Artists’ Retreat: Local Couple Opens Up River Café in Lake Luzerne
Andy Van Bourgondien and Betsy Brandt are both artists; he in the kitchen, she in the studio.
Together, the two, who are married, have created a restaurant that in the minds of its fans, ranks as a work of art in its own right: the Up River Café in Lake Luzerne.
It’s situated on the banks of the Hudson River, where the river is still wild. (In fact, after the Hudson passes the Up River Café, it ceases to be a wild river and becomes civilized, altered by dams and development.)
Long known as an ice cream parlor called Papa’s, the building was purchased by Van Bourgondien and Brandt last year. Their plan was to open a restaurant that served chef’s creations in a casual, relaxed environment.
Both expert skiiers, they’re prone to risk taking and embracing challenges.
“After Betsy and I were married, we moved to Hawaii, where I had been recruited to be executive pastry chef at the Fairmont Kea Lani. In my field, that’s the pinnacle, the top of the heap. After I’d achieved that, the only challenge left in this business was to open a restaurant of my own,” said Van Bourgondien.
The couple returned to Bolton Landing, where Van Bourgondien resumed work at the Sagamore and the Inn at Erlowest. Seeking a location for a restaurant, they heard Papa’s was for sale.
“It’s a great location, with a great history,” said Van Bourgondien. With a wide, screened porch overlooking a lawn, aging trees and the Hudson, it had the potential for the romantic setting the couple wanted.
While Van Bourgondien set to work creating a menu and a wine list, Brandt began to plan the interior.
“I’ve had a million different jobs, including painting houses,” said Brandt. “My goal was to use whatever skills I have to create a fresh, clean space without having to undertake a major renovation.”
An artist who teaches at Sienna College (and who has also taught at Skidmore, St Rose, Russell Sage and other nearby colleges), Brandt brought a practiced eye to everything from the sign’s font to the art work that’s displayed on the restaurant’s walls.
Although she’s also preparing for an exhibition of her work in Japan, “I’m putting most of my time and energy into making this a success,” she said.
And it appears to be paying off. The restaurant is both a popular and critical success, attracting some of its most enthusiastic support from people in Lake George and Bolton Landing.
“These are people who know that great food is a destination in itself,” said Van Bourgondien. “And at this time of year, we can offer a much calmer, less stressed and more relaxing experience than you can find elsewhere. I’d certainly say it’s worth the drive.”
The Up River Café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s located at 29 Main Street, Lake Luzerne. Call 696-3667 for information.