Nike and Dimitri Psichas in their new restaurant. Photo by Arlene Wege / The Observer.
Nike and Dimitri Psichas in their new restaurant. Photo by Arlene Wege / The Observer.

A passion for perfection fuels the cooking fires

Smoky Rock BBQ in Rhinebeck is one hot ticket

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Before Smoky Rock BBQ opened in Rhinebeck on Memorial Day weekend, owners Dimitri and Nike Psichas spent four months preparing the kitchen for their special menu.

All the work appears to have paid off.

“Culinary experts from Virginia happened to come to our grand opening, and they said that the dry rub was ‘right on,’” Dimitri recalled with pride.

Long-time residents of Hyde Park and former owners of Coco’s restaurant there, Dimitri and Nike are experts at what they do: he is a passionate master of BBQ; she cooks, handles staff hiring and training, bartends, chooses the menu specials, and organizes the gallery exhibits on the upstairs level.

“I love what I’m doing,” said a very welcoming Dimitri on what he termed their “slow” day at the restaurant, on Route 9 near the post office. (Smoky Rock is closed on Tuesdays.) “When I saw this location, I knew I wanted to do barbecue. I use no propane. You can keep the temperature even with wood; it just takes common sense and experience.”

Dimitri carefully chooses the woods that smoke the beef, pork, and vegetables: maple and hickory. “Our beans we bake for eight hours and collard greens for six hours. The rub we created that we use on the meat has 16 spices,” he said, adding, “Barbecue is American original food. Ours is authentic.”

Smoky Rock offers both New York-style barbecue and St. Louis-style barbecue. Without giving away family secrets, Dimitri easily explains how the same cuts of meat can be prepared in different ways that result in fall-off-the-bone, dry-rub, or wet: “People may not know the difference between the two different types of barbecue. Meat quality has to be consistent. St. Louis are thick ribs. New York-style is off the bone. The same ribs are just differently cooked, baked, or grilled.”

Downstairs in the walk-in cold room, choice cuts of beef and pork are either marinating or rubbed and hang, patiently, for the next six months or so, at which time they will delight the palates of diners.

Some customers will be pleasantly surprised at the variety of vegetarian offerings as well, including salads, Mac & Cheese, and organic Eggplant ala Liky. Liky refers to their 9-year-old daughter Vasiliki. The couple also have a 16-year-old son, Alex, and an 18-year-old daughter, Christiana.

Upstairs in the restaurant and the second-floor gallery, customers have even more to enjoy, from desserts to art to music. On Thursday evenings, diners can have a side of live music with their meal. Delicious desserts are offered from Culinary Institute of America graduate Ricki Feller.

“We met through friends and instantly hit it off,” Ricki said of Nike and Dimitri. “I don’t just have a passion for baking – I have a passion for making people happy and feel good by providing healthy, alternative desserts that are not only good for your belly, but good for your soul. Occasionally, clients will be surprised by an offering of free dessert tastings. We also do special orders, from pies to extravagant offerings.”

The first art exhibit at Smoky Rock BBQ will have an opening at the upstairs gallery on Sat., Oct. 11. Hyde Park artist Tatiana Rhinevault met the Psichas family through one of her art students. She is well-known for images that reflect her native Moscow, but she is aiming to surprise visitors with American-theme art, complementing the images of James Dean, Ford Mustangs, and Route 66 that decorate the bar and restaurant areas.

6367 Mill Street (Route 9)
(outdoor courtyard area is pet-friendly!)

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