Brian Arnoff had always dreamed of owning his own restaurant, but when he graduated from BU’s School of Hospitality Administration during the Great Recession, restaurants were closing and jobs were scarce.
So Arnoff (SHA’09) came up with a bold plan. Instead of taking a job at his family’s moving and storage business, he renovated a van, moved to Washington, D.C., and started a food truck serving macaroni and cheese in flavors like beef bolognese and chicken parmesan. He called the truck CapMac.
“I just felt like I had to break away,” Arnoff says. “I had to do something different.”
A pasta lover with a flair for entrepreneurship, he has been experimenting with food and restaurant ideas ever since. He opened his first wheel-less restaurant two years ago, in Beacon, N.Y., not far from where he grew up in the Hudson Valley. Kitchen Sink Food & Drink offers a mash-up of comfort food and high-end cuisine, all made with local ingredients, including vegetables from Arnoff’s mom’s nearby farm.
Kitchen Sink’s menu changes weekly, depending on what’s available and what’s on Arnoff’s mind. One night, Kitchen Sink may serve crispy latkes with red curry aïoli, another night it’s creamy corn gnocchi with crab meat or cavatelli with walnuts and Kabocha squash.
The restaurant was voted one of the best new restaurants in the Hudson Valley last year by Hudson Valley Magazine, which called it a “quirky must-try.”
One of Arnoff’s signature dishes is a butternut squash lasagna, which he prepares with noodles prepared from scratch, a skill he learned first as an undergrad working for master chef Barbara Lynch at her restaurant Sportello in Boston and later at a cooking school in Florence, Italy.
Kitchen Sink is part of a renaissance in Beacon, a town of 14,000 about 60 miles north of New York City. It’s historic Main Street has become a destination for Manhattanites and others, drawn to its bakeries, coffee shops, and art galleries. Arnoff likes the town so much he opened a second eatery there earlier this year, calling it Meyer’s Olde Dutch Food & Such. A burger and cocktail spot, it’s just a couple of blocks from Kitchen Sink. (The name is a reference to both its location in Dutchess County and Arnoff’s middle name, Meyer.)
A New York Times mention last summer refers to the restaurant as a worthy destination, noting its “killer crispy chicken sandwich and loaded double patty burger” and that Arnoff “is rightfully lauded for Kitchen Sink.”
That’s validation for the 30-year-old restaurateur, who, unlike his two brothers, did not go into the family’s eponymous fifth-generation moving and storage business. His mother, Lisa, says he has always pursued his creative interests with passion and focus, cooking by her side when he was young and later cooking for himself and his brothers when she worked late as a lawyer running a local nonprofit. It made sense that he would ultimately run his own restaurant, she says, even though his eating habits as a boy were far from adventurous.
“He was an extremely picky eater,” she recalls. “We were like, ‘How can you have a restaurant if you don’t like to eat?’”
Arnoff studied hospitality at BU, where he met his wife, Jaimee (DiMarco) Arnoff (CAS’10, Wheelock’10). After graduation, Arnoff followed her to Washington, where she went to graduate school. She was studying to become a child psychologist, and he worked on his food truck.
They returned to the Poughkeepsie area in 2014, using the proceeds from the sale of the food truck to open Kitchen Sink in a former coffee shop. At 700 square feet, the place is small—but it’s bigger than a food truck.
The venture was opened with a loan from the Small Business Administration. The restaurant seats about 50, but it does have a back deck that’s open in warmer months. And most important to Arnoff, it’s close to the farmers and the wine, beer, and cheese makers who inspire him and the food he serves.
“You can open a farm to table restaurant in New York City,” he says, “but that’s not where the food is.”
Every detail at Kitchen Sink is carefully chosen, with lights made from welded piping and faucets in keeping with the name. The wine and beer are hyperlocal—the menu tells guests exactly how far the wine traveled to get to their table (usually not more than 60 miles). And Arnoff says the menu is meant to offer something for everyone, even a picky eater.
On a recent autumn Monday, lots of families stop by for the weekly fried chicken night, when the restaurant serves deep-fried buttermilk-soaked chicken with homemade pickled vegetables and slaw. At $15 a plate, it’s become a popular draw for locals.
Jaimee Arnoff says most diners have no idea that her husband typically prepares everything on the menu from scratch, whether it’s a pasta entrée or a decorative drizzle of pesto on the plate. “He loves what he does,” she says. “I don’t think he could sustain the pace of what he’s doing without that passion.”
Since Meyer’s opened in late May, it’s not unusual to see Arnoff running between his Main Street restaurants wearing his white chef’s jacket and crocs and doing whatever it takes to keep his two spots rolling.
It’s been intense, he says. And also fun.
“I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without the food truck,” Arnoff says. “That’s how I learned what it takes to make a business work.”
Download Arnoff’s butternut squash lasagna recipe here.
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