“STAY NICE!” “MATCHBOX ON FIRE!” “COMFORT FOOD & COOKIES!”
These are some of the signs along Route 9 in Rhinebeck that greeted Janet and me as we approached the aptly named Matchbox Cafe. From the outside the stone-walled cottage looks like a hobbit’s hut, but once inside the true magic begins. Your eyes will hungrily settle on a wide counter chock-full of humongous chocolate chip cookies, gargantuan fudgy brownies, and Marshmallow Krispie treats which a little kid described “as big as my head”. Oh, and not to be forgotten is their Red Velvet Cake, chosen by Oprah as one of her all time favorites, and also the winner of the Best Dessert at Taste of Rhinebeck.
Joann and Sam Cohen owned Dessert Delivery, a wholesale bakery and café in NYC, but they dreamed of opening a restaurant upstate. During one of their frequent adventures in Duchess County, they spotted the little stone cottage and their fantasy came true. Sam explained that in the 1920’s the building was a gas station, and when tourists drove up old Route 9 heading for the Catskills, it was a popular place to stop. There was a photo showing celebrities like Dean Martin stopping here to fill their gas tanks after driving north from New York City.
After a year of renovations, the Matchbox opened its doors during the summer of 2011.
Today, all entrees are prepared in the minuscule kitchen behind the counter, but the Cohens continue to bake the desserts in their Upper East Side bakery, which still serves corporate clients in Manhattan. Sam somehow manages to bake and shuttle his sweet creations from NYC to Rhinebeck.
The cafe is famous for their hamburgers and cheeseburgers, which are made with fresh grass-fed and grain-finished beef from the Herondale Farm in Ancramdale.. “It’s char grilled not made on a griddle,” says Sam. Customers love the french toast made with Challah bread, which is hard to find in Upstate NY. “Our french fries are made with Idaho potatoes prepared in a Belgian-style that is popular in that country and also the Netherlands,” explained Sam. The vidalia onion rings and potato chips are also made in house.
After reading several rave reviews about the Matchbox veggie burger, I had to find out for myself. Their website boasts that they have created “the moistest, most delectable, addictive veggie burger there will ever be. The combination of spinach, potato, zucchini, onion, flour and pure vegetable oil, is enhanced by slices of avocado.” Well, I agree! It was delectable! What really impressed Janet were the fries which were hand cut and cooked to perfection. We were only going to sample one or two, but we ended up eating every last morsel.
After lunch, Sam joined us for a fun chat and treated us to his famous Red Velvet Cake. “Customers have become fiercely loyal, with some of them eating three meals a day with us. New Yorkers will call from the road and order their Friday night dinner.” We plan to come back soon for dinner and dive into their housemade lasagna oozing with layers of ricotta and mozzarella or their skillet-fried chicken with housemade cole slaw. We agree with Sam when he says that the Matchbox is “fine dining on a paper plate!”
6242 Route 9 Rhinebeck, NY 845-876-3911