Research has shown (or at least my research has shown) that food and music go together. A restaurant with excellent food but a terrible soundtrack never sits as well as one where the music and food are partners. In the same vein, no matter how strong the ambience and music selection, if an eating establishment has poor food, it is as good as closed. In this column, I look to review what is newer on the scene in food in the Lower Hudson Valley with a constant focus on how things taste and sound.
I had the opportunity to visit Gleason’s in Peekskill with a long-time colleague about a week ago. I’m a tremendous fan of Birdsall House, and the owners there recently opened Gleason’s only a few blocks away. So, I was incredibly excited to see whether Tim Reinke and John Sharp could transfer their good food voodoo to another location.
Peekskill appears to be in the midst of a food revolution. Within the last few years, a number of new establishments have opened within the city, or established eateries have moved or changed their “structure.” It’s always great to explore areas in the midst of food self-discovery. You never know what you’ll end up finding.
Location: If you’re familiar with Peekskill you know that some areas are notoriously difficult to find parking in. The junction by South Street and Division can be one of those areas, particularly because of the one-way nature of some of the surrounding streets, the proximity to the Paramount, and the often ridiculously long-timed lights. Unfortunately for me, the night I went to Gleason’s was an incredibly rough parking evening. From the time I first spotted the restaurant to the second I walked through the door took over fifteen minutes (fourteen of which were spent looking for a place to park).
The front of Gleason’s is fairly nondescript. Some window lettering, an archway, and a red sign proclaim you’re in the right place, but Gleason’s frontage (like many places in Peekskill) is fairly small by nature of how blocks of the city were designed. Finding the restaurant isn’t incredibly difficult, it just isn’t incredibly obvious.
Staff: You won’t find a nicer set of bartenders than exists at Gleason’s. We had the opportunity to chat with two bartenders during our time there. Both were knowledgeable about drinks, but more importantly, both were normal people. There are times when bar staff can take themselves too seriously. The two staff members we interacted with truly appeared to enjoy our company, and the company of others at the bar. We ate right on Gleason’s well-maintained bar (see the inlay picture below), so I didn’t have the opportunity to engage with the staff working the seating area. However, as a bar/drink tutorial organized by the bartender exhibited when we first arrived, the staff working at Gleason’s love what they do, and are happy to talk about it. The bartender who served us our meals set the bar up nicely, laying down napkins where our plates would go and checking in regularly. He also shared some of the house bitters he was making and chatted about a company he was forming that will partner up with Birdsall House. It is great to see when restaurants in the same family truly act like they belong together. The partnership between Birdsall and Gleason’s was definitely apparent (both in the vision and the food and drink).
Music/Ambience: Gleason’s is tiny. A few tables sit against the window out to South Street, and then the bar takes up the front half of the space. A number of tables in the back might sit twenty or so, but that’s it. Thursday was pretty slow, which was nice, allowing my colleague and I to catch up without having to shout. I could see how the bar space could become loud and crowded on weekends, but I would rather not think of it in that light. After my visit, Gleason’s seemed to work much better as neither a bar nor a restaurant, but a hangout that doesn’t disappoint. Bathroom facilities were small but usable, and seating at the bar was comfortable. Music selection was a mix of eclectic jazz and some softer alternative rock from the early nineties; nothing too hard, but tunes that were recognizable. The jazz selections were perfect for a bar that appears to just want you to stay and enjoy yourself. While I am an alternative rock fan, I would have loved a steady jazz soundtrack throughout. The jitter from alternative to instrumental jazz and back was a little too raw for me, and I thought based on the atmosphere and the personality that Gleason’s appears to be cultivating, a steady jazz beat was a better fit.
Food/Drink: I’ll be honest. When I first saw the menu selection I was a little concerned. Six or seven flatbreads, two salads, a soup or two, and a few pasta dishes? That was it. No bar food, no other appetizers. Nada. My colleague and I looked at the menu and glanced at each other. We’ve both been to Birdsall House, and though the menu there isn’t expansive, there is certainly more to choose from. Did we make a mistake?
Well, let me tell you, Gleason’s doesn’t need anything else on the menu. It’s that good. Seriously. I eat a lot of food, and I visit a lot of restaurants, and Gleason’s is the type of place that you just don’t miss. In fact, the food was so good, that I actually felt the carnal desire to order more, despite being beyond full. It bordered on dangerous. I’m not kidding.
My meal began with what I believed was to be a fairly-standard Caesar salad. Caesar dressing (which never seems to stray too far from the norm regardless of where you go) was quite fresh and a bit different (the red romaine likely assisted this), with a nice bitter/sweet taste that developed on the tongue. The croutons (imagine raving about those) were tasty and had the perfect consistency. But, the real winner was the addition of Grana Padano, a “cousin” of good old Parmigiano Reggiano. What’s different about Grana Padano, however, is it has a much “smoother” taste than the old standard. Not quite as complex, but in my opinion, a wonderful way to kick up (by mellowing out) a Caesar.
My colleague and I shared two flatbreads for dinner: the sausage and rabe and smoked pork. The flatbreads came cut into small pieces, perfect for sharing. The sausage rabe was wonderful and exactly what you would hope for: tender morsels of sausage paired with fresh broccoli rabe. The smoked pork flatbread was phenomenal. Smoked pork was nestled with cheddar and sweet BBQ sauce (moderately applied). The bread itself was baked to perfection. I like a little bit of crunch and charring in my flatbread, and these two did not disappoint. In between the taste and textures of rabe and sausage you got a crunch of bread, in some spots with a slightly burnt taste. Top-notch.
Drink selection was strong. Along with quite a few spirits, the draught and bottle selection provided quite an offering. By January and February I’m usually ready to move on from stouts and porters, so I was happy to see a local variety of ales, pilsners, and IPAs. I’m a big fan of Southern Tier’s brews, so I was ecstatic to be able to have a Phin and Matt’s Extraordinary. There was a lot to enjoy if you’re a beer or spirit lover.
There was no need for dessert as the meal was that good, but the desserts appeared to be standard Italian restaurant fare (gelato, tiramisu, etc.) As I mentioned, I had to fight my instincts to continue gorging. It took all of our will power to ask for the check.
What You’ll Pay: A salad and a meal will run you about thirty dollars, with tip. Drink prices have a range, but there are ample opportunities to take advantage of drink specials. During our visit all drinks were reduced by one dollar. All told, I paid about forty dollars for two drinks, an excellent salad, pizza, and gratuity.
Rating: Platinum. Take note, this is one of the new Westchester restaurants to visit this year. Do whatever you can to get there and get there soon. The food is fabulous, staff members are wonderful, and the atmosphere works, and works real well. Gleason’s is a do not miss, and an establishment that I will be sure to frequent on a regular basis. I’m sure you will too.
GrubStep ratings are: One Hit Wonder, Bronze, Gold, and Platinum.