Ok, two things right off the bat you should know about Millerton, NY. First, there’s no zoo here. You’re thinking of Millbrook, 30 minutes to the southwest. We’ll get to them next month.
Second, while you may use such words as “quaint” and “charming” to describe this tiny village of about 900 people located in the town of North East, you absolutely can not use the word “sleepy.” Both Harney & Sons teas and Irving Farm coffee roasters have their main headquarters on the outskirts of the village, as well as cafes on Millterton’s Main Street. Rookie Farm Bakery’s house roast, a custom blend from No. Six Depot, is described as “deep, dark, existential.” There’s a sign for Bulletproof Coffee in the window of the Oakhurst Diner. You have never seen a more caffeinated 0.6 square miles in your life.
Millerton’s always been lively. Situated at the crossroads of New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, the village was named—No! Not for a mill!—for the rail contractor Sydney Miller, who once made this area the intersection of three railroads as well. Sometimes things got a little too lively. Bill McGinn, a real estate agent from Houlihan & Lawrence who’s lived in Millerton since 2007 and in the area for much longer, remembers the Millerton of the early 1990s as a place with a lot of bars and a lot of alcohol-fueled gunfights. “It was a little bit like the Wild West,” he recalls. “That’s completely changed now. The people are very friendly.”
The trains don’t run here anymore, but you can. The Harlem Valley Rail Trail runs right through Main Street. Millerton sits at Mile 10.7 of the rail trail, which will eventually be a 46-mile multiuse path stretching from Wassaic to Chatham. So far, 23.5 miles are completed, leaving plenty of paved trail for bikers, runners, and idle ramblers to take through the rolling farmlands and wide open marshes of the Taconic foothills.
For those who prefer to limit their walking excursions to just a few blocks, this is your lucky day because that’s about how long Millerton’s Main Street is. But what it lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality, with more cultural offerings than towns three times its size. Millerton isn’t exactly a culinary destination, though there are a few noteworthy places to eat.
For refined but relaxed tapas-style dining in a rustic environment head to 52 Main. Main Street fixture Oakhurst Diner has drawn praise far and wide for its innovative and globe-trotting menu, which goes beyond the usual diner staples. There’s pho, dumplings, quinoa, avocado toast, kimchi, a macrobiotic plate, and more, in addition to the burgers, tater tots, pancakes, BLTs, and other classic American fare. The restaurant at the 11-room Millerton Inn serves up seasonally rotating menus with a strong Greek influence and local sourcing, including dairy from the owner’s own farm. For special occasions and fancier date nights Millerton residents are probably driving 30-40 minutes for a night out in Rhinebeck, Hudson, or even nearby Millbrook.
It’s hard enough to find an independent bookstore or an independent movie theater in small towns these days, much less both. And yet, here we are.
After shutting down last March because of COVID, Millerton’s legendary Moviehouse, located in a 115-year-old building with a clock tower, is set to reopen with new owners and a renovated interior (including an elevator, something the village’s older cinephiles had been requesting for years,) on Memorial Day Weekend. Oblong Books & Music is just a few doors down, where you can pick up an autographed copy of Julia Turshen’s latest cookbook or browse through their extensive collection of gardening books, wildlife identification guides, or the latest novels to add to your summer reading list.
Book browsing just got a lot sweeter with the opening of Rookie Farm Bakery and Candy-O’s. “Our bookstore is now sandwiched between a bakery and a candy shop,” says Oblong co-owner Suzanna Hermans. “Dreams really do come true!” But after loading up on chocolate ciabatta and ice cream, pour one out for Terni’s Sporting Goods Store a few doors down (they’re the ones with the fish-shaped sign still hanging outside,) and their recently departed founder Phil Terni. The local institution just closed after being in business for exactly 101 years to the day. Final sale? A five-cent Fireball candy.
Across the street from Terni’s you’ll find the sprawling Millerton Antique Center with 36 dealers and range of finds from vintage furniture and other large items you couldn’t possibly fit in your apartment to smaller novelty items that make great gifts for that person in your life who’s really into old maps (that person is me, by the way.) Next door is Westerlind, an outpost of the Brooklyn store of the same name, with high-end outdoor clothing brands like And Wander and Snow Peak featured on the top floor, and Westerlind’s Provisions on the bottom floor. Still haven’t figured out what to do with your stimulus check? Let the gang here hook you up with 500 grams of Siberian Caviar for $1,500 (give them 24 hours notice and they’ll deliver it to you, if you’re within 10 miles.)
Or, wander back towards the rail trail and pop into Golden Wok, where the same amount of money will get you 250 orders of excellent steamed dumplings. At 8 dumplings an order, that’s 2,000 total dumplings, enough to share with everyone in town (You might want to call ahead for that order, too.)
For such a small village, it’s a lot to take in, which may leave you feeling a little frazzled by the end of the day. But Millerton has you covered there as well: A few years ago, Harney & Sons planted 7,000 hemp plants at their Millerton headquarters, which they use in their new sister company, The Hemp Division. Their line of hot and iced CBD teas, many of which are available in town at the Oakhurst Diner, range from Focus (5mg per serving) to Cruise (green tea with honey and 25mg per serving,) and have everything you need to coast to a nice and easy landing.