Prepare to recite the “Pledge of Allegiance” at Liberty Public House, a Rhinebeck restaurant newcomer that embraces its “liberty” theme with playful gusto. (Heads up: flags are everywhere.)
Housed in the Starr Institute, a historic 19th century building next to Upstate Films, Liberty’s red, white and blue décor and retro-inspired menu pay tribute to Americana, some of it kitschy—all of it fun.
Outside, the front windows, framed in strung-up white lights, showcase a giant wooden horse with a flag-emblazoned girth standing next to a stand of flags. Peek in, and you’ll glimpse a handsome bar, festooned with twinkling Christmas lights. Liberty’s vibe is convivial and inviting, as Patricia Panarella and Sergia Rebraca, the mother-and-son co-owners, had intended.
Since 1991, Panarella and Nikola Rebraca (Sergia’s father) have been a part of Rhinebeck’s dining and hospitality scene: they own Belvedere Mansion in Staatsburg. The senior Rebraca also opened Arielle (2009) and Tavola Rustica (2011) in Rhinebeck. Though Sergia Rebraca has always been involved in his parents’ ventures, Liberty, which opened last September, is his first independent business venture. “It’s my ‘liberty’,” he joked. The restaurant’s name also connotes choice: patrons have the “liberty” to decide where they want to be. In addition to the tavern and formal dining room, Liberty has a boat-themed outdoor bar, open during warm weather months, and a nightclub-lounge (downstairs) with live music on weekends.
Rebraca, a Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) graduate, collaborated with his mother on Liberty’s aesthetic. “We’re big antiques collectors, so we were able to decorate with many things that we already owned,” he said.
On a recent Sunday evening, my husband, Christopher, and I dropped in for dinner. Offered the choice between sitting in the formal dining room or the tavern, I was torn.
The dining room is striking—a whimsical mix of eye-catching colors and textures. Crimson leather banquettes, red fabric-upholstered chairs and midnight blue napkins set against crisp white table linens are a vivid backdrop for dramatic textural elements—wall-mounted animal heads, porcelain Chinese vases, a glittering chandelier, and, of course, more flags.
In the end, we opted to sit in the cozy tavern, featuring a colorful clutter of eclectic memorabilia—from flags and Kennedy portraits, to Santa Claus, a Winnebago figurine and random signage—on the walls and behind the bar. Antique green-painted wooden booths, plaid-covered barstools and a chalk-scrawled blackboard also create an authentic tavern feel.
Chef Roberto Mosconi, who has cooked at Arielle and Belvedere Mansion the last several years, helms Liberty’s kitchen. Rebraca describes the menu as “a melting pot of American favorites.” Certainly, it’s democratic. From matzoh ball soup, Buffalo rock shrimp with blue cheese dip and fettuccini Alfredo, to stir-fried vegetables with brown rice, and grilled chicken, there’s something for everyone. Because I had heard that the food can be overly salty, we requested “no added salt” when ordering.
A highlight from the very start: warm biscuits with herbed butter—simply addictive! We began with greens. My kale salad with dried cherries and pistachios ($8) was fresh and delicious—white balsamic vinegar added a nice acidic zing. “The ruby red grapefruit really made this salad,” Christopher said of his citrus-dressed endive and watercress with dried cranberries and red grapefruit ($11), a lovely pairing of bitter and sweet.
We equally enjoyed our entrees. My roasted yellow pepper, served atop tomato-cauliflower puree, and generously stuffed with quinoa, walnuts and rosemary ($17), was an appealing vegetarian loaf. The creamy puree was a soothing complement to the dish’s nutty crunch. Christopher’s baked hake ($24), garnished with gremolata, arrived on a bed of lentils. The hake, luscious and firm, got a zesty boost from the gremolata. And the lentils, cooked soft (but not mushy), were a toothsome counterpoint to the white “meatiness” of the fish.
Liberty’s dessert menu features decadent classics (all $8), including bourbon crème brûlée, sticky toffee, and caramel pudding. We dug into a warm molten chocolate cake, a petite dense round garnished with whipped cream and sliced strawberries. It tasted oddly chalky—a disappointing finale to an otherwise enjoyable meal.
More recently, we stopped in for lunch. Hungry, I ordered the “Liberty Burger & Freedom Fries” ($16); my husband got the grilled catfish tacos ($12).
My burger—Hereford beef and brisket, topped with melted manchego cheese—was righteously medium-rare, moist and beefy. “It would be nice if there was a whole grain or multi-grain bun option,” my husband remarked. I had to agree: the soft, white sesame-seed bun practically disintegrated into the juicy patty, leaving me with sticky, wet fingers. And while we appreciate the non-negotiable marriage of French fries and salt, we both found the fries overly salty, and their “Parmesan dusting” unnecessary. We were also underwhelmed by the bland-tasting catfish tacos, which contained a surprisingly small ratio of grilled catfish to the large flap of soft taco.
While we had an uneven dining experience, it’s apparent that Liberty attracts a happy crowd. Understandably so: it’s fun, good-natured and strives to be democratic, obliging all tastes and palates.
Liberty Public House
6417 Montgomery Street
Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 12am-11pm; Fri. 12pm-2am; Sat. 11am-2am; Sun. 11am-11pm
Photo Credits: Christopher Matthews
Kathryn Matthews is a New York City and Hudson Valley-based lifestyles writer, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, O Magazine, Town & Country, Bon Appétit, Cooking Light and epicurious.com. A health coach-in-training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, she also blogs about healthy living and good eats at UpstateDowntownNY.com.