By Janet Irizarry
In 2008 the Village of Wappingers Falls embarked on a revitalization program that is now bearing fruit not only in the addition of new sidewalks and green space, but in the opening of new businesses, many of which are restaurants. Wappingers Falls has become a charming little town with much to offer, especially from a food perspective, with some great new eateries and drinkeries joining the staples in the area, Café Maya and Stephano’s. As a Wappingers girl, I am thrilled to see – and taste – all the action.
West Main Kitchen
West Main Kitchen is the oldest of the newest, having opened in 2014. The restaurant is owned by childhood buddies Steve Wrobel and Anthony Michelin, graduates of Roy C Ketcham, whose strong friendship is bonded by their love of food.
Throughout their years in high school Wrobel and Michelin both worked at various restaurants in the area. After high school they went off in separate directions. As Michelin pursued a degree in Architecture at a college in NYC, Worbel took on Liberal Arts at Dutchess Community College. It wasn’t long before Michelin realized that architecture wasn’t his true passion, and so a degree from the Culinary Institute in America drew him back to Dutchess County.
The rest is history, as they say. Worbel and Michelin’s longtime dream was to open their own restaurant where they could work together and where each of their strengths could be showcased to their fullest. They found the perfect spot in the former home of Ciccio’s Family Restaurant and they spent nine months renovating and making the improvements that you see today, doing much of the work themselves.
So after all these years, what have these two brought to the table together? They refer to the menu as New American, which means it is a fusion of different cuisines, melding together traditional American cooking with the influences of global flavors like Mexican, Italian and Asian. As far as the atmosphere, “It has a laid back industrial feel. You can come here in a suit for an important dinner, or you can come in shorts for a relaxed night out. We call it Comfy Modern,” Worbel laughs.
In Worbel’s words, what makes West Main Café unique is it’s chef, “Anthony is a young, spirited chef who has his own take on food and he likes to create. One of our most unique features is that, with only a few exceptions, we completely change the menus every six months. We change the food, switch to new specialty cocktails and switch up some of the wine list as well.”
A peek at what’s on the menu right now: shrimp and stone-ground smoked gouda grits topped with Cajun butter and an egg, house made bangers and mash, and an Asian noodle bowl with braised short ribs and udon noodles. The signature dish is root beer braised short ribs and it’s the one dish they say they’ll never take off the menu. “It is too good,” says Wrobel.
They focus on buying what is produced locally as much as they can, and all of their chicken and meats are antibiotic- and hormone-free. Adding to Michelin’s prowess in the kitchen, is his experience with accommodating individual dietary needs – his wife is gluten intolerant, so they offer gluten-free options and will always do their best to accommodate other needs.
As I looked at the drink board, I commented on what a great selection of distinct cocktails it displayed. Wrobel, modestly replied, “Yes, I have created a unique list of specialty cocktails, but when all is said and done, people come here for the food – it’s definitely Anthony’s food people come back for time and time again.”
Open 7 days for lunch and dinner, and brunch on Sunday
Event room upstairs that can be reserved for parties, showers, business meetings and more.
2710 W Main St, Wappingers Falls, NY 12590
On Facebook @W.MainKitchenBar
The Blackboard Café opened in January of this year. Owner Andrew Rizzo, a Johnson and Wales graduate who formerly taught culinary skills to high school students at the Newburg Free Academy, took over the small, cozy space on top of the hill and transformed it into a bakery-café.
Blackboard Café offers a modest menu with a slew of daily specials. Rizzo says that the name Blackboard Café is in homage to being a teacher, where he used his blackboard every day to teach something new. It’s the same when you come to the café, there is always something new on the blackboard.
One of the things that you won’t be able to resist when you first walk into the café is the display case filled with cakes, cookies and pies. Rizzo makes all the desserts himself except for the signature cheesecakes. For these he relies on longtime friend, professional pastry chef and amazing baker, Dana Charres. “Dana is my business partner in cheesecakes”, says Rizzo. All you have to do is take one look at the incredible Rainbow Cookie Cheesecake and you can see what a great partnership it truly is.
The day I was there he had an oreo cake, just out of the oven peanut butter cookies and what looked to be a banana and nilla wafer “taste of heaven”. “What sets us apart is that everything is homemade and we try to make everything artistic. People eat with their eyes first. It’s got to not only taste great, it also has to look great,” says Rizzo.
By choice, Rizzo is at the restaurant all the time. “It’s my hands that make the food. Nobody will care about the food as much as I do and I want to make sure it comes out the way I intended. Everything is made in small batches so that it always is fresh,“ says Rizzo.
Just take a look on Yelp and you will see rave reviews about the rainbow cookie cheesecake, bananas foster french toast, roast beef sandwich, pulled pork sandwich, and a chicken sandwich that boasts two big chicken cutlets, fresh mozzarella and bruschetta. The mouth-watering list goes on and on.
It’s a fortunate coincidence that Rizzo picked Wappingers Falls to open up shop. “It was merely by chance,” he says, “I saw the space advertised and I came to look at it. I just loved the intimacy of it. It didn’t look like much when I bought it but I could see so much potential. I was looking for something cozy, warm and welcoming.”
