Lil Deb's Oasis
It’s loud and feels like family, for those of us seeking solace somewhere we don’t need to whisper, that has some Williamsburg/tropical vibes without trying for trendy, taking to heart the spirit of Hudson— the focus for founders Hannah Black and Carla Perez-Gallardo to be welcoming.
You guys are one of those restaurants that has a different vibe from a lot of other places in the area.
We didn’t wanna be perceived as too cool or unwelcoming, I think it was something we were definitely worried about.
I think when it comes to community, [in the Catskills], especially coming from NYC, I think of Bard kids, or the weekenders with bourgeois vibes. But in Hudson, especially, there’s also an extreme amount of poverty that goes unnoticed.
I want to thank you for saying that, because I’ve been living here for about 6 years and went to Bard but didn’t really come out to Hudson, it was still very under the radar. No one really hung out up here… But I remember visiting and I was so struck by Warren St being this super clean design area and then you walk block over [and] it’s almost like another world. And if you don't have the desire to know or to walk that block you’d miss it.This is an interesting time right now, where Hudson is getting so much attention, but none of it is focused on that other side. Or how this town is drastically changing and a lot of people are getting pushed out.
Your menu has so many cultures drawn into it, is it at all influenced by Hudson?
When we did the pop up here, there was another diner here called Debbie’s Little restaurant… We had done the food truck out in the Catskill and then here we started trying to figure out our language. This building just has such a history, this is a place where policemen, firefighters, and construction workers would come to get fed by Debbie and she would yell out “What do you want guys!”. We wanted it to be this place where someone could come in spend $10 and get full. A lot of the new places now popping up just erase the history of the building, make it really pretty and sort of whitewash it and then place a $30 entree on their menu.
It’s sort of hard to embrace the whole farm to table aspect and then keep it at a moderate price, especially up here.
The farm to table ethos is so funny because it's become how people establish their vibe, it's like the word organic… Many restaurants are not really “farm to table” and only use that language to describe themselves but if you were to look at where they were sourcing… it isn’t from a farm. But we’re interested in a sustainable way to support the local farmers who are our peers.
Did either of you go to culinary school?
No we both went art school. I was looking at culinary school for a while but I couldn’t find any that were engaging in the way that art school like one that was conceptual in aspect, creative, and collaborative.
The whole collection of the menu seems to draw from different cultures and places in a very cool and ambiguous way.
We’re just forming our own country, It's an oasis and this is the food that they eat there. Sometimes people have come in and they have their own idea/opinions on what this restaurant is but it's really none of those things.
How do you incorporate heritage into the food when you come from such different backgrounds?
There’s elements of my food memories, but I wouldn’t be here without Hannah. We didn’t meet and just decide on cooking Ecuadorian food. When we met we both approached food from the same direction, which was one that our chefs didn’t really teach us. Vietnamese food was the first food we had ever cooked together which, I think set the tone for this expansive palette.
There’s always something different every time I walk in here.
We’re always adding, never subtracting. This morning we added flowers, and if you look there’s piles of beer and the plantains are draped over them because we have no room.
So it’s been over year now?
It seem like it’s doing really well because we were here last night and talking about how last year around this same time we didn’t really have to wait for a table. We’re just starting to get a good stride, but you know it’s upstate it's never unmanageably busy.
What’s next? Aside from dinner, because it’s starting to get pretty loud and smells like that insane fried fish. Any plans for a city location?
Maybe, yeah, we would like to but not for a while. A year or so, we are super happy here.