A new owner has rejuvenated a landmark Greene County restaurant and inn that offers a panoramic view of five states.
Captain’s Inn Point Lookout along Route 23 in East Windham has been in soft-opening mode all summer, as its new proprietor and chef have put the finishing touches on both the building and the menu at the former Point Lookout Mountain Inn and Victorian Rose Restaurant, which closed in the face of bankruptcy and foreclosure two years ago.
The new owner, retired U.S. Merchant Marine Capt. Wayne Hamilton, stumbled on the inn while shopping for something else entirely. He was looking for a Catskills spot to operate a pool hall, something he’d enjoyed in Westchester after retiring from the military in 2000. He passed the then-shuttered inn with an auction sign out front. After researching the property, he made an offer, and found himself a first-time restaurant and hotel owner, a career he says he came to well-prepared.
“There are a lot of similarities in managing a ship and managing a country inn,” Hamilton said.
He has gutted and rebuilt the kitchen and renovated throughout the building, which occupies a site first known as the Inn at Point Lookout in the 1920s. The original building burned down in 1965, was rebuilt, and then went through a series of owners. Hamilton bought it in 2013 from Ron and Laurie Landstrom, who had run it for 11 years.
Newly refurbished, the property is now home to a 100-plus-seat dining room, a roomy bar and several decks overlooking the view, which spans the White Mountains of New Hampshire, the Green Mountains of Vermont, the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, the Helderberg Mountains of New York and the Connecticut Valley. Upstairs, a dozen lodging rooms have also been redone.
The restaurant offers a classic American menu built around beef and seafood, with appetizers in the $7-$10 range and entrees around $20. Chef Jay, as he’s known around the restaurant, happens to be the owner’s son, Jason Hamilton, who is trained in both culinary arts and pastry at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island.
“We have our father-son relationship, but when the doors open, he’s just Chef Jay,” Wayne Hamilton said. “He’s actually completely overqualified.”
The younger Hamilton worked in restaurants in North Carolina and Florida before diving in to help at the new family business, where his father not only plays host but has also been known to wash dishes. “I do everything but cook,” the elder Hamilton said.
Three months in, the most popular items with diners have been the signature seafood mac ‘n’ cheese, seared salmon, lamb shank with white bean casserole and a calamari special that comes with a sweet Thai sauce, Hamilton said.
The cliffside setting with its views of Windham High Peak, among other Catskill mountaintops, is a big draw for patrons of both the restaurant and the inn. Hamilton is making plans to welcome takeout customers to an ice cream stand on the premises to share it with even more fans.
“Soon, people can just stop by and enjoy the view and eat some ice cream,” he said. Short-term plans are to offer Perry’s brand ice cream; next summer, there will be soft-serve.
The dining vibe is very laid-back; Hamilton makes a point to stop at each table to chat, but doesn’t want it to be “stuffy.”
“When you’re here, you’re company,” he said. “We’re trying to create a friendly environment. It’s just like my motto says: Come for the view, stay for the company.”
Find Captain’s Inn Point Lookout at 7604 Route 23 in East Windham. It serves dinner Thursday through Monday, from 5 to 10 p.m. Reservations are recommended, especially for window seats: 518-750-8436.