Restaurant Review: The Towne Crier Café

Towne Crier

Menu at the Towne Crier Café. (Photo by Jac Bergenson)

by Jac Bergenson

One of the most iconic music venues of the Hudson Valley has finally reopened its doors after a long-awaited move.

The Towne Crier Café, a restaurant and concert hall, accumulated 15 years’ worth of memorable performances in its Pawling location and now is bringing that history to Beacon. It reopened its doors on Oct. 4. A multitude of local performers, such as the Duke Robillard Blues Band and Grayson Hugh are slated to perform in the coming weeks.

The performances are sure to be a hit. But what about the dining experience? I set out to the Towne Crier this past week to find out.

After a bit of confusion over which entrance led to the dining room and which to the concert hall, I ended up at my destination and during a brief wait for a table, my guest and I salivated over the dessert case, which was placed front and center. It displayed everything from a “Poppyseed Cake,” to a “Chocolate Truffle Torte,” (more on that one later).

The dinner menu was smaller than some, but clearly defined with a variety of Mediterranean flavors, from polenta to hummus to baba ghanouj.

To start, my guest selected the Towne Crier Café salad, a take on a traditional house salad, of which the greens were fresh and bright. My choice, the beet-orange salad, offered a flavor combination to interesting to resist. The red beets paired well with what appeared to be Mandarin and blood oranges and the Turkish olives the salad was served with gave it a pleasant, salty bite at the end. As always with beets, I walked away with pink teeth, but the eye-popping flavor made the salad worth the trouble.

To follow her salad, my guest settled on a small plate of “Chicken Pepperonata.” The menu states that the dish comes with “sautéed, free-range chicken breast,” although the plate was served with grilled chicken—nitpicking, I’m afraid, but worth noting. The chicken was still served well-seasoned, with just a hint of smokiness. The roasted red peppers and caramelized onions were sweet and flavorful, and the slight bitterness of the peppers paired well with the sweet onions. The base, a soft polenta, was delightful as well. A good polenta is a sign of a good chef.

I, on the other hand, opted for the “Squash and Apple Arancini.” This was another small plate, also commonly known as risotto balls. This one was a bit out of my comfort zone, since I must usually be very wowed by a vegetarian option to forgo meat, but I was far from disappointed. The risotto was creamy, the breading golden, and certainly not greasy. The butternut squash and apples incorporated into the risotto gave it a sweetness that reminded me of cheddar cheese, surprisingly, but I ate every bite with gusto. The arancini were served with a cayenne-cream dipping sauce that complemented the sweetness well. I, someone who typically avoids hot foods, and my guest, someone who loves them, both took note of how delicious the sauce was.

My guest and I also shared a plate of “Phil’s Baba Ghanouj,” (Phil presumably being the owner of the Crier, Phil Ciganer), the Crier’s take one the traditional Middle-Eastern dish, served with herb-toasted pita bread. The Baba Ghanouj was my third favorite of the three small plates, but that is more of a testament to the exquisiteness of the other two. It may have also been my on-again, off-again relationship with eggplant. The dish, well-seasoned, was certainly sweet and only slightly bitter, signifying that it was well-prepared.

After dinner, my guest and I showed no hesitation in ordering a slice of the “Chocolate Truffle Torte.” It takes no culinary knowledge at all to call this piece of heaven “divine.” I’m not usually one for chocolate—I’ve been told that’s one of the seven deadly sins—but it was impossible to stop eating this torte, which was made in-house with all of the other desserts. The torte, crafted with dark chocolate, was light, rich (but not too rich), and oh-so-creamy. It was the perfect end to a quality meal.

With the food out of the way, I have yet to mention the service, which was phenomenal. This particular night appeared dreadfully slow (as is the case sometimes on a weekday), but not every server goes above and beyond to make the experience enjoyable. My guest and I were helped through the dining experience by Greyson who was proud to announce that he was the son of the executive pastry chef Mary Ciganer.

Greyson was personable and took every step to make the night enjoyable for my guest and me.  As my guest and he discussed her lemonade, which was made to order, he eagerly attempted to get one of the lemons for us to try, which he claimed was a delicious orange-lemon hybrid. He was unable to do so, but came out with something better—a raspberry sauce made by Ms. Ciganer. I put the sauce to the side, and it came in handy when we had our dessert—the two components paired perfectly.

We found ourselves conversing with him often and both left with the impression that he, as a representative of the Crier’s staff, truly valued our patronage. Service can make or break a dining experience; if I had been on the fence about the food (I wasn’t), I would surely come back on the merits of the service alone.

It’s been a good run this fall—three establishments, three phenomenal experiences. Although the menu is limited, the food was prepared near-flawlessly from beginning to end, and I foresee myself visiting the Towne Crier again.

Verdict: 4.5/5 Stars

Towne Crier Café

Where: 379 Main Street, Beacon, NY

Hours: Dinner Wednesday – Monday, 4:30-10 p.m.; Brunch Saturday – Sunday, 10-3 p.m.

Price Point: $10-25 per entree

Telephone: (845) 855-1300

Website: www.townecrier.com

Notes: If interested in seeing performances at The Towne Crier Café, please check the website, as some may require the purchase of tickets or reservations.