New Yorkers Are Scrambling to Make Dinner Reservations (90 Miles North of the City)

Little Kingston, Exit 19 off the Thruway, is drawing restaurateurs, chefs, brewmasters and the people who love them. 

Excerpt from: The New York Times  

By Alyson Krueger 

On a warm summer day about a year ago, it was standing room only at Wilde Beest, a garden-to-table restaurant that had just opened. Those lucky enough to get a table included the actors Rachel Weisz and Daniel Craig — James Bond himself.

In the sage-green and white dining room, customers sat under taxidermy pheasants. Menus arrived in mysterious black envelopes, while at the end of the meal, checks were tucked into vintage Smithsonian science books. The music, selected by Chef CT Turgeon, who opened Wilde Beest with five friends, played on a turntable. All of the guests were given a playlist.

A year later, although menus now dispense with the envelopes and customers no longer receive playlists (“several people called us out on Yelp for being hipsters and elitists,” Mr. Turgeon said), business is still booming.

Wilde Beest is not in Williamsburg or Bushwick, however. The restaurant is in Kingston, about 90 miles north of New York.

And it is not the only one. Another celebrated New York City restaurateur is planning to roll out three establishments in Kingston over the next six months, while a state-of-the-art brewery opened over Memorial Day weekend. From last summer to this one, Kingston saw at least six new restaurants open, and more are on the way. Trailways, which offers bus service to Kingston from Midtown Manhattan several times a day, recently renovated its bus station here.

“I’m happy to take visitors to Wilde Beest when I need them to realize how amazing and ‘on the rise’ our upstate area can be,” said Shawn Brydges, 50, a photography agent who is based in Manhattan but heads to Kingston on the weekends.

Up until a few years ago, ever since I.B.M. shut down its operations here in the mid 1990s, Kingston, in Ulster County, had been a sleepy bedroom community, with vacant buildings and an aging population. But recently, it’s seen some interesting new developments, like the bookstore Rough Draft Bar & Books and the chic Hotel Kinsley.

It’s telling that Taavo Somer, the brains behind the Lower East Side bar and restaurant Freemans, is opening, alongside his business partners Charles and Aviva Blaichman, three new restaurants in the Kingston neighborhood of Uptown, also known as the Stockade District, where Wilde Beest, Rough Draft and Hotel Kinsley are.

The success of Rough Draft Bar and Books, which opened in 2017, has inspired other New Yorkers to open restaurants and bars in Kingston. Credit: Richard Beaven for The New York Times

Kinsley, Mr. Somer’s first restaurant in Kingston, is part of Hotel Kinsley and was built inside of a bank that dates back to the 1860s. Lola, an indoor-outdoor venue that specializes in wood-fire pizza, and Fare & Main, a market cafe, will both be up and running before the end of the summer.

It’s certainly not news that New Yorkers are eager to leave the cityon weekends, heading to Hudson and Rhinebeck and Phoenicia. But Kingston is an actual city, with a population of over 23,000. It’s also more spread out, lacking the quaint Main Street vibe of smaller towns.

“In Hudson if you walk a few blocks you end up in the water,” said Brian Tress, who works for Ernst & Young in New York and who owns a house 15 minutes outside of Kingston. Kingston does have a waterfront, but it is “a real city,” he said.

The dining scene here is drawing chefs like Mr. Turgeon, who previously worked at 42 Grams, a two-Michelin-starred restaurant in Chicago that has since closed, and who is now running the kitchen at Wilde Beest. Others in the restaurant industry are following suit.

According to a report put out by Kingston’s Office of Community Development in April, the city had 300 more people working in the leisure and hospitality industry than in March. That number is up by 600 people from just a year ago.

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