Two New Paltz alums return to their old stomping grounds to open an upscale piano bar named after one of their favorite hikes.
Former AMC chief operating officer Ed Carroll and his wife screenwriter Gina O’Brien opened The Lemon Squeeze last December. With the help of Carroll’s extended family—who have years of restaurant experience, including general manager Kevin Kopacko and bar manager Ryan Martin—the couple has created a sophisticated, but not uptight, piano bar. (Current and former students might recognize the couple’s names from a plaque on a bench on the academic concourse that reads “Where Ed met Gina.”) After graduating from SUNY New Paltz in 1985 and 1986, respectively, the pair visited the college town many times to vacation at Mohonk Mountain House and hike the famed Lemon Squeeze—a challenging trail of ladders, rock scrambles, and tight spaces that turns you into a “human lemon.” In 2019, they purchased a weekend home near campus, and in 2021, the bar project began.
Kopacko describes the menu and the concept at The Lemon Squeeze as a “casual approach to fine dining in an upscale atmosphere.” That translates to a raw bar with shrimp cocktail and oysters, entrées such as Thai curry-crusted salmon with avocado butter, grilled haricots verts, and black rice, and steak served with Grand Marnier butternut squash purée, and smoked potatoes. The full bar serves up all the usuals, but Kopacko recommends the bestselling Smoking Jacket (mezcal, pomegranate syrup, lime juice, egg white, and smoked rosemary) and the Final Squeeze (vodka, Lillet, gin, lemon honey, and lemon).
Carroll and O’Brien, who’ve always loved New Paltz’s bars—Bacchus, Snug Harbor, and P&G’s have been around since before they were students—felt the area was missing a place where locals and students could have a conversation, a drink, and light bites after 10 p.m. (most close their kitchens by 9 p.m. and transition to loud music and dancing). “We fill that void,” says Kopacko. “We’re a nice alternative.”
Hours are Wednesday 12–10 p.m., Thursday through Saturday 12 p.m.–1 a.m., and Sunday 12–10 p.m. There is live piano Thursday through Saturday. Seats are first come, first served—no reservations.
107 Main Street (the former home of Murphy’s Restaurant & Pub). Carroll and O’Brien overhauled the entire space and created a midcentury modern bar vibe with brown leather booths, soft lighting, dark walls adorned with photos of famous musicians, and, of course, a baby grand piano.