A full-service bar and restaurant where fine scratch cooking pairs perfectly with live music that’ll keep you dancing all night long.
High school sweethearts Buffy and Brian Gribbon decided fifteen years ago that they wanted their three kids to grow up someplace less crowded than Mahwah, New Jersey; someplace where they could enjoy hiking, sports, and the outdoors as a family. “Brian is a Culinary Institute graduate, so we were familiar with New Paltz and were lucky enough to find this side of the mountain,” says Buffy.
Residents of the Rondout Valley side of the mountain—and others who know of the gem that is the High Falls Cafe—would probably say that the luck is theirs. From first opening in its former location in 2005, the Cafe has been special: a full-service bar and restaurant where fine scratch cooking pairs perfectly with live music that’ll keep you dancing all night long.
“We initially wanted to open a breakfast and lunch place, which was needed in High Falls at the time,” recalls Buffy. “After we opened, we found a hunger for the nightlife that was also missing—a place to gather and have fun together without having to travel too far to do it. This had us moving to dinner hour and then to live music.” The Cafe has relocated off the main drag, but High Falls folks still don’t have to travel far—just a few minutes down charming wooded lanes gets you to their new location at Stone Dock, a public golf course renowned for splendid mountain views and a challenging nine-hole course.
“When you order it we make it. It takes a bit longer and is hard work, but we feel that the product that comes out is much more authentic in presentation and taste.” – Buffy Gribbon, owner
Those who make the trip can count on being well fed when they reach their destination. “We buy all of our ingredients and make basically everything from scratch—all our salad dressings, sauces, and sides,” says Buffy. “When you order it we make it. It takes a bit longer and is hard work, but we feel that the product that comes out is much more authentic in presentation and taste.” True to their original concept, breakfast is still a big deal and served all day long on Sundays. “Brian is a master at breakfast, and we have eight kinds of Eggs Benedict with the best Hollandaise sauce anywhere,” says Buffy. “It’s why we started out as a breakfast spot.” Other breakfast possibilities include biscuits and gravy and challah bread French toast.
“After we opened, we found a hunger for the nightlife that was also missing— a place to gather and have fun together without having to travel too far to do it. This had us moving to dinner hour and then to live music.” – Buffy Gribbon, owner
Breakfast may have been the beginning of everything, but the cafe’s lunch and dinner menus are equally enticing. Soups, sandwiches, flat bread pita pizzas and quesadillas add variety to a list of custom classic burgers—order one on Tuesday and get a free beer—as well as wings, which are 50 cents each on Wednesdays, when you can also get pasta for $10. Creative dinner entrees include Salmon Puttanesca, Chicken Francaise and Marsala, and “Brian’s Meatloaf.” There are vegetarian and gluten-free selections, and they’ll take tender loving care of guests with food allergies.
“We like our place to feel warm and comfy, like your living room, like family. It can be busy sometimes, but so can a household.” – Buffy Gribbon, owner
The kitchen stays open until 10pm on dance nights, and you’ll want to make sure you’re nourished because Buffy and Brian pride themselves on bringing in the most danceable bands around—and they know where to find them, too. “The music community here is amazing!” says Buffy. “Talented, energetic folks who love to play and listen to music. We just provide the atmosphere and the food. The quality of music we have in the Hudson Valley is mind-blowing. Some of the music we have had at the Cafe is better than things I have paid to see in big venues.”
This particular laid-back venue—what with great eats, wi-fi, a pool table, and well-curated drinks, such as classic martinis, justifiably famous Bloody Marys, and creative elixirs like Little Brown Jug Shakes made with bourbon cream—is a favorite with regional “name bands” and those who love them because the Cafe is reliably an intelligent and soul-shaking night out. “We have fantastic customers!” says Buffy. “We have a mostly over-thirty crowd, fun and supportive people who love to dance! We like our place to feel warm and comfy, like your living room, like family. It can be busy sometimes, but so can a household.”
Keeping this “household” running smoothly takes a lot of work. “Brian is the chef, cook, dishwasher, kitchen manager, beer and food ordering, hiring, firing, supervisor, plumber, electrician, and delivery person,” Buffy says. “I’m the bookkeeper, bartender, liquor-ordering, sommelier, human resource, entertainment booker, schedule maker, server, menu writer, and delivery person. Just to name a few roles that come to mind. All kidding aside, we both do a bit of everything; you have to when you own your own business.”
They are assisted by a carefully chosen crew who share in the can-do spirit. “Most of our employees have worked for us since the beginning,” Buffy says. “We love our employees like family; we’re all in it together. Several of our employees have been mistaken for our children over the years and that is a positive thing—it means that they care as much as the owners do. Over the years we have had six combinations of mother and child working for us at the same time, and five brother-and-sister combinations. We watch them grow up and become graduates, get married, and become parents.”
Not every moment has been easy. The recession of 2008 was hard on the Cafe, as it was on most small businesses, and moving to a less visible location has been an adjustment. “Some people still don’t know we’re here,” says Buffy. “But the best thing that comes out of a tough time is knowing how many people actually rely on us being here and want us to be. Pooling resources and ideas from friends and loved ones is the only way to get through the low spots.”
Colleagues on the High Falls business scene are on that list of friends and loved ones; Buffy and Brian are glad to be part of the fabric. “Every restaurant has a niche,” says Buffy. “People will come into town and perhaps have dinner at The Spy and then come to the Cafe for an event. This works for both of us and draws people into the town. If they are in town they might see some of the shops or galleries and then want to come back during the day; it all works together.”
And the secret ingredient of the Cafe’s overall magic is that very community. The best part of it all? Buffy doesn’t have to think before answering: “People, people, people! Our clientele have become part of our family; there are people we see every day. And we would not have known any of the people we have met over the years without having the Cafe.”
So the next time you’re hungry, whether for breakfast, a burger, or an epic night out, come give the Cafe a try.
You can find menus and more information on their website or visit their Facebook page for the latest updates.
High Falls Cafe
12 Stone Dock Road, High Falls