We can thank Brooklyn for bringing vintage authenticity back into vogue. But urbanites ready for the real thing make the drive into the Catskill Mountains for a stay at the North Branch Inn.
At this nine-room retreat nestled in a northerly bend of the Callicoon River, Americana chic comes into its own. Husband-wife team Sims and Kirsten Harlow Foster bring veteran hospitality expertise to the meticulous restoration of this property, starting with the burnished beauty of the historic tavern that anchors the 1868 property.
The room’s centerpiece is a venerable oak bar, stocked with a shortlist of locally crafted beer, wine and spirits. Cocktails from this bar are second to none, with homemade tinctures and herb-infused syrups souping up heavy pours of locally distilled rye and gin.
If you’ve come hungry (and you should), a long communal table extends back from the busy barroom. Ingenious little wooden cornices fitted to the table’s edge help maintain privacy for your party, though you might well find yourself talking over them to your neighbor. The North Branch Inn attracts an intriguing melange of weekenders, urban expats and locals keen for a restaurant meal that doesn’t involve defrosting, deep-frying or “broasting.”
On Chef Erik Hill’s locally sourced menu, dry-aged venison is a perennial standout, especially in the tartare adorned with whiskey pickles and soft-cooked egg. But if you’re lucky enough to visit during ramp season, order anything and everything that features this rare wildcrafted delicacy.
The inn combines the modern novelty of an open kitchen with an attraction revived from its previous life: a bowling alley built to entertain tavern guests of a past century. Those who don’t mind doing their own rack-up can enjoy a game of ninepins while watching their dinner get assembled. Post-game entertainment might include a movie projected over the lanes or a local band playing in the corner.
When you’ve drunk, eaten and played your way to exhaustion, simple but sumptuous comfort awaits either up the stairs or across the road. The inn’s guest rooms are split between the upper floor of the tavern building and a restored turn-of-the-century residence on the other side of the street. Depending on your room, you can refresh yourself with a rinse in a double-wide subway-tiled shower or a soak in a deep cast-iron bathtub, all stocked with Malin + Goetz toiletries. (The bergamot body wash will change your life.) Enjoy a nightcap with the room’s complimentary bottle of dry cider, then sink into the delicious embrace of a featherbed.
No matter how heavy your night might have been, the North Branch Inn makes morning an unmitigated pleasure. “Continental” is too small a word for this breakfast: homemade granola, fresh bread, brûléed grapefruit, and yogurt, eggs and greens brought in from neighboring farms are arranged as if for a Vermeer painting. If at some point you find yourself hungry again, look no further than the sun-soaked, flower-fragrant common rooms; amid the midcentury furniture, the prolific library and the taxidermy, you’ll find cake domes filled with freshly baked cookies and brownies.
Located on a meandering road amid the many charms of the Catskill region, the inn lies within a leisurely drive of hiking trails, breweries, apple and alpaca farms, antique and art boutiques, and many other bucolic treasures. No matter your idea of relaxation – from a walk in the woods to a book in the bathtub, from a solitary fishing trip to a smoke on the porch with new friends – the North Branch Inn is a certain cure for big city blues.
Surrounded by farmland and quaint villages, the North Branch Inn reinterprets country life for a modern clientele. From the farm-fresh repast that starts your day to the locally distilled gin that flavors your final cocktail of the night, you’ll enjoy a day thoroughly steeped in authentic Catskill culture.
The North Branch Inn, 869 North Branch Road, North Branch, NY 12766, USA
Tel: +1(845) 482-2339
The Inn’s is located in The Catskills and is a 2-3 hour drive from New York City. Cross the George Washington Bridge and take Palisades Parkway North to Route 6, which will put you directly onto Route 17 west. Follow Route 17 west to exit 101 (Ferndale). At the end of the exit ramp, turn right and stay right after the highway underpass, driving past the gas station and church, then make another right just before the antique store. Continue up a steep hill onto Ferndale Loomis Road for 2.6 miles, then make a left onto State Route 52 and continue for 10 miles, passing through White Sulphur Springs, Youngsville, and Jeffersonville. Make a right onto Jeff-North Branch Road driving right to the end. At the stop sign, turn left, drive to the next stop sign, make another left and you’ll see The North Branch Inn on the right-hand side.
Type of Hotel: Boutique Inn
Number Rooms: 9 rooms
Insider Tip: Plan your trip around springtime to enjoy the best of locally foraged cuisine, as well as outdoor activities such as fly fishing, hiking and farm visits.
Price Band: Medium
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
Chelsea Batten and Bryan Thompson are itinerant journalists and photographers.
Photographs courtesy of The North Branch Inn