It’s Thursday, and you and your friend have left work a little early to pick up the Zip Car for your Upstate getaway. You’re sailing up the FDR, iPod in full effect, and now the big question: Where do we eat? “I know a place on the way,” you say – confident, knowledgable Upstater that you are. And then you take them here:
Julianna’s Schoolhouse (or just “Julianna’s” for those in the know) is a restaurant everyone needs in their back pocket before heading north.Hidden down winding back roads, you may start to question your directions when suddenly you see it: a quaint re-purposed schoolhouse with a subtle sign that tells you you’ve arrived. Be sure to make a reservation if you’re going, as it would be a shame to come this far and not score one of the few tables inside. Or you could choose to have a drink on their outdoor deck, where you can experience a well-deserved moment of stillness and peace.
Immediately inside is the neighborhood bar with a narrow entrance leading into the main dining room. If you’re alone, this is a sweet spot to have one of their Captain Lawrence beers on tap and enjoy your meal. The tables are mainly two tops or four tops, made for the quiet conversations you might like to have with a friend, or to reconnect with your significant other. Wherever you sit, you’ll feel accomplished after finding this place.
Julianna’s menu is a culinary dream with just the right balance of creativity and comfort.
Start your meal (or make your meal out of) the featured small plates. The best of which is the Crispy Thai Calamari. Yes, Thai calamari. It’s the last thing you’d expect to find in this sanctuary in the forest, but you better order it while you’re here! You can also try the truffle fries, or the Ricotta Cheese with pink and black peppercorns, sage and honey on garlic toast with a drizzle of truffle oil. Go on, truffle it up.For soups and salads, try the Red Kale and Spinach Salad. That way, you can say you had your kale for the day (the bacon and goat cheese within the salad is a delectable bonus). Feeling indulgent? Get the incredibly rich Roasted Sweet Potato soup with mascarpone, topped with a toasted bourbon marshmallow. That’s right, a toasted bourbon marshmallow. The soup is a meal in itself and could double as dessert. But don’t try that, the dessert is worth waiting for.
For main dishes, the Seafood Mac with Shrimp and Crabmeat or the Bleu Cheese crusted Angus Strip Steak are delicious and the portions are reasonable. If you want a smaller dinner, have the Banh Mi or the Honey BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich. For a side, ask for the sweet potato wedges, You can thank me later.
Parting this place is such sweet sorrow, so take your time and have dessert. They have homemade ice cream, for which the flavors change daily. Last night they offered: vanilla, chocolate, peanut butter or coconut. You can try a scoop of each. They won’t judge. Or play that game where you share with your date and order the French toast with ice cream and raspberry syrup (you choose the ice cream flavor), or the Brioche Bread pudding with chocolate. These desserts are meant to be a shared experience.
Be in the know, be on your way, and go find that secret schoolhouse in the woods!
276 Watch Hill Road
Cortlandt Manor, NY
Open Mon-Thurs 5-10pm, Fri and Sat 5:30-10pm, Sun 5-9pm
For reservations call: 914-788-0505
Victoria Cairl is a marketing strategist working mainly in New York theatre. She’s a mom of three, a wife to one lucky dude, and a tried and true Upstater – having lived in Peekskill full-time since 2007. Victoria is a contributing food critic for An Upstate of Mind when she’s not dreaming of the restaurant she’ll open one day. (We can’t wait to eat there.)
Header image courtesy of Juilanna’s Schoolhouse Restaurant. Other images courtesy of Victoria Cairl.