by Richard, CEO
Every few months I make it my business to look for destinations that are near enough to New York City to be of interest to visitors. I usually focus on places that are from one to at most 3 hours away- and that can show off a part of the area that demonstrates the cultural diversity or history of the greater New York region.
This time I choose Rhinebeck, New York as the destination. It’s about 2 hours north of NYC by car and about the same – maybe 20 minutes more – via Amtrak. The Amtrak station is a short 6 mile cab ride away, so it’s perfect of a side trip.
What makes Rhinebeck worth it? Three things- its rich history, its wonderful quirky restaurants all within 100 yards of each other, and its nice people
History abounds in Rhinebeck – it’s on one the oldest roads in America (Route 9G) and the home to an Inn that claims it is the oldest and longest operating inn – the Beekman Arms. The home of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is wonderful to tour but the Vanderbilt Mansion is so much better – and shows that even among the old money (the Roosevelts) and the new money (the Vanderbilts) there were real class differences.
Just about 2 years ago Rhinebeck was the focal point for the wedding of the Clintons’ daughter, Chelsea. As the locals tell it – a lot of crowds, a lot of gawking but not a lot of buyers of anything except for grab and go sandwiches and pizza. The wedding actually hurt many of the businesses – where the expectations were high and the results (for the most part) far, far less than expected.
Here are some of my top picks for area restaurants:
CALICO www.calicorhinebeck.com Directly across from the Inn, it offers quaint ambiance, wonderful food and great owners (husband is the chef; wife is the pastry and candy chef and p/t hostess). On a chilly rainy night they made us feel very welcome and offered excellent food. I choose their stuffed with lump crab meat lemon sole – and it was among the best I ever had – the velvety sauce and perfect vegetables were excellent. A wine list that was so fair and interesting – great values. And the desserts were exceptional. Our young server was well-trained and polite to a fault. There are only a half dozen tables so book early. This is the kind of place you don’t want to tell anyone else about.
TERRAPIN www.terrapinrestaurant.com a short 50 yards from the Inn, it is an eclectic place – 10 times the size of Calico, but still offering impeccable service. Some of the best tapas I have had and very good entrees – with favorites going to salmon and tuna. .
ARIELLE www.ariellerhinebeck.com/ A cute, French accented place also 50 yards away from the Inn. It’s a model of a French bistro. All of the feeling you could want – soft pillow laden banquets. Very nice menu – Pistou vegetable soup was excellent as was a smoked trout salad. A little tight but that added to the ambiance. Staff was pleasant, young and efficient. Absolutely perfect for lunch.
This is an interesting community where no one seems they are into image or an attitude. The people walk the streets and when they pass they mostly smile or nod hello. So nice to see.
With the exception of one red headed park ranger at the Vanderbilt home who could use some lessons in who she works for and how she is employed ( her male counterpart – who guided us – was among the better we have experiences-he knew his stuff and told his story with warmth and enthusiasm. Can’t say the same for the Roosevelt guide – she was more perfunctory then interesting.
I wish both of these national sites offered one –on one tours of the homes and estates – like you can find at Gettysburg and elsewhere
Rhinebeck is well worth a visit.
If you are heading there for a weekend night, make a restaurant reservation early as possible .
Guests eat about an hour to hour and half earlier then in Manhattan – so don’t look for most places to serve after 8:30/9:30 except for the pub types.
Spring and summer tend to be busy – as when the leaves turn or the Duchess County Fair is on