This gallery is part of 20 Ways to Feel Better in 2020, a collection of our best ideas for getting you to whatever version of “better” feels best to you.
February in upstate New York can be…bleak, to put it generously. The days are short; the nights are cold; the swimming holes and hiking trails that bring out-of- towner energy during warmer months are frozen and buried. But it’s also when Lil’ Deb’s Oasis feels truest to its name. After we’ve trudged through the snow and shuttered the door against the elements, the scene inside this downtown Hudson restaurant feels like a psychedelic mirage: Brightly colored, borderline-Seussian installation art. Jangling cumbia remixes (get their party-ready tunes here!). Servers dancing between tables with platters of ceviche and armfuls of skin-contact Pinot Grigio. You start to sweat—then realize it’s because you just walked into the dizzy-delirious beach party of your dreams wearing a wool hat and scarf.
Chef-owners Hannah Black and Carla Perez-Gallardo carry this vibe through to the menu regardless of season. Heroic doses of acid, small forests of mixed herbs, and blasts of spice are year-round constants but dazzle most when paired with otherwise dour winter fare. “Our whole ethos is to balance the local with the tropical,” Perez-Gallardo says. “When the farm lists get shorter and more monotonous, we draw inspiration from other places.” That means calling upon tropical fruits and sultry sauces like mole, which breathe life into carrots, cabbage, and other Hudson storage crops. “From the beginning, Lil’ Deb’s was about the food and culture of warm places,” Black adds. “It makes sense during the summertime, but it’s even more important during the cold months.” –Amiel Stanek, editor at large