Saugerties by Storm: Small-Town Charm Awaits at the Foot of The Catskills
Exploring historic Hudson Valley villages can become a New Yorker’s hobby. Deborah and I have done our share, and I periodically report upon all the worthwhile nooks and crannies that are just a Zipcar ride away from NYC. One special village that we’ve visited enough times now to finally call it a “home away from home” is Saugerties.
If your aim is a cultured one-day outing, put a 2-hour drive to Saugerties, NY at the top of your list! The first commercial district to be placed on the National Historic Register, this relatively-compact Ulster County town combines a nostalgic architectural feel with a hip, East Williamsburg ambience. You’ll be tempted to enter every boutique and café along Main and Partition Streets in pursuit of the next funky surprise. And with the Catskills as a visual backdrop, you could even imagine you’ve stumbled upon a remote European village.
Our good friends Cyd and Jonathan graciously hosted us in Saugerties once again this July, directing us to all of the must-see locales we had missed in the past. From a perspective with considerably more accolade than “tourist”, let me show you how to make your visit stack up to ours.
The Flavor of Local
A big trend with the Hudson Valley’s better restaurants is to serve it up with fine local ingredients. Saugerties might be the birthplace of that movement. Two of our favorite Saugerties restaurants are friendly rivals in that department, and are both worth a try. Love Bites Café, with a wait staff and food presentation as playful as the name, is the one that also serves breakfast in addition to lunch. Not to miss is their Eggs with Avocado & Lemon on Toast, and at lunch, their Roasted Pork Belly. While Miss Lucy’s Kitchen skips on the breakfast, they more than make up for it with their artisanal recipes, impressive wine list, and dinner service. Picture sitting down to their Hudson Valley Farm Coffee-Rubbed Duck Breast and a bottle of the rare 1999 Verset Cornas.
Wandering The Stacks
If you’re like me, the quieter destinations are what really make your trip meaningful. To your delight and mine, Saugerties has not one but two independent bookstores! Start off with The Inquiring Mind Bookstore & Café, where the stacks are loaded with new books of eclectic and bohemian topicality, and the coffee & pastries are sinfully fresh. There’s also a kid-friendly children’s book section that’s loaded with toy trains to keep the tots entertained. No kids on your adventure? Then slip a few doors down to OUR Bookshop (OUR being an acronym for Old, Used and Rare) and spend a few hours browsing the floor-to-ceiling stacks of old volumes with decorative spines. Every inch of the space is cleverly used for book displaying, including the crown molding. Their section of gigantic, out-of-print coffee table books about art is particularly captivating.
How Can One Resist?
Proceed with restraint as you enter the decadence of Lucky Chocolates, Café & Juice Bar. Famous for outrageously delicious caramels, truffles and barks produced in-house with organic ingredients, they now offer healthful drinks straight from the juicer. But local doesn’t only refer to edibles. Just pop into The Modern Dream and discover how crafty Saugertiesians get with their handmade modern home goods. The kids will love interacting with their 2 pet bunnies! Speaking of your home, you should seriously consider setting aside some time to furniture shop during your visit. The family-owned Saugerties Furniture Mart is where Deb and I purchased the first 3 pieces for our new house, and I couldn’t rave more about the quality and service. Let owner Jonathan Shapiro walk you through the seating or bedding selections that are right for you, and have your new furnishings delivered as far south as Putnam.
On The Way Home
Pack a small cooler with ice for your Saugerties visit. This will come in handy when you load-up at Smoke House of The Catskills on your way out of town. The steaks, chops and wursts are irresistible and world-class. And don’t forget some of their pretzel bread from Deising’s for the ride. Then, while the late-day sun still hangs, head 30 minutes south on the Thruway to the hills outside of New Paltz for a short and dramatic hike along Bonticou Crag in the Mohonk Preserve. I’ve hiked much of the Hudson Valley, but I’ve never been so moved as I was during this breathtaking scramble.
If you think you’d like to make your Saugerties visit into a 2-day outing, consider visiting in late September to coincide with their regionally-famous Hudson Valley Garlic Festival. Sounds geeky, but it promises to be more than you would expect. Link here for recommended lodging ideas, and Happy Trails!