Where to get huge portions at Hudson Valley restaurants
Although the gastronomic trend these days is toward multiple courses of small if not tiny plates, you still can find area restaurants that believe in three squares a day -- the biggest square at dinner. Nearly all of those institutions serving improbably large portions are family-run, which may have something to do with it, and many are outside of cities. Paradoxically, all are relatively inexpensive.
But how do you find these spots? One technique is to park within sight of the front door and watch. If customers leave briskly, be wary. If, on the other hand, diners emerge sluggishly and with a big grin, there is hope.
The following are four such outposts where you're almost guaranteed to leave full and with leftovers in a doggie bag.
Anatolia in New Paltz
Opened in 1994 by the Demiray family, this unassuming Turkish restaurant draws a large and enthusiastic clientele (76 Main St., New Paltz; 845-255-1424).
Bargain-seeking students from the nearby State University of New York at New Paltz could enjoy dinner (and a late-night snack) out of the nikki nirvana sandwich, a stout torpedo holding eggplant, hummus, spinach and tomatoes. But the sandwich pales when compared with the mixed grill kebab, a skewer weighed down with five pieces of chicken, four cubes of lamb and four pieces of Adana (a highly seasoned mixture of ground beef lamb and lamb), served with a salad, rice and bulgur.
Another seriously sized dish is the okra stew, a deep bowl of barbecued okra, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and sweet peppers, also served with rice, bulgur and salad. Vegetarians will find a good and filling selection, with offerings like a tofu-and-vegetable pita and the Anatolian vegetable plate with a Turkish-style tomato sauce.
"In Turkey, they do not eat large portions," said Bugra Demiray, one of the owners. "But this is America, and Americans like to have a lot on the plate."
Catherine's in Goshen
At Catherine's, a restaurant that serves homey, fuel-in-the-tank American fare, chef-owner Stephen Serkes has a culinary philosophy: "Nobody should go home hungry" (153 W. Main St., Goshen; 845-294-8707; catherinesrestaurant.net). He takes that credo seriously when dealing with portion sizes.
His crackling pork shank, weighing in at more than 2 pounds, also includes generous sides of sauerkraut, applesauce and mashed potatoes. Then there's the 28-ounce dry aged rib steak, and an intimidating braised shredded short rib stroganoff with pappardelle.
Most customers carry home doggie bags that would challenge the appetite of a Saint Bernard, and one even described the food as "Flintstone-like."
"As far as our advertising," Serkes said, "we advertise the next day when they open the refrigerator."
For those who still have room after mammoth-sized main courses, there are some major-league desserts, too, including an apple crisp that has been on the menu for a dozen years.
"It's really big," Serkes said. "One day, while I was putting one together, one of the guys in kitchen walked by and said, 'Hey, you making a pie?'"
Everything about Terrapin is big: the dining room in a former church, the international menu, the wine selection and, above all, the food (6426 Montgomery St., Rhinebeck; 845-876-3330; terrapinrestaurant.com).
"To me, it's all about the perception of value," chef Josh Kroner said, noting that regular customers are accustomed to full plates and no doubt would grouse if an austerity plan were adopted by the kitchen.
Foremost on the current menu is a 22-ounce, maple syrup-brined, double-thick pork chop with a Calvados-apple demi-glace topped with crushed maple- and bacon-flavored almonds. It's served with a sweet potato gratin. A runner-up is the massive braised short ribs gratinee, which are served with Yukon mashed potatoes garnished with caramelized onions and, on the summit, a melted Gruyere crostini.
Foster's Coach House Tavern in Rhinebeck
It so happens that another gut-busting establishment is located across the street from Terrapin. Foster's is an almost exclusively local hangout housed in a sturdy, 1890s red brick building (6411 Montgomery St., Rhinebeck; 845-876-8052; fosterscoachhouse.com). In the wood-lined dining room, former horse stalls serve as booths, and the walls are festooned with equestrian photos and prints.
The food, although not refined, is largely hearty and satisfying. If you've been deprived of nourishment for a day or two, one option is the veal or chicken Parmesan, a thick plank of meat covered with melted mozzarella and slathered with thick tomato sauce. The roast turkey dinner with homemade stuffing and gravy will slow you down, as will the generous steaks and oversized sandwiches, hot or cold. Prices are astoundingly low, with most dinners in the $13-$18 range.
"A lot of people look at their food and say, 'Wow!'" said the bar manager, Stephanie Carson.