The restaurant scene in my neck of the woods can’t even be described as bad; it’s more like a wasteland, reminiscent of The Road Warrior. We aren’t served dog food from a can when we go out to eat, but most local restaurants’ output is just semantically different than steam table food. So every time I hear about the possibility of a new restaurant that isn’t a cookie-cutter sushi joint or pasta and veal emporium I get a little excited — until reality smacks me in the face.
But this place may be different! It will be run by a husband and wife team from the now-closed Citrus Grille in nearby Airmont, NY. The Christiansons are old hands at running a restaurant; they opened Citrus Grille in the mid 1990s. I never ate there, so I can’t comment on their skill in the kitchen, but the menu looked interesting. I stopped in to the old joint to see if I could pick up some interesting kitchen equipment during their closing sale. Unfortunately it was mostly glassware and plates, but I did snag a nice, heavy, but thoroughly carbon encrusted saute pan (any ideas for cleaning the outside?). I chatted with them about their plans for the yet unnamed new place, and it seems to be developing as an “upscale casual” restaurant specializing in small plates, crudo, and gourmet pizza from their wood-fired oven*. They are planning some outdoor seating as well, which if done well will be delightful — there is nothing like eating outside on a clear spring or summer night.
Because of the silliness, expense and complexity of New Jersey liquor license laws, they will not be serving booze, but the thought of sitting on a comfortable patio with a few small plates, a nice pizza, and a bottle of wine from my cellar is pleasant indeed. As you can see, the construction has barely begun, but they are planning a fall opening.
I put in a not-terribly-subtle request for a great burger, but for some reason they seem to think that their professional training and years of experience trump my amateurish suggestions for their business. Seriously, the format seems interesting, and if the restaurant is also physically appealing, we may have a realistic alternative to driving into New York, or at least down to Bistro 55.
* That’s what I remembered from the conversation. But I checked, and they do not have firm plans.