By Peggy Bellar
What do gas stations, general stores and tucked-away spots hidden behind hotels and tobacco shops have in common? Some good eats. It was a pleasure to delve into all the yummy spots right here in the beautiful Catskill Mountains.
Stop One: Sam’s in Fleischmans NY
Pull up to the corner of Main and Lake Street and it’s pretty obvious that you can fill your car with gas; but did you know that you can also fill your tummy with authentic Mexican cuisine? Don’t feel badly if you have driven past and never noticed it. A sign advertises typical fare one might expect at a gas station – Deli, Grocery, Lotto Tickets, Cold Beer- but nothing to indicate the epicurean treasures within. Had it not been for my friend Augustine Torres, I might never have learned that they also serve up tamales lovingly “hecho a mano” – made by hand!
I set off with a friend to sample these tamales, but, alas, we were too late. You’ve gotta get there early! These tamales have a cult following. Says owner Sam Gil, “My mother-in law makes the tamales. She gets in at 5:30am on Friday to start cooking them and is usually done around 1pm.”
They usually sell out by midday on Saturday!
Don’t despair, though; Sam’s offers many other “muy delicioso” offerings. While the American-style deli is fine, I am in love with the Mexican cuisine on the menu: tacos with soft corn tortillas stuffed with pungent chorizo, Enchiladas Suiza with a zesty tomatillo sauce and the complex home-made mole on Enchiladas Poblenos.
While you’re there, you can pick-up canella (Mexican cinnamon) and a respectable variety of chili peppers right next to Carb Choke and Krazy glue.
Oh, Sam informs me that the secret will be out of the bag soon. He will be installing an official sign soon!
Stop Two: Barlow’s General Store in Treadwell
General stores in small rural areas are almost always a treasure trove for those who appreciate an eclectic mix. Barlow’s General Store in Treadwell (population 240) is no different. Outside, Barlow’s offers up what you might expect: a defunct gas pump, a mailbox, a hand-drawn poster for the upcoming “bowlathon”, bait and tackle and what appears to be one of the last working pay phones in the universe! What is not obvious, however, is the thriving restaurant and bakery behind its front door.
Temptation abounds across a table piled with freshly baked goods. The roasted veggie panini is perfect. Sit for awhile, enjoy your meal, put away your phone and speak to the locals. While I was there an elderly gentleman came in, bought the paper and asked if I was going trout fishing as the season had just opened. From my trout fisherman friend to the well-heeled weekenders in search of organic locally raised meat (they have a freezer full), Barlow’s attracts a variety of folk.
In addition to local honey and fancy teas, you can find milled board scraps and a small fridge dedicated to bait. Barlow’s General Store, located at 4487 Country Route 14, is well worth a trip to Treadwell.
Stop Three: Streat Foods in Delhi NY
I was first introduced to Streat Foods by my friend Sheila of Sheila’s Sunnyvale Florist in Delhi. Sheila told a tale of a vivacious, stylish Columbian woman who stopped in to buy some flowers and announced that she was opening a restaurant behind the tobacco shop. As strange as “behind the tobacco shop” sounded, and with the possibility of Columbian food nearby, I went off in search of this place.
Indeed, it was tucked behind the (now defunct) tobacco shop and the only marker you could see from the street was a little banner hung on a gate in a side alley. It was not the easiest to find. If you figured out to go down the alley and behind the tobacco shop, you were then greeted by a rather non-descript modular.
But, if you decide to step through the door, you are transported from a dreary Delhi parking lot to a lively, colorful, world of art, Latino music and food!
From the custom tables designed by owner Antonio Monroy to a display of Jarritos fruit sodas (the tamarind is yummy), Streat Foods is festive and colorful.
On the Thursday afternoon I visited, there was not a seat to be had. Deggie Monroy and husband Antonio were side by side plating scrumptious fish tacos, monster-sized burritos and fresh salads.
During a brief lull, Deggie, the exotic lightly freckled beauty sat down with me. She is from Columbia and half French. Her name is a derivative of the French words “Déjà vu.” With every finger sporting a different ring, hair billowing loose curls and the hint of an accent, Deggie, captures your attention and makes you feel immediately at home.
I asked her about the menu which features not only Mexican, Cuban and Latin American dishes, but also select Mediterranean dishes. Deggie, a self-described gypsy, simply wants to blend cultures. She draws inspiration from women that she saw in Columbia who would support their families by selling delicious home-made foods on the streets and at the mercados. Her face literally lights up as she describes the beautiful clothes they wore and the large bowls full of empanadas and other home-made treats they balanced on their heads. But Deggie is equally inspired by other cultures as well.
Her husband is Guatemalan. As a child, she spent time in New York City. She is surrounded by talented young students from SUNY Delhi who are full of creativity and ideas. “I have always supported the young people here and let them have an opportunity to explore new ideas using the fresh produce and products of our region,” says Deggie. One such collaboration resulted in dressing used on the restaurant’s Mediterranean Greek Salad. Deggie and Antonio will be celebrating the first anniversary of Streat Foods on May 5th (Cinco de Mayo). But don’t wait until then to stop by!
You can find them at 83 ½ Main Street in Delhi (behind the defunct tobacco shop, soon to be beauty shop at the intersection of Rt. 28 and Main Street).
Final Stop: Two Old Tarts, Andes NY
Everyone cried when Two Old Tarts closed their doors in Bovina. But owners Scott Finley and Jonathan Schulman had a plan. They purchased a hidden gem of their own at 22 Lee Lane in Andes. Ever heard of the street? Either had I. Their new location is tucked behind the Antiques Store and Andes Hotel right off Main Street, once the location of the Slow-Down Cafe.
They hope to open sometime this summer serving not only baked goods, but also dinners in a new full-service restaurant! For more info, visit the Two Old Tarts website.
Peggy left her (awesome) job in NYC as Director of Special Events for DIFFA: Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS to live and work in the beautiful Catskills. Her days now consist of teaching a community donation-based yoga class, learning how to chain boulders to a backhoe and helping folk find their own beautiful homes upstate through Keller Williams Upstate NY Properties. She is a southern girl from Mississippi (it was a Woody Allen movie that sent her packing to NY) and has a cult-like following for her red-velvet cupcakes.