Restaurant Review

American Dream: Christopher Dorsey Brought His Talent to Kips Tavern in Rhinecliff

By Published On: June 27th, 2024

The riverside town of Rhinecliff is home to Kips Tavern – an American eatery with sweeping water views and all the charm that one would expect from a century old building located across from the Rhinecliff train station.

The quiet town boasts all the wonderful sights and sounds of country living. From the vistas that include quaint hillside homes to the sound of lapping water and the sight of boats bobbing along, to the sweet song of the birds and the nostalgic chugging of the train, this picture-perfect scene is an ideal spot for sharing a meal or enjoying a cocktail.

At the helm of Kips Tavern is Christopher Dorsey, who multitasks as proprietor, chef, and operator. He opened the intimate 50-seat venue in October 2022. Since its debut, Kips Tavern has attracted a variety of patrons from commuters to weekenders and locals. The locals – from Rhinecliff, Rhinebeck, Saugerties, and Red Hook – are eager to support the business year-round.

All images with this article courtesy of Kips Tavern.

Culinary roots
Dorsey has always believed that food is love. That’s not surprising considering that the chef hails from a large Italian family (spoiler alert, his Italian heritage runs on his mother’s side; her maiden name is Canale).

Food and beverages have been a part of his lineage for generations. Dorsey’s grandparents opened a restaurant in Oswego, NY, which debuted in the 1950s – well before he was born. Dorsey’s parents also owned a beer distributorship, and his uncle is in the restaurant business.

After graduating high school, Dorsey attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. In 1998, he graduated with his bachelor of professional studies in culinary science degree. From there it was off to Manhattan, where he devoted 20 years to the culinary industry before he recently relocated to the Hudson Valley.

One of Dorsey’s city stints includes serving as general manager of BR Guest Hospitality – a collection of fine-dining restaurants that were owned by Steve Hanson. Dorsey was employed at BR Guest from 2002 to 2009.

In that BR Guest role, he worked as general manager at Blue Water Grill New York and Isabella’s. He also served as assistant general manager at Ocean Grill in New York City.

After leaving the corporate dining sector behind in 2009, the entrepreneur went on to open The Lion, a swanky celebrity hotspot that debuted in 2010 in New York City.

In 2011, he opened the doors to The Lion’s sister restaurant, The Crown – a formal American restaurant that was located on 81st and Madison. Other Manhattan eateries included The Windsor, a chic sports bar that Dorsey opened shortly after the launch of The Crown, which has since then closed.

In 2012, Dorsey took over as general manager of Monkey Bar, another New York City destination with a well-known cocktail program. Although the establishment was initially owned by Graydon Carter and Jeff Klein, Dorsey later joined the duo as a partner. Monkey Bar remained open for a decade before shuttering its doors during the pandemic.

Moving on
“During the lockdown, I spent a lot of time in Staatsburg. I was entertaining from my weekend home and found that I was much happier up here,” said Dorsey. In 2020, he packed up his New York City apartment and took up a full-time residence in the country.

Dorsey was eager to start a business of his own. That dream soon came to fruition. “Early in the pandemic, while driving to the park to get out of my house for a while during lockdown, I noticed the building all boarded up,” said Dorsey. Although the property was vacant for six years, the building was once home to China Rose – a Chinese restaurant that closed around 2017.

After discovering the old building, Dorsey devoted one year to renovating and sourcing furnishings. In 2022, he opened the restaurant.

In 1686, the town was founded by the Dutch who named it “Kipsbergen.” Dorsey decided to name his new venture “Kips Tavern” after the hamlet that the building was built in.

Since he already enjoyed a variety of stints at the more formal “white tablecloth” venues one would expect to find in Manhattan, Dorsey decided it was time to immerse himself in a more casual experience. “I respect the art of formal dining, but with this new place, I wanted a fun hangout spot on the Hudson River with water views,” Dorsey explained.

The Kips Tavern slogan captures that essence: “Food that you want to eat; a place that you want to be.”

The food
Kips Tavern welcomes diners year-round. Throughout the seasons, it offers two menus – a summer menu and a fall/winter version. Both feature seasonal ingredients from the region’s bounty. A few local suppliers include Tivoli Mushrooms and Veritas Farms – a mixed livestock and vegetable farm located in the New Paltz area.