Nothing makes Rizzo happier than when someone eats his food and says it is amazing. “Pleasing somebody’s tastes and having them sit and feel comfortable is what it is all about!” says Rizzo. And if you want to learn some of his delicious tricks, stay tuned, as in the future Rizzo plans on offering cooking classes.
Open Tuesday to Thursday 8am-5pm and Friday to Sunday 8am-8pm with early bird dinners on Friday. All dinners are priced below $20. They have beer and wine.
2649 E Main St
Wappingers Falls, NY
On Facebook @blackboardcafe2649
In May, County Fare opened up in the space previously occupied by the Quiet Man Pub. Co Owners Adam Lauricella and Brandan McAlpine have been friends for years and Adam is no stranger to Wappingers Falls, having grown up here as well as owning Graceland Tattoo since 2003.
Friends for many years, Lauricella and McAlpine both have a deep-rooted passion for the restaurant and hospitality business. They were insistent on creating a place that is accessible to all and where everyone can kick back and have a good time. A place to bring your friends, kids, spouse – something for everyone. Lauricella ties to the village makes it important to him to be able to give the people of Wappingers a place that they can call their own. “That’s it,” says Lauricella, “It’s simple and we’re not looking to over-complicate the place. It’s important to us that the people around here know that they do not have to go out of town to have a good evening. There are options in the village now.”
Although the root of the concept is ultimately a bar and grille, much of the menu is also sourced locally. In other words, while you may not see words like “artesian” or “farm-to-table” on the menu or in their advertising, these are also all a part of what you are experiencing. “The Hudson Valley is the Napa Valley of food,” says Lauricella, “we try to source as much as we can from the Dutchess and neighboring counties, hence the name ‘County Fare.’
County Fare has a relaxed atmosphere and they pride themselves on not taking themselves too seriously. When I sat with them at the restaurant I had the feeling they were creating a space where you could quote the famed Cheers theme song lyrics, “where everybody knows your name, and you’re always glad you came.” An unpretentious place with really good food and good people. “It’s a place where we are not just selling food, we are creating memories and experiences,” says McAlpine.
Wondering what fare you’ll find on the menu? Think buttermilk fried chicken, custom-blend handmade burgers, and local beer bratwurst. They also offer many vegetarian options created with a mindfulness of not just taking the meat out of a dish, but creating something delicious in its own right. Both their roasted buffalo cauliflower and tempeh Rueben are testaments to that. Everything is made on premise and they make their own burgers and cut their own fries. “We keep our menu simple but make sure it’s real food and properly executed. We pay attention to quality,” says McAlpine.
You’ll find a long list of local beers, including some “hyper local,” that they move in and out of the menu as available and seasonal, also aiming to get beers that are in high demand and may not be easy to get elsewhere. The idea is to keep the beers regional and County Fare also has a large selection of liquor, specialty cocktails and wine.
Open Tuesday to Friday from 3pm and open from 11am for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.
2652 East Main Street
Wappingers Falls, NY
On Facebook @countyfareny
Di’Vine Wine Bar
Di’Vine Wine Bar also opened up in May, on the corner of Market Street and Main. Di’Vine is the co-creation of partners Casey and Steve McCall and Christine Cauda and Scott Piertras. For Casey and Christine, who have been friends since junior high school and graduated from John Jay together, the longtime dream of owning a business together has finally become a reality.
Throughout the years, Casey and Christine have thrown around many business ideas and have been waiting for just the right time and space to come along. It finally happened when a close friend of theirs called one day to inform them of a great space available in Wappingers Falls. As soon as they saw it they it they knew it was home, the perfect location for a wine bar with prime views of the falls. And that’s when the real work began, as for over 25 years, the space had been home to Reflections Hair Salon. After a total renovation and lots of hard work, eight months later Di’Vine Wine Bar opened. Two stories high and with an outside patio area that takes full advantage of the town and the beauty of the falls, it’s a wonderful spot to sit, relax and enjoy a glass of wine…or two.
“We wanted to create a casual, laid back, at-home feel, like you were sitting in our living room. Where you can come with friends, a significant other, or by yourself. You can even just come in and enjoy a glass of wine and read a book,” Casey explains.
They worked hard to make sure that the wines they serve are all ones that they would serve if you were sitting at their house. When I asked them to tell me a couple of their favorites on the list, Casey said, “Actually, we love them all. We chose each one carefully for our menu.” But when put on the spot, I finally got her to share a couple of her current favorites – the Gewurztraminer, Borealis, OR 2014 and Passimento, Pasqua, Veneto, Italy 2013.
Di’Vine also offers local beer on tap and a selection of other domestic and imported beers. As for food, they serve a selection of small plates to enjoy with your drinks, including flatbreads, Charcuterie, roasted olives, honey drizzled Brie and seared bratwurst. It’s not a dinner place, it is strictly a wine bar with noshes, which on any night can be the perfect alternative to a heavy meal, or the prelude to your dinner at another of the great restaurants in town. Live entertainment is also a feature of Di’Vine. You check their Facebook Page for information.
Open Wednesday & Thursday, 5-10pm, Friday 5pm-midnight, Saturday 2pm-midnight and Sunday Noon-7pm.
1 Market St
Wappingers Falls, NY
On Facebook @thedivinewinebar