Words and Images Sandy Soohoo
Hawley, Pennsylvania, is nestled near Lake Wallenpaupac, where Middle Creek enters the Lackawaxen River. The town, colored by brick buildings and lined with antique shops, nearby The Hawley Silk Mill—built in 1880 and said to be the largest bluestone structure in the country—still remains, though now it functions as more of a community hub, housing retail spaces, galleries and a fitness center. Hawley was named after Irad Hawley, the first president of the Pennsylvania Coal Company, and traces of the manufacturing industries remain to this day. Among them is the Hawley Antique Exchange, a shop with an impressive variety of pristine vintage glass sets and servingware, as well as a cut glass museum on the lower level.
A ten-minute drive into the woods leads to Tree, the restaurant inside the grand Lodge at the Woodloch hotel and spa. Beneath a massive candle chandelier and skylight, a huge set of Tibetan glass singing bowls sets the scene for this tranquil getaway. Guests float by in fluffy white bathrobes, fresh from their morning massages.
Lunch includes a salad bar where you can make your own concoction of arugula and baby spinach, with any number of toppings and a sweet maple-sage vinaigrette. The tomato-herb soup is just right on a chilly fall day, but we also get the flatbread stuffed with local cheese and the crab roll, full of avocado and sesame seeds. Tree adds a bit of French flair to its farm-to-table food. The rustic wooden beams, sweeping forest views and roaring fires make it a cozy and appealing place to stay a good long while.
We head back into town to explore the main drag on foot. There is a closed bar and coffee shop, Ravyn & Robyn, in a gray stone building that formerly housed Hawley National Bank. The inside looks dark and comfortable, perfect for nursing a Guinness on a chilly afternoon. Around the corner is The Ritz Company Playhouse, whose fluorescent sign hails “44 Seasons!” of local performances and events. Though the summer season is over, The Ritz also offers concerts and social events like the Hawley Harvest Hoedown in early October.
At Time Machine Antiques, I meet Ed, who has owned the place with his business partner since 1998. They have a few other locations, but in Hawley you can find antique firearms and some other gems, including two original Andy Warhol sketches that Ed snatched up years ago. His pal Willey, a tiny black-and-gray terrier mix, comes out to pose for my camera and Hawley seems like the most charming place I’ve discovered lately.
Down the street, we stumble upon Café Vostichniy, an authentic Uzbek restaurant that excites my authentic Uzbek partner. Still full, but unwilling to leave Hawley without trying their lamb, we go inside and wrangle some take-out. Filipp ends up chatting in Russian with the Uzbek chef–owner, who says he opened Café Vostichniy to offer local residents an alternative to the ubiquitous Chinese food and pizza. It’s good to hear that the business is doing pretty well. The chef looks distressed as he hands us our styrofoam containers of samsas and shashlik (savory pastries and lamb shish-kebab) and later Filipp tells me that he was concerned that the food would not be as good by the time we got back to Brooklyn. When the sun comes out, we eat our food by a stream and the delicious pumpkin samsas really warm us up.
Ledges Hotel is just up the hill from the center of town, but feels a world away. Situated inside the restored John S. O’Connor Glass Factory and just beneath the Silk Mill, it is built into the edge of the river gorge and features a seasonal waterfall. The hotel itself is modern and warm, with wrap-around views of the water and stone. Our room is two levels with a full kitchen, two bathrooms and a Jacuzzi. It feels excessive, but it’s not unappreciated.
If you make it to Hawley, have dinner at Ledges’ restaurant Glass, which is just beneath the hotel. Chef Ben Sutter has worked in restaurants around the country and draws upon his varied experiences to create small plates that offer new takes on modern American cuisine. He presents a few of the dishes to us himself, including the first course, a soft six-minute egg on a bed of shaved prosciutto and pickled onions.
The ingredients are fresh from the farm since the kitchen works with as many local vendors as possible to build a truly seasonal menu. In addition to the egg, we enjoy a charcuterie board of local cheeses; a juicy sirloin on a bed of garlicky mashed potatoes; duck with pumpkin-coriander puree and cherry gastrique; and spiced cauliflower with chick peas, raisins, pickled onions and vadouvan.
Our final stop is Cocoon, the café inside the former silk locker at the Silk Mill. We eat house-made quiche and drink Electric City coffee at a large wooden table, beneath the original steel beams that are now adorned with Edison bulbs. Shelves of used books line a wall for reading, or they can be purchased for two dollars.
Juan Espino, a local artist, sits inside the lobby of the Silk Mill, painting historic renderings of the town as it would be today. Instead of cars and parking lots, there is pasture and horses and the Silk Mill, still standing as it did a hundred years ago, but filled with worms and their keepers churning out silk for manufacturers nationwide. Mr. Espino gives me the full tour, complete with a detailed history of Hawley and the mill.
We manage a last bite at The Boathouse. I opt for a blackened chicken salad and Filipp gets the steak sandwich on buttery garlic toast, not a crumb of which is left behind. We take a post-prandial drive through the russet-colored mountains. Stopping at the lake, we watch the sun slant heavy in the sky before heading back to our city life.