Dinner is served daily every Tuesday through Saturday from 5pm to 9:30pm. Specials are offered every evening. Some must-try dinner entrees from the summer menu include chicken pot pie, made with potatoes, peas, carrots, mushrooms, and tarragon, and the seared tuna steak, which is made with peanuts and watermelon radish. This dish is served with coconut rice and cucumbers and drizzled with a sesame soy vinaigrette. Another star from the dinner menu is the shrimp scampi, which is made with bucatini pasta, garlic, lemon, parmesan cheese, and red pepper.

From May through October, brunch service is offered every Sunday from 11am to 3pm. Some start-your-day-right dishes include waffles: opt for decadent chocolate chip or fresh berries; both are served with whipped cream and syrup. There’s also the biscuit egg sandwich, which includes biscuits made in house every week.

In seasonal weather, guests of Kips Tavern can enjoy dining al fresco on the restaurant’s spacious outdoor patio that overlooks the river. Beyond the delectable food, they’ll certainly enjoy a lovely scene complete with a charming striped canopy to shield them from the summer sunshine. Red flowers further embellish the outdoor space.

“Our location overlooking the Hudson River is very unique in the area as there is not another restaurant nearby that overlooks the river,” said Dorsey.

The beverage menu at Kips Tavern is cause for celebration. “I come from a strong beverage background, so the menu includes all original house cocktails,” said Dorsey who mentioned that Monkey Bar’s cocktail program served as inspiration for the beverage offerings at Kips Tavern.

The most popular cocktail at Kips is the Villarreal, which is named after a friend. It is crafted with a spicy jalapeño-infuced tequila, a splash of lime, refreshing grapefruit, and elderflower.

Kips Tavern’s cocktail menu also includes The Brooklyn, which is made with rye whiskey, dry vermouth, cherry liqueur, Amaro, and orange bitters. The wine list – all wines are served by the glass – includes Studio rosé; Kara Tara chardonnay; and Strangeways pinot noir. As for draft beer, local standouts include Rip Van Winkle and Kaaterskill Krush. Some of the old standbys include Italy’s Peroni and Guinness.

At press time, Dorsey revealed that he was planning to establish a happy hour, but details were not decided upon yet.

For those who abstain from alcohol, the Rhinecliff eatery has a menu of non-alcoholic drinks. It includes Ariel wine, which offers a chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon as well as Beck’s beer. Both the Bourbon Smash and Villarreal drinks, which hail from the cocktail menu, are available in mocktail versions.

The average price of dinner or brunch, including a starter; main; and cocktail, glass of wine, beer, or non-alcoholic beverage is approximately $55 per person.

Décor & more
As if Dorsey doesn’t wear enough hats, in addition to running the restaurant and crafting a delicious menu, he channeled his aesthetic talents and vision into decorating the new space. Since the building dates back to the 1890s, it boasts a lot of character. Stained glass windows, exposed brick, and original wood paneling served as the starting point for establishing the Kips Tavern vibe.

An old church pulpit was refurbished and is now being utilized as an inviting bar space. Artwork from local artists adds a splash of color and personality to the venue’s interior and creates an artistic vibe. The restaurant proudly spotlights the work of local artist Susan Stover from Woodstock, NY. Three of her works hang in the dining room.

“I enjoyed bringing in pieces from outside the Hudson Valley region as well. I felt I could create the right energy for my concept with these pieces,” said Dorsey. The walls at Kips present the work of Brendan Stanton – a Los Angeles-based artist who happens to be a friend of Dorsey’s. There’s also some work by Robert Rucker – a painter from London.

Lots of positive reviews reflect the appreciation of guests who have dined at Kips. “The ambience of the restaurant could not be more perfect, quiet, and cozy overlooking the Hudson River,” said one guest. Others noted the “great views of prop airplanes landing and taking off on the river along with boats and barges.” They also enjoyed the trains passing by the Hudson River’s edge.

Now is the time to plan a summer outing whether it be a date, friend catch up, business lunch, or family visit. Reservations are encouraged, so inquire within. •

For more information, visit 1 Shatzell Avenue Rhinecliff, NY, call (845) 516-4737 or visit