Kingston, NY is a destination with an authentic waterfront and lighthouse, a thriving arts and shopping scene, stylish restaurants and boutique hotels, all wrapped in a history that goes back to the founding of our country.
In fact, the historic appeal was our draw for this Stockade District of Kingston. The restored retail area, now bustling with tourists and locals, has led the multi-block section of charming colonial and Victorian homes out of neglect.
The Blue Cashew is an example of the changing economic outlook for the district. It offers high-style kitchen and bar ware that appeals to city dwellers moving up to the Hudson Valley. Next door at Ester Wines and Spirits, the owner also acknowledged the urban influx as a boost for his business.
As we strolled North Front Street, passing galleries, vintage shops, and antique dealers, we debated the merits of each restaurant we saw.
It was hard to decide where to have lunch: the Kingston Bread + Bar with a creative list of sandwiches but a intimidating line out the door; perhaps the Opa Greek Grill and Crêperie where we could finish with a few sweets next door at the Kingston Candy Bar; maybe Buns on the corner featuring burgers, fries and shakes; or Dallas Hot Wieners for a grab-and-go dog. Locals recommended The Hoffman House (circa 1711) at the end of the street, a popular landmark in town.
Of course, across town, the waterfront restaurants where the Rondout Creek meets the Hudson were a draw for lunch too. But hunger won out. The Front Street Tavern with its airy roof-top deck, historic appeal and full menu carried the day. A generous and freshly made Cobb Salad was more than enough for two.
On an after-lunch walk around the Stockade District, we came to the local-favorite Rough Draft Bar and Books, at the intersection of Crown and John streets. It’s on one of “The Four Corners,” where all four stone buildings date from prior to the Revolutionary War. The landmark is just around the block from Front Street and near the fashionable Hotel Kinsley.
An easy ramble leads down narrow lanes past houses, restored and au natural, each with a story of long occupancy, if only they could talk.
It’s time to confess our real motivation for visiting Kingston. For years we have been buying raisin-pumpernickel bread without knowing that it came from Deising’s Bakery. The large family-run bakery is just on the edge of the Stockade District. The selection of breads, pastries, donuts, cookies and cakes is both tempting and daunting. How to choose?
Glazed croissants (sold out), donuts, and pastry topped the list of most popular sweets. A buttered roll was an often-heard order in the line ahead of us. We came away with a loaf of the pump, two danish and a square of crumb cake. After lunch we returned for tea-time supplies for later in the day: Linzer tarts, black and white cookies and chocolate dipped almond pastries. The whimsically-decorated cookies were hard to resist.
The Hudson River Maritime Museum was our next destination. A two-mile downhill drive through the city and past splendid mansions overlooking the Hudson led to the historic area of the Rondout Creek waterfront.
Lined with restaurants, coffee shops and wine bars, Broadway is the gateway to the waterfront museum, Hudson River Cruises and the shady T.R. Gallo park. The Trolly Museum of New York is nearby. Both the Mariners Harbor and Ole Savannah restaurants offer lunch and dinner with a water view.
The Hudson River Maritime Museum houses engrossing artifacts that tell stories from the days when the river was a major artery of commerce and travel. Raw materials like bricks, cement, and bluestone were shipped from Kingston around the world. Tours by solar-powered launch to the Kingston lighthouse depart from here. The Mathilda, a vintage tugboat, is “on the hard” at the museum to be admired up close.
Our afternoon visit only scratched the surface. On the way home we started a list of things we want to do (and places to eat) for next time.
Frank Whitman can be reached at NotBreadAloneFW@gmail.com.