schnitzel. The beer selection could make a Berliner weep tears of joy. Its early-ish closing hours mean it’s not exactly a party destination, but it’s one of the best bites in town, and the perfect pregame place to knock a few back.
Hunter Mountain Brewery is yet another solid choice for cuisine and libations in Hunter. A respectable lineup of house-made microbrews is nicely rounded out with a couple of tasty hard seltzers made on the premises. At a glance, the menu looks like your standard pub/brewery fare, but upon closer inspection it’s full of delightful surprises. Bacon-wrapped homemade meatballs slathered in a special sauce? They’re called Voodoo Balls. Selection of savory Indian bowls and naan? Yes, Indian food makes a strong appearance. There’s a good selection of gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options. They even love animals so much that they’re generally cool with you bringing your dog.
Hilltop Bar and Grill in nearby Tannersville skews more toward the Irish-pub category of bar/restaurants, with a menu of savory snacks and entrees. If Hunter is overflowing with people, this is a good spot to get a little off the beaten path for some shots and solace.
Prospect, the restaurant at Scribner’s Lodge, is the sophisticated choice. Patrons enjoy well-crafted plates of high-end cuisine framed by floor-to-ceiling windows. The vibe is chic rustic, and the space buzzes with refined excitement.
Wow, we just crawled a lot of ski bars. After a night like that, may we suggest Hunter favorites Fellow Mountain Cafe or M&J Bagel Store to get you fed, caffeinated and back on those slopes in no time?
Now, when was the latest we could check out?