Uptown Kingston’s culinary scene is morphing along with its real estate market. At least four new restaurants and a high-end cocktail lounge are slated to open in the neighborhood this spring.
The mini restaurant boom will be a test of neighborhood boosters’ belief that after years of steady but slow progress, Uptown Kingston has arrived at a point where it can support a fine dining sector catering to well-heeled “foodie” tourists and locals.
“You have an influx of new people and a diversity of tastes,” said realtor Nan Potter. “The people coming in and opening these restaurants are coming from all over. I think Uptown is going to become a hub of good restaurants.”
Chris Turgeon, chef-owner of Wilde Beest, is counting on a clientele willing to take a step into the unfamiliar at his new establishment, which he says will meld cutting-edge cooking techniques with genuine farm-to-table ingredients. The restaurant at 310 Wall St. is moving into space occupied by the much-beloved and recently closed Elephant.
Turgeon, 34, previously worked as executive sous chef at Chicago’s now-closed Michelin-starred 42 Grams. He said he plans to bring his old restaurant’s emphasis on culinary innovation to his new establishment, with the goal of creating something that doesn’t currently exist in Kingston.
“We’re going to apply a bit of science to the cooking process to make it really transformative,” said Turgeon, who hopes to get the space open by the end of May. “We’re going to be using induction, sous-vide, pickling — really traveling the breadth of cooking techniques and that’s going to set us apart.”
Turgeon has formed a partnership with Milton’s Hepworth Farms to provide fresh organic ingredients daily. Turgeon said the emphasis on innovation would extend to the produce by using the farm’s bounty in unexpected ways — like employing fresh, unripe strawberries to create bitter notes.
Turgeon is also bringing on his own five-member team to staff Wilde Beest to provide a fine tuned experience with a coherent philosophy on everything from plating to service. Despite the focus on quality and innovation, Turgeon said his vision for Wilde Beest is anything but stuffy. The palate, he said, is quintessentially American even when the cooking techniques and presentation are unfamiliar, and the pricing is set to be competitive with other Kingston fine-dining establishments.
“Our motto is, serious food, serious drinks, no serious people,” said Turgeon. “We’re going to be working 14-hour days here and we want to have a good time while we do it.”
A Piedmontese approach
Just up the block from Wilde Beest, at the corner of Wall and John streets Joe Cafaro aims to bring another one-of-a-kind dining experience to the neighborhood — authentic regional Italian cuisine. Palizzata (that’s “stockade” in Italian) will focus on the cuisine of the Piedmont region of northern Italy. Cafaro is co-owner of Nick and Tony’s Italian Kitchen in Ellenville, a traditional Italian-American restaurant. He said he fell in love with northern Italian cuisine on family trips to the region and believed the style would fit in with Uptown’s burgeoning upscale dining scene.
“When I went to northern Italy, I saw a lot of the Hudson Valley there,” said Cafaro. “Especially the emphasis on local, local ingredients, local wine, local dishes.”
The cuisine of the region differs significantly from the rest of Italy and even more so from its Italian-American cousin. Heavy red sauces are rare and Italian-American staples like chicken parm are entirely unknown. Cafaro said house specialties would include authentic dishes like veal in a tuna-anchovy sauce and beef braised in Barolo wine. Cafaro said the restaurant, which he hopes to open within the next few weeks, will feature a bar area, formal dining room and a private dining space and will be open for lunch and dinner.
While Wilde Beest and Palizzata will occupy spaces vacated by other restaurants, two new planned eateries in the neighborhood will bring a net gain for the neighborhoods dining scene. New York City-based developer Charles Blaichman has plans to open four small boutique hotels in the heart of the Stockade District. At the former Bank of New York/Tonner Doll building at 301 Wall St., the hotel will share space with a full service dining room .Another Blaichman owned property, the historic Burgevin building at the corner of Fair and Main streets, the developer plans to open a café-style restaurant. Potter said the company was waiting for some final permits before announcing details. The restaurants, she said, would feature locally known chefs and should be open by early summer.
Tappen House’s next phase
At 10 Crown Street, John Krenek and Jamie Nibloch are building on the success of their high-end home décor emporium exit 19 with a new venture. Crown, located in the historic Tappen House at 10 Crown St. is slated to open in June as a Parisian-inspired lounge featuring table service, craft cocktails and light snacks. The space will feature three indoor and two outdoor “settings” crafted, Krenek and Nibloch say, with the same elegance and attention to detail that has made exit 19 a hit. The space, Krenek said, would be set apart by its music and “moody, atmospheric” ambiance.
“We want to create a dream, a place that doesn’t currently exist in Kingston,” said Nibloch. “A place that people will walk into and say, ‘Wow, where am I?’”