In Millerton: Spain Comes to Main Street, Tapas Style
Owner Eleanor Nurzia and her family. Photos: Laurie Spens.
Much like the little black dress, Spanish paella is a classic with endless variations. In Valencia, where the saffron-yellow rice dish originated, chefs insist that a proper paella must include chicken, rabbit, and beans. Caracoles terrestres—land snails—are optional. On the Mediterranean coast, seafood takes the place of meat. Today, vegetarian versions abound, as do paellas with sausage, squid, and ham.
52 Main, a recently opened tapas bar and restaurant in Millerton, New York, is similarly versatile. The restaurant’s post-industrial aesthetics—exposed brick columns and antique Thomas Edison light bulbs—would fit right in at a fashionable Williamsburg café. But pivot to the right, and 52 Main looks like a low-key sports bar: patrons sip craft beers and catch the latest baseball scores on flat-screen TVs. On Saturday nights, the intimate, low-lit restaurant transforms again with the help of a little live music. Local artists like the Afro-pop group Biocentrics and harp-guitarist Dan LaVoie provide unplugged, atmospheric music to dine by.
This easy blend of sophistication and simplicity is just what owner Eleanor Nurzia was shooting for when she opened 52 Main in May. Nurzia, who was raised in Mahopac, lives in Sharon, CT and also owns Abruzzi Trattoria in Patterson. She envisions 52 Main as a gathering spot for Millerton’s geographically diverse population of longtime locals, Manhattan weekenders, and European expats. “I wanted to create a place where people can converse and socialize,” she says.
Nurzia thinks it’s important to offer patrons an eatery where they can fill their stomachs without emptying their wallets. “You can come in and have a few tapas and a drink and get out for $25,” she says. “I wanted the restaurant to have an everyday feel.”
Chef Matthew Delongis
To that end, the menu by Culinary Institute of America-trained chef Matthew Delongis has something for everyone: truffle fries ($6) and smoked gouda mac and cheese ($8) for patrons seeking slightly upscale comfort food; halibut ceviche ($10) and chorizo fritters ($6) for more adventurous diners.
Chicken lollipops ($8) are a popular favorite. On a recent visit, one devoted fan said that she’d been inspired to recreate the dish’s appealingly sticky mango and cilantro barbecue sauce at home. Calamari ($8) is tender beneath a crispy coating. Spicy grilled shrimp ($9) arrives on a summery bed of shiitake mushrooms, sweet corn, and tomatoes.
Vegetarians also have ample options. The addictive potatoes bravas ($8), a tapas classic, set off spicy sauce with cool garlic aioli. Spinach-garlic chickpea puree ($6), served with toasted pita, is fresh and sharp. For a healthy bar snack, try the house-pickled vegetables ($4), a tangy melange of carrots, cauliflower, fennel, olives, and thinly sliced feta.
Customers eager to sample more classic Spanish fare can order the paella, available in vegetarian, seafood, and mixed meat variations ($26-30). The dish takes a bit longer to prepare – between 30-45 minutes – but the result is well worth the wait.
No visit to 52 Main would be complete without a trip to the bar to try the cocktails created by mixologist Richard Lanka, who previously lent his alchemic talents to New York City’s Aquavit. The bar specializes in inventive martinis ($8), such as a watermelon-basil version, pulpy and rose-pink, perfect for those who can’t let go of summer. The zippy cucumber-mint martini with Edinburgh gin is muddled with herbs fresh from Lanka’s garden. The DIY approach is also reflected in 52 Main’s house-made grenadine and infused vodkas. True to its Spanish ties, the bar also serves red wine sangria, kicked into high gear with a swirl of apricot puree, and wine flights that let diners tour Basque country without leaving their bar stools.
Desserts offer twists on Spanish standards like silky strawberry flan ($7) and cinnamon and sugar churros ($7). Or opt for a dessert martini. On a recent Saturday, vodka, Kahlua, and Godiva chocolate blended with caramelized bananas to form a frothy, grown-up milkshake.
Since 52 Main is located in the heart of Dutchess County’s thriving farmlands, it’s no surprise that the restaurant favors locally-sourced ingredients. The current menu features cheese from Coach Farm in Pine Plains, Great Barrington’s SoCo ice cream, and produce from McEnroe Organic Farm in Millerton. When Nurzia updates the menu in a few months, she plans to expand it to include even more local farms and distilleries.
A number of upcoming events will help introduce new patrons to the restaurant. In November, 52 Main will participate in Hudson Valley’s restaurant week, offering multi-course prix fixe lunches and dinners under $30. Diners in search of a deal can stop by on Wednesdays, when 52 Main serves a rotating array of $5 food and drink specials as part of Millerton’s Wednesday 5-Day initiative.
Nurzia also plans to keep the restaurant open later on Fridays and Saturdays. Filmgoers streaming out from late-night showings at Millerton Moviehouse, located just next door, can grab a quick nightcap. It’s a scheme that’s sure to appeal to patrons who love small-town life but occasionally wish for cosmopolitan hours—and perhaps a snail to sink their teeth into. —Sarah Todd
52 Main St., Millerton, NY
Tuesday - Thursday: Dinner, 4 p.m. - 10 pm; Friday 4 p.m. - 11 p.m.
Weekend brunch and dinner: Saturday, noon - 11 p.m.; Sunday, noon - 10 p.m.