I moved to New Paltz one year ago and have been eating around the mid-Hudson Valley region since then. Here are some recommendations based on my non-comprehensive notes. To give you an idea, I don't go for gimmicky food and places designed to impress clients. Fresh ingredients, sincerity and straighforward fare are what woo me, rather than what might be called ConFusion Cusine, of which there is plenty here in the Hudson Valley -- hooey-infused nonsense atop pan-seared platitudes with locally-hewn malarkey made by folks who can't cook an omlette. Those culprits will go nameless (Matthew 7:12).
Mole Mole (Poughkeepsie) - This inauspicious storefront on scary Pokeep Main Street features the best dive-Mexican I've eaten in the NY/NJ region, right up there with my all-time fave US Mexican joints -- Las Manitas in Austin TX and La Serenata in Los Angeles. Enter Mole Mole and observe the Habuelita cooking in the back -- oh, mama. This is the real deal. Everything made from scratch. Corn tortillas only. Recommended: The tender pulled-chicken tamales made fresh every day... the pineapple-marinated pork tacos or the green mole chicken enchiladas. Great refrieds, sublime fresh salsa... Wash it all down with a seasonal fresh fruit agua fresca (watermelon -- ahhh!). See you there tomorrow.
Clove Cafe (High Falls) - You sit down for a Saturday breakfast and before you can order, a loaf of crusty/chewy fresh-baked bread (sourdough? herb? honey wheat?) is placed before you, with sweet butter and fruit preserves. Gratis. Your coffee was roasted on the premises. Your cloud-like poached organic eggs arrive on a scratch-baked english muffin (accompanied by pencil-thin asparagus hollandaise, if in season). The potatoes on your plate were roasted with rosemarie olive oil until crispy outside and creamy inside. The fruit plate selections are exceptionally fresh and sweet... The service is sometimes spotty, but there is (gasp) love in the food. The kitchen aspirations are so high here and the chef/owner so generous that I will keep coming until this newby can attract and train a staff worthy of her exceptional cuisine.
The New Paltz Diner (New Paltz) - After a few years out west I came back to New Jersey and my diners were gone. The retro signage and booths looked the same but eggs were scortched, the burgers dry, the lettuce brown and the baked goods stale -- from Bergenfield down to Manasquan. Even the vaunted Royal Cliffs had quit trying. I gave up on diners until some locals turned me on to the very joint in my own back yard. Well. I'm back eating roadhouse fare thanks to the New Paltz Diner, which offers fresh, tasty, honest and amazingly reliable (24/7, always good!) burgers, sandwiches, blue plates, delicious yeasty bread and a selection of excellent daily soups (do try the vegetarian vegetable). Nice waitresses too! SUNY profs, apple pickers, insurance salesmen and roofers all seem to agree with me.
NEWSWORTHY IN NEW PALTZ... Dominic's, Barnaby's and Toscani have all closed their restaurants within the past year... Cookies N Cream, in their new location, has the same superb homemade ice creams (coconut!)... Gilded Otter has delicious microbrews and the best sunset view in town...
NEW AND DISAPPOINTING... Lemongrass, the highly anticipated New Paltz Thai place has finally opened and at first taste the results are not good. Fresh mint, basil, cilantro, ginger, garlic and lemongrass itself are nowhere evident amid the suspiciously pre-chopped (frozen?) veggies (crinkle-cut carrots in Thai food?). No satay, no fresh spring rolls... Not much different than your typical upstate strip mall Chinese fare. Too bad. This town was stoked for a more authentic experience. Hope the owner reconsiders and decides to do it right.