Diner done right.
by Richard Pérez-Feria
A confession before we proceed: I’m kinda-sorta a self-proclaimed diner expert, maybe not quite up there with that guy named Guy (Fieri), but between my near constant travel within these United States over several decades in places as culinarily diverse as Boston, New Orleans, San Francisco, Miami, Las Vegas and all over the Empire State (Manhattan, East Hampton, Saratoga Springs) and my love of all things diner-y and coffeshop-y, I know my way around a patty melt after midnight, know what I mean? So, on my twice monthly drives from Poughkeepsie to Albany on the Taconic, the West Taghkanic Diner in Ancram is almost impossible to miss, yet somehow, I just never stopped. Until I did.
The legend that is WTD, as the hot spot smartly refers to itself, is justified. Built in 1953 as one of four Taghkanic diners built to serve Taconic Parkway drivers from all directions, this diner featured an unmissable neon sign and throwback exterior. A few months ago, the WTD was purchased by Wally Farms, a nearby farm and forest in Hillsdale. Needless to say, the latest owners have made a commitment to elevate the menu on this side of the Taconic with their farm-fueled fare.
“We’re trying to provide space for everybody,” WTD’s co-owner Alyssa Burns says. “From the day tripper to an intimate date night, everyone’s always welcome.” The Australian native emphasizes that what separates this diner from just about any other one is their dedication to “feed everyone in our community.” Crediting La Mirada restaurant in the South Bronx leading by example regarding its own philanthropic efforts, Burns says the diner’s Mutual Aid Kitchen utilizes their large facility and source fresh, local produce and get help from skilled chefs to help feed so many people in need in the community.
When asked what two delicacies she’s particularly proud of on the menu Burns doesn’t hesitate. “Well, of course everything’s great, but the vegetarian Reuben is amazing in that it isn’t fancy, it’s greasy, comfort food, using locally sourced vegetables in a sustainable way. It’s delicious.” Next up? Burns says the vegetarian burger isn’t to be missed, either. “This burger has incredible texture and flavor and it’s another great creation from our pastry chef, Julia.”
Open Friday-Monday 10am to 8:30pm (closed Tuesday-Thursday), the menu, as you heard, is clearly mouth-watering. So, what are my favorites? Bread Pudding French Toast. Smoked Half-Chicken. 100% Grass-Fed Pastrami Reuben. WTD Smoked Hash. Chocolate Chip Cardamom Milkshake. You see what I mean? Oh, and don’t leave without trying the Smoked Chicken Salad Sandwich. Wow.
I know so many of you have also driven right by the West Taghkanic Diner and wondered, “Should I’ve stopped for a bite?” Now you know the answer: Um, yeah.