Main and 3rd Photo by Shayna Lohmann, courtesy of The Dale.
The Catskills are in their heyday again, and it is partly due to newcomer couples bringing their ingenuity and new food experiences to the area. These three watering holes make exploring upstate New York that much more special. We present you with our top, not to be missed, Catskill gems: The Dale, The Junction, and Kenoza Hall.
The moment you step inside The Dale you know you are in for a good time. The interiors are like a 70s disco party and the outdoors a Bavarian beer garden. The Dale is known for their fermented and “wild crafted” sourdough pizza and theme parties. With that said, this is no pizzeria. There is plenty on the menu for everyone, like a beet and goat cheese salad, roasted carrots, and the most famous of all, “Dad’s Balls.” Every Italian-American has their family meatball recipe, and Sara’s family is no different. These meatballs are not a constant on the menu because they’re such a delicacy. Sara tells me her mom comes up from the city to help her prepare the magic recipe. She says, “The process is anything but magic, it’s long & tedious but it’s all love, and the result is worth the 2 day process of insanity. We start with our family tomato sauce, which takes all day, then prepare an abundance of high quality ingredients (tons of fresh herbs, our house-made sourdough bread crumbs and local beef) that I personally hand mix with all my strength. It’s like a 20-step process that we obsess over in order to create a ball that just melts in your mouth. It’s always a little tough emotionally, as this is my Dad’s famous recipe that we made together while growing up. I was his sous chef, he even made it for The Dale opening. As he passed the baton over, he said to me with a smile” – “You got this… Sara, you go girl.”
Second and fifth images by Victoria Nelson, courtesy of The Dale.
If you need another reason to visit, The Dale focuses on sustainable food practices and gut health. They strive to use local ingredients, work with small producers for both food and beverages, and allow for a long and natural fermenting time for their sourdough. Co-owner, Sara Sara Brancato tells us her partner, Alexander Wilson, is a fermenting maniac. He uses organic flour, pure water from a local spring and local raw honey to feed the natural yeasts, and you can taste it! When it comes to the drink menu, you will find that there are specialty cocktails for all tastes as well as natural wines. Sara says, “Our menu is super curated – so there is minimal waste! We honor the integrity of our food, and although prices have gone significantly, we really try to keep our prices attainable for our local community. We are very proud to be one of the few places open all winter long, and we really enjoy transforming our space into a cozy and warm place to come enjoy pizza, music and local hot cider on a cold winter night. We continue pushing the limits with live music and entertainment all year long and are excited to work with new talent, including comedians and new music artists. Sullivan county on the whole has a wonderful music community that we cherish, come on, this is where Woodstock started. We’re happy to be a stage for that community.” As far as what comes next Sara tells me that there are some juicy pop-ups coming up. Sara and Alexander have managed to create something special in a small town, and there are no signs of them slowing down anytime soon. Co-owners of The Dale, Sara Brancato and Alexander Wilson. (image courtesy of The Dale)
The Dale has an outdoor setup that allows for further socializing, and musical acts. Shayna Blass performing at The Dale over the summer.
The Dale, 4 Old Post Hill Rd, Mountaindale, New York
Amongst livelier Sullivan County towns is a quiet hamlet—Roscoe, also known as “Trout Town USA”, and it will take you just two hours to get there from New York City. As the birthplace of American fly fishing Roscoe attracts plenty of tourism, and when visitors find themselves in need of a special meal or cocktail they go to The Junction. Owners, Misty Hackworth and Aaron Blakely, opened The Junction in 2021. As nature lovers who love fishing, it seemed like the most ideal location and timing. In their own words, “The quality, diversity and abundance of trout fishing opportunities is almost endless. So from April through November, since about the 1860’s, anglers have been coming from all over to fish the upper Delaware system. Roscoe is the gateway to the fishery. We fell in love with the area while learning to fly fish on the Beaver Kill years ago and opened the kind of place we wanted to go to after a long day on the water.”
The Junction has a cozy feel, and both the exterior and interior look as if they had always been there. The owners wanted to create a space that felt authentic, and did a lot of the work themselves. Misty says, “We wanted the interior to be cozy without being too “curated” looking. The wide plank, rough cut hemlock floors definitely make the place look like we’ve been there longer than we actually have been. The wood stove becomes a focal point in the winter, and draws people towards the little living room setup. The tall dining table is made from a 1950s butcher’s block that Aaron’s great-grandmother had in their family hotel restaurant, where Aaron first worked.
The shape of the bar is a replica of one of Aaron’s favorite bars in the city where he used to bartend. It was designed and constructed by an amazing cabinet maker, Eugene Cunningham. He did the woodwork of the bull nose of the front bar and all the cabinetry that makes up the back bar. We then made the bar top counter out of cold rolled steel, matching the backing for the wood stove.”
The restaurant menu offers classics, like a cheese burger and caesar salad, but also elevated dishes, like mussels beurre blanc and steak tartare. At the helm is chef Evan Chesney, who was born and raised in Roscoe. For the colder months ahead, their famous venison ragu is back on the menu. The chef braises the za’atar seasoned venison from Halloran farms (a local farm that raises red stag just a few miles down the road from the restaurant). It is shredded and tossed with veal jus and reginetti pasta, then he tops it with parmesan and labne. The couple tells me that they source from local farms whenever possible, and you can taste it. Our visit to The Junction typically includes an order of the smoked trout spread and the grain bowl. Although excellent, our favorite part however is not the food, it is the good company, ambiance and the cocktails. Aaron is a seasoned bartender, and has created a diverse cocktail menu that can compete with the best of them. If you find yourself in the area, come here to stay warm by the fireplace, sip on hot cider, and enjoy a hearty dish made with love.
The Junction, 60 Stewart Ave, Roscoe, NY
Foster Supply Hospitality is making a splash in Sullivan County. The group has opened a number of small hotels, like The DeBruce and The Arnold House, but the place that stands out the most is Kenoza Hall. The structure of Kenoza Hall dates back to the early 1900s, and the couple behind its revival, Sims and Kirsten Harlow Foster, have made it into an upscale hotel, restaurant and spa experience. Besides the main house, this past summer, Kenoza Hall added bungalows to the property. The stylish restoration, with plenty to do right on the premises makes this a must-stay. Now the good part. Kezona Hall’s fine dining experience is unlike anything else in the area.
We asked their chef, Oscar Vargas, what makes Kenoza Hall’s menu a stand-out. He says, “That’s a question with some mixed answers for me. There are so many talented chefs in this region and I am honored to be in their company. If I had to distance ourselves; our Bone-In Ribeye is a spectacle. The ribeyes can range from 32-45 ounces, they’re unbelievably tender. We serve them with balsamic roasted Vidalia onions that are topped with smoked blue cheese & served with house bordelaise.” During our visit we enjoyed the Pan Roasted Chilean Sea Bass and Gnocchi Parisienne. By now you could tell the menu is reflective of old world continental cuisine.
In the winter, you can look forward to Dry-Aged Duck (the chef’s favorite) Charred Onion Soup (his take on the French Onion Soup) and more. Vargas says, “Working together with our culinary director, Eric Leveillee, we are always trying to find new and exciting dishes that represent our kitchen and continue to evolve our menu.”
The bar at Kenoza Hall is quite magnificent as well. It is the oldest part of the building and was once the original dining room of the previous family. Kenoza Hall’s history, elegant rooms and spa make this the ideal winter getaway, and it is just two hours away from New York City.
Kenoza Hall, 5762 NY-52, Kenoza Lake, NY