When Pickled Owl, a new gastropub, opens on Monday in Hurleyville, proprietor Evan Allees and his family, friends and staff won’t be the only ones celebrating. The leaders at The Center for Discovery, a large nonprofit based in Sullivan County that owns the restaurant building, are just as excited.
The Center for Discovery, whose core mission is operating homes, schools and clinics that provide care for children and adults with developmental disabilities, began investing in Hurleyville nearly a decade ago. Monday’s restaurant opening is just one result of years of buying and rehabilitating run-down buildings and then working with local business owners to bring them back to life.
“Hurleyville, like so many small towns in the Catskills, had never recovered from the old hotel heydays,” said Richard Humleker, the vice president of development at The Center for Discovery, noting that the Town of Fallsburg hamlet is just a few minutes’ drive from three of the once-venerated Borscht Belt resorts. “It was just the right size and scale of town where we felt like we could really help.”
The building at 218 Main St., where Allees is preparing to welcome diners in a few days, is just one current project. In some cases, like Pickled Owl, the nonprofit has bought buildings, refurbished them and then leased them to independent operators. In other cases, the organization is moving its own programming into the new spaces. Across the street from the new restaurant, the Hurleyville Arts Center is under construction, with an opening tentatively scheduled for this winter, Humleker said. That complex will house a 150-seat cinema, a large live-performance space and a dance school. A pottery and fiber arts program the center operates for its clients will move into another Main Street building.
“We’re interested in bringing good things to town,” Humleker said.
Just down the street, at 238 Main, the center owns and operates the one-year-old Wild Turkey Bakery and Market, which sells baked goods and products such as teas, herbs and honey from the nonprofit’s two farms, Thanksgiving Farm in Monticello and Stonewall Preserve in Hurleyville.
The Center for Discovery was producing and promoting local food in the Catskills long before the current trend began luring Brooklynites to the upstate woods. Thanksgiving Farm launched its CSA in 1993; it now has 300 members. Both farms provide food for the center’s programs, including 45 residential homes.
“We care for very fragile children and adults, and giving them access to good food has always been a priority for us,” Humleker said.
Expanding recreational opportunities is another priority. The O&W Rail-Trail has a trailhead in town, and the center is working to make it accessible to physically challenged hikers.
The center’s latest tenant is ready to start cooking. A Liberty native who returned to his home county after completing a degree at the Culinary Institute of America in 2008, Allees said the restaurant’s location adjacent to the rail-trail was a large draw. He’s hoping to attract visitors looking for refreshment before or after hiking and biking. There’s an outdoor deck, along with a large dining room and a bar.
He describes Pickled Owl’s menu as “upscale pub food” such as fried chicken, burgers, fish and chips, meatloaf and a New York strip steak.
The restaurant’s mission is to “use local, seasonal and fresh ingredients to create sophisticated plates at reasonable prices in a comfortable atmosphere where foodies, winos and beer geeks alike can gather.”
Allees plans to source some of his produce from The Center for Discovery’s farms, is doing his own pickling in-house, and offers an extensive craft beer selection. The 12 taps include two beers from Catskill Brewery in nearby Livingston Manor: Freak Tractor, a wild ale, and Ball Lightning Pilsner. Other selections include Sixpoint Brewery’s Resin, Anderson Valley Oatmeal Stout, Left Hand Milk Stout and Guinness.
“I like beer a lot,” Allees confessed, in describing his bar offerings. “I tried to get a little bit of everything in there.”
Find Pickled Owl at 218 Main St., Hurleyville, beginning Monday, Aug. 3. It serves lunch and dinner Wednesday through Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.