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Pretty to Think So
Photo by Harrison Lubin. 

Pretty to Think So Crafts Beautiful Food Experiences in Rhinebeck

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Farm-to-table fare and delicious seafood wow at Pretty to Think So, a Rhinebeck restaurant led by a trio of talented culinary professionals.

It’s hard for anything to feel like a secret when it’s in the center of Rhinebeck. Yet somehow Pretty to Think So manages to do just that. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that the seafood-forward restaurant is a newcomer in town. Or it could be its intimate location on Montgomery Street, where it’s sandwiched between popular galleries and shops. Most likely it’s because the team behind the restaurant has a bit of experience with secrets, having crafted the oft-whispered-about dining and hospitality program at the now-closed The Dutchess hotel in Staatsburg.

Let’s meet the team: There’s Chef Mark Margiotta, a Culinary Institute of America grad who went from apprenticing at his grandparents’ Paradise Restaurant in Verplanck to Poughkeepsie’s Brasserie 292 to Manhattan’s acclaimed Eleven Madison Park. At The Dutchess, he paired fine dining with farming, a concept he brings with him to Pretty to Think So. Cocktail visionary Madeline Dillon oversees the bar program. Prior to joining The Dutchess, Dillon helped build up the bar team at RARE in Washington, D.C. As her drinks in Rhinebeck prove, artisanal cocktails and mocktails can be just as inventive as any entrée. Last but not least is general manager Eric Mushel, who garnered foundational and leadership knowledge in tech and finance in London before moving on to The Dutchess.

The royal and deluxe seafood towers and oysters à la carte.

The royal and deluxe seafood towers and oysters à la carte. Photo by Harrison Lubin.

Before we dive into the menu—what’s the story behind the unusual name? The trio drew inspiration from the Lost Generation of artists who moved to Europe in the 1920s. Since their circa-1860 space was originally the Starr Institute, a library and reading room built as a center for enlightenment, it felt natural to look to the writers of the time. So, when Dillon came across the last line of Ernest Hemingway’s first novel, The Sun Also Rises, she knew she had hit upon just the right pairing of words: “‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Isn’t it pretty to think so?’” According to Mushel, “‘Pretty to think so’ is a line that recognizes beauty and happiness can exist in a world where they often don’t win the day…We wanted to offer a place where people could at least pretend they just might.”

And you’ll win the day when you dine here. Margiotta serves luxurious ingredients like a present in each dish. Truffles turn everyday baked potatoes into something sinful. Caviar is another star player, elevating any dish it touches—caviar frites with house made ketchup, anyone? Duck, meanwhile, functions as an unconventional, albeit highly enjoyable item on the menu, from duck confit with pickled wild mushrooms to dry-aged duck breast with charred greens and rhubarb mostarda.

While the farm-to-table fare is certainly worth celebrating, the seafood dishes shine just as bright. Briny, beautiful oysters come from Island Creek Oysters in Massachusetts. Keep an eye out for anything with scallops—the scallop crudo is fresh and flavorful, while the seared scallop special (when available) will leave you dreaming about it for days. And we can’t forget the raw bar: there are two seafood towers (royal and deluxe), shrimp cocktail, six types of oysters à la carte, and three styles of caviar served with potato crisps, profiteroles, crème fraîche, lemon, and egg.

Pretty to Think So

Photo by Harrison Lubin.

Food, however, is only half of the story. Over at the bar, Dillon masterfully mixes up ingredients in unexpected ways. “Our goat cheese-washed vodka/gin dirty martini is one of the most perfect cocktails ever created,” says Mushel. “Also, The White Cheek, a clear negroni inspired by the white side of Snow White’s apple, has been a hit. We also offer an absinthe service that is unique to the area; and many people have been experimenting with our Public Enemy No. 1, a super distinct absinthe sour cocktail.” Dillon also offers low-ABV and zero-proof options, too. Ruby Slippers—made with red bitters, pink vermouth, chile de arból, strawberry, sparkling water, and gold luster—is a colorful standout.

While Pretty to Think So is still young, the trio is excited to see what the future holds. With the opportunity to change their menus with the seasons (and as their hearts desire), they have their work cut out for them. “We’re really trying to stay in the moment,” says Mushel. “We only get to open our first restaurant once in our lives. Our guests have been making us feel very loved. It’s a special, unique time.”