When you’re lucky enough to know where to find a great pub, life’s just better. Topnotch eats and drinks are part of the recipe, but then there’s that secret sauce: the warm vibes of a community living room, where you’re likely to run into favorite neighbors and make new friends just by pulling up a stool at the bar. Season liberally with great live music, and you’ve got that rare gem of a spot that makes a blah day better and a good evening fabulous, satisfying your hunger on levels that transcend food.
Such a place is the High Falls Cafe, and it’s been that way ever since Buffy and Brian Gribbon nurtured what began as a groovy little breakfast and lunch spot in the center of that hamlet (which has long carried the sorta-tongue-in-cheek nickname of Center of the Universe) back in 2005. From its earliest days, the place has had that charismatic chemistry, partly in the kitchen—where Brian’s Culinary Institute of America degree and use of the best fresh local flavors come into play—and partly at the bar, where Buffy’s sense of humor and deeply genuine warmth brew positive vibrations.
Not long after they started doing the breakfast and lunch riff, complete with eight varieties of Eggs Benedict and Brian’s stellar Hollandaise sauce, they became aware that the Center of the Universe had a black hole of sorts where the nightlife ought to be. People wanted a place to gather in the evening without having to go out of town, so the Gribbons instituted dinner service followed by live bands and dancing. Soon, High Falls locals and folks from far and wide were coming out to the big little Cafe not just to relish Brian’s breakfasts, burgers, and pasta, but to spend a fabulous Saturday night.
The High Falls Cafe has been a rare gem ever since Buffy and Brian Gribbon nurtured what began as a groovy little breakfast and lunch spot in the center of that hamlet.
After 11 years in a second location, the place that makes so many people feel at home finally has a forever home of its own—out on Route 209 in North Marbletown in the former Marbletown Inn.
After just a few years in their first location, the Cafe had to relocate deeper into the forest, moving to Stone Dock Road. To everyone’s delight, they’d developed a loyal following that didn’t mind driving a little farther to keep the party going. “A lot of people thought we’d closed,” says Buffy Gribbon. “And it took a couple of years to get established out there, but once we did, it was a really happy place for us.”
Now, after 11 years in that second location, the place that makes so many people feel at home finally has a forever home of its own—out on Route 209 in North Marbletown in the former Marbletown Inn. After a triumphant farewell to the Stone Dock spot over New Year’s weekend, the Gribbons set about renovating their new location’s interior and had the doors open for a soft-opening celebration by March 1.
“Every night’s been amazing, and St. Patrick’s weekend was just mind-blowing,” says Gribbon. “That was the first night we did our full live music thing—we wanted to work the kinks out a little first. We ripped some stuff out and turned the space into one big room with a big wraparound horseshoe-shaped bar, and our musicians chipped in and bought us a great sound system. And everyone has just been so happy for us. All the credit goes to our friends and regulars—everybody’s helped us so much.”
It’s the kind of loyalty that can’t be faked, only earned—and the Gribbons have nurtured it for years, holding youth sports banquets, donating to good causes, helping keep everyone fed by working with Ulster County’s Project Resilience during the pandemic. Gribbon volunteers with Rondout Valley High School’s WISE (Individualized Senior Experience) program, even now that their own kids have graduated. All of it has been the making of a vital and brilliant extended family—exactly what Buffy and Brian were hoping for when they relocated their young family from Mahwah, NJ to Ulster County back in 2002
“Our kids are involved now, and they want this to continue,” says Gribbon. “So it becomes a legacy thing. Casey is 28 now, and she manages the bar; Patrick is 25 and he doesn’t have a formal job title but he’s a huge help with the heavy stuff. Jamie’s 22, and she’s been waitressing; she’ll be bartending more when Casey goes out on maternity leave in a few months. It’s a pretty busy year.”
Now that the interior reno is done and the doors are open, it’s time to consider the possibilities. Gribbon has plans for an herb garden, among other plantings. And the new location has a pizza oven. “That’s new for us,” she says. “We’re never going to be a pizzeria, but we’ve definitely been making dough, doing tastings, and planning to add some fun stuff like stromboli and garlic knots. I think we’ll be able to step out of the box, get a little more creative.” Given that the “box,” for the High Falls Cafe, has always meant a scratch kitchen turning out 90 percent house-made everything, including seven varieties of sauce on pasta night, eight on wing night, creative salads, superb starters (Littlenecks in garlic basil broth, anyone? Spring rolls? Trad nachos, or would you prefer yours Irish style?), 10 good beers on draft, mimosa flights, and way too much more to list, it’ll be interesting to see what “a little more creative” will look like. We already know it will taste ambrosial and sound amazing.
“There are lots of new neighbors here now...but it all settles as everyone gets to know each other and that small-town feeling comes back, where everyone helps each other out.” – Buffy Gribbon, Co-owner
So stop in for a Sunday breakfast, a wing night, or a burger any evening. (There are five kinds of burgers, besides a build-your-own option.) Come have dinner and stay for outstanding blues, rock, or bluegrass, or to play some trivia. “But please, if you need a table, call us for a reservation,” says Gribbon. “We don’t ever want to frustrate you; you’re the reason we do this, but especially when we have events, there’s only so much room and it does fill up quickly.”
All in all, the transition has been a smooth one, and the Gribbons couldn’t be happier with their ew permanent location. “We were petrified that the renovations would take forever,” Gribbon says, “but we had so much amazing help. A couple of people remarked that it had the feel of an old-fashioned barn-raising. I’ve used that term to explain how it went, because it really did take the village to pull this off. There are lots of new neighbors here now, just like there were after 9/11, but it all settles as everyone gets to know each other and that small-town feeling comes back, where everyone helps each other out. It’s a good thing—a really good thing.””
high falls cafe
2842 Rt. 209, Kingston (North Marbletown)