“I want it to be the kind of place that people can feel comfortable hanging around, feel welcomed, and receive excellent food and really good service.” - Jennifer Cruz, owner, Grainne
After the closing of their beloved Duo Bistro, foodies in Uptown Kingston were delighted to find that a worthy successor had arisen: Grainne (pronounced “gren-yah”), named for the legendary Irishwoman pirate also known as Grace O’Malley, swiftly became a wellspring of great flavors. “The food here is DELICIOUS,” enthused Yelper Brandi S. “I stopped in for lunch, and I got the steak with a potato pancake and veggies. It was seasoned perfectly. I was just going to end with a cappuccino, but my server let me know they have fresh apple streusel bread pudding with fresh cream...it was heavenly! I’ll be back for sure.”
Jennifer Cruz says that’s the goal in running her bistro and market. “I want it to be the kind of place that people can feel comfortable hanging around, feel welcomed, and receive excellent food and really good service,” she says. “Our food seems to be slightly different from what’s around elsewhere. I have a kitchen that really cares about what it produces and loves to get creative. And what I hear from our guests is that they feel good once they come in. The staff seem to really care and like being here, and it translates to a very warm environment for the guests.”
“We are a very close team. We truly like and appreciate each other. I come in with a positive attitude every day—or I try to. And working with people I like and respect makes that easy. ”
- Jennifer Cruz, owner, Grainne
On the brunch menu at this writing, served all weekend long: house-made beignets with house-made chocolate and raspberry sauces, fresh donuts, house-made sausage, and more. Menus adapt to make the most of what’s fresh and local. “There are always new soups,” says Jennifer.
“My lead cook comes up with beautiful specials to run every week. Some are so great we just add them to the menu.”
Jennifer is an upstate transplant from the Upper West Side, first moving to Orange County two decades ago with her now-ex, an NYPD officer, then migrating gradually northward to New Paltz. She realized rapidly that, along with gorgeous scenery and lovely humans, life upstate eliminated what had been a source of serious stress.
“I can go to my car, in my driveway, and go to my destination and park in the lot. I haven’t circled a block for a parking space in forever. Living in the Upper West Side, I circled many a block, and alternate side parking was a major hassle. Driveways are so very nice!”
She also followed her muse. “As my marriage ended I needed a new career. I had been a baker all my life—made cheesecake with my mother when I was 5, was the Martha Stewart wannabe when I was 20—so I went to the CIA [Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park] and studied Baking and Pastry. I’ve been in restaurants since I was 16, which is a long time ago! A friend offered financial support to start the business when I lost my job to Covid, and I took the opportunity.”
Her former employer’s loss is Kingston’s gain, and she’s loving being called “Boss Lady” by the cook—and leading a happy crew. “We are a very close team,” Jennifer says. “We truly like and appreciate each other. I come in with a positive attitude every day—or I try to. And working with people I like and respect makes that easy.
We joke around a lot. Some restaurant environments can be really toxic, and we make sure that doesn’t happen here. We focus on what people ‘do well and good,’ rather than on the problems. Praise the team to success—it keeps us all positive and motivated.”
That positive vibe translates to happy customers, and Jennifer and her crew love nothing more than pleasing each one. “I have the nicest guests ever! Lots of folks from this area, but, particularly on the weekends, loads of folks from the city,” Jennifer says.
“We have had a growing group of regulars almost since we opened. It’s a really diverse group, which keeps life interesting. We try to make everyone feel well taken care of. All of the staff really care that our guests enjoy their time here.”
Jennifer and her former business partner looked at other locations before finding the Wall Street location and falling in love with it. “It’s gorgeous!” Jennifer says. “I saw this and it was love at first sight! Our guests love the ambience; it really is a lovely spot.” According to her daughter (who ought to know), the Mom energy is strong in this one.
So it’s not surprising that “Boss Lady” takes on a lot of roles as needed. “I’m chief cook and bottle washer!” she says. “Kidding, sort of! I did most of the pastry work, until I hired a wonderful recent CIA grad. Now she does the pastry work, possibly better than I do. I’m serving while we work to hire staff. I do dishes... paint... clean bathrooms... Basically, whatever needs to get done.” A satisfied guest is her bliss. “I love seeing my guests enjoy their meal,” she says. “They love the food. I enjoy coming up with new foods to serve. We’ve been called a comfort food bistro, and I like that. Excellent food that makes you feel good. With a full-service bakery... and someday a bar!”
At this writing, Grainne’s liquor license is expected any day, and Jennifer’s excited about adding bottomless Mimosas to the joys of a Grainne brunch. And the market side will soon be seeing new items as well. “We’re adding bitters and shrubs, soaps, seasonings, and herbs, honey, maple syrup, tea blends. I’m searching for teapots and cups as well as tea towels and handmade trinkets. We’ll make our own granola, crackers, and dog biscuits. Things might cycle and change as seasons and discoveries change, but I’m keeping it local.” Opening a restaurant in late 2020 required a thoughtful spirit. “We had a little more to consider while getting open, and getting up and running has taken a bit longer,” Jennifer says.
“We have made every effort to keep our guests safe and feeling comfortable. It was really encouraging when guests told me that this was the first place they had eaten in a year. It warmed my heart that they felt comfortable here....I am expressing my creativity. I am learning new things every day. This is the dream.”
299 Wall Street, Kingston