Since it first opened in 2005, in the building across Route 213 from the Egg’s Nest that most recently housed the Kitchenette, the High Falls Café has developed a loyal following. Even when the bar and eatery relocated to a less visible site at the Stone Dock Golf Course, the customer base moved with it. For more than a decade now, fans have been heading down lightly traveled Berme Road to enjoy reliably great food, a casual, friendly vibe and live bands at least twice a week.
Following the move to the golf course in 2012, “It took us a couple of years to get up and running,” relates Buffy Gribbon, co-owner of the Café with her husband Brian, a Culinary Institute of America alumnus who presides over the kitchen. “Doing live music was a big help. We also used to do outdoor events: an annual pig roast, the Fourth of July…” Popular open mic nights and monthly trivia nights were revived. Word-of-mouth was strong once the place reopened, and soon business was back up to speed.
So it continued for nearly a decade. But then Covid came along, and the owners of the golf course decided it was time to retire and sell the building. The Gribbons needed to clear out by the end of 2022 and find a new place to land – what Brian calls “the last stop.” This time they would be owners, not tenants. In Buffy’s words, “We really wanted to have our own place, and we really wanted to be in Marbletown.”
Coincidentally, the owners of the Marbletown Inn on Route 209 had also been nudged by the Covid business hiatus into retirement. Before acquiring the Stone Dock Golf Course in 2005, Pat and Ivan Terwilliger had long operated a restaurant called Ivan’s in the building that would later become the Fording Place Inn, Willow Creek and finally the Marbletown Inn. The owner of Willow Creek was a friend of the Gribbons, rented an apartment from them and even organized their monthly blues night. Word travels fast in hospitality business circles, and it seemed as if the Gribbons were fated to become the next owners of the Marbletown Inn. “It’s kind of full circle,” Buffy observes. “We took it and ran with it, and now we’re back here.”
So, fans and friends who felt bereft when the High Falls Café closed down in December can now celebrate, because it’s open once again – under the same name, except that now it’s no longer located within the High Falls hamlet. The new site lies north of Stone Ridge and south of Hurley, near the intersection of Hainer Road and North Marbletown Road. Longtime patrons will need to adjust, but those who were already coming from Kingston and the Catskills will have less far to travel, and the 209 location has the advantage of much greater visibility.
It needed renovation and redesign, however. “This place was a dancehall in the 1930s. It was owned by the Kowal family,” says Buffy, pointing out historic photographs mounted on the walls. In the intervening years, interior walls had been installed to break up the space into smaller rooms, but they turned out not to be loadbearing, so the Gribbons took them out: “We wanted an open concept.” An antiquated propane heating system and associated ductwork were ripped out as well, replaced by modern, energy-efficient HVAC mini-splits. Part of what used to be the Terwilligers’ upstairs apartment is now an additional dining room a few steps up. A former office was turned into a second restroom, and a former closet-sized restroom is now a closet.
The ambiance of the new home remains the same as the old High Falls Café, as the Gribbons “brought everything with us: the booths, the barstools, the farm tables, the decorations,” says Buffy. “I’m very nostalgic.” As before, there are walls decorated with vintage vinyl album covers and photo collages depicting regular patrons having fun. “The scariest part about moving was we were afraid about our ability to keep our customer base,” she adds.
The main dining room contains a gorgeous new three-sided bar, built of locally sourced cherrywood and seating 18. Four of the ten taps rotate through a selection of local microbrews, and one supplies local cider. On the wall behind the bar is a brand-new neon sign reminding all that this new space is indeed still the High Falls Café. There’s a stage in the rear for the live entertainment – barely half a step up from the floor, for an intimate listening atmosphere. A small rear exit has been expanded with a sliding double glass door, opening onto a rickety deck that the Gribbons plan to rebuild for future outdoor dining.
Originally a gas station, the kitchen space needed a new floor installed and a thorough scrubbing. However, some of its fixtures – a pizza oven, a convection oven, a big walk-in cooler – are actually expanding the possibilities of what Brian and his crew can whip up. Pizza is a new addition to the otherwise-unchanged menu. Old favorites include legendary build-your-own-burgers, chicken wings and linguini with clams. On Sundays only, “Breakfast is a huge draw,” Buffy says, featuring eight different variations on eggs Benedict. “We have the best hollandaise sauce on the planet.” In fact, all the sauces are housemade in Brian’s “scratch kitchen,” along with all the salad dressings, soups, chili and corned beef hash. Ingredients are sourced as locally as possible, and there are plenty of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.
As before, Tuesday at the High Falls Café is Burgers and Beer Night, Wednesday Wings Night and Friday Pasta Night. The first and third Thursday of the month are Acoustic Night, with Open Mic Night on the second Thursday and Trivia Night on the fourth Thursday. There’s live music in various styles on Saturday evenings, with some familiar names coming up in the next month: Big Joe Fitz, Hudson Crossing, Dylan Doyle, the Trapps. “Dylan Doyle started playing here when he was 15 years old,” notes Buffy. In fact, the entire Rondout Valley music scene has historically treated the Café as a hub, with well-known local performers stepping in to organize blues, jazz, folk and bluegrass programming. By all indications, the vibrant nightlife scene is poised to continue unabated in the new location.
The High Falls Café, now to be found at 2842 Route 209, is closed on Mondays and serves lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; the bar stays open later. On Sundays, breakfast is served from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., lunch until 3:30, and the bar remains open until 7. The best place to find out about daily specials, musical offerings and other events is at facebook.com/highfallscafe1. You can also call (845) 687-2699 or visit highfallscafe.com.