By Judy Garrison
The beautifully re-configured space of bar and booths at the rear of the Andes General Store building, along with the outdoor deck, courtyard and garden adjoining the stream, has become a popular gathering spot in no time at all. I knew Dana Leal from town and her many years at the Hotel. Then she was gone for a while. Now she is back in force. I needed to hear her story.
“Andes is where I belong,” she declares, in a thumbnail summary of her recent unfolding. “I’ve worked in Andes since the age of 14,” Dana shares, “starting at Frontera’s pizza place on the corner.” She had her own restaurant for a while at the site of the former Andel Inn (now Catskill Harvest). Then, of course, she was at the Andes Hotel for many years. “This is where I belong. This is what I know.” Shortly after her move to the Finger Lakes, Covid set in. Not an auspicious time to make new friends.
Dana herself designed the layout, knowing full well from experience how the processes of cooking and serving should flow. She praises her “amazing” staff, and recounts how they value the smooth and efficient working of the kitchen. I’m sure they appreciate as well her high standards for cleanliness and how she works side by side with staff, her readiness to do all the jobs she delegates.
In choosing a mix of high tops, a curved bar and booths she was clearly aware of the variety of patron preferences. In creating an Old World décor with humorous accents (George Washington and Ben Franklin blowing bubbles) she acknowledges invaluable help from Zee of Argyle Farms. Veteran contractor Ed Leal along with son Marshall (unsurprisingly!) did the construction.
Dana is modest about the food offerings, which she refers to as “pub grub,” but I’ve heard many favorable comments from patrons. I’m set to try the fish & chips, the taco salad, the chicken sandwich. Hours for the “Speakeasy,” as she refers to it, are everyday from 2 until 9 or 10 pm, weekends until 1 am. During the good weather months there is often music outside in the courtyard where people can sit at rough-hewn counters. Soon the music will come inside.
In these often socially fractured times Dana is especially proud that her pub draws both locals and out-of-towners. And “It doesn’t matter what crowd people are part of, everyone gets along,” she says with a smile. She missed her Andes community, and her affection for this place and its people infuse Dana’s Place with a feeling of inclusiveness and the owner’s pleasure in her role. Go, Dana!~