The Krebs, 53 W. Genesee St. in Skaneateles, is in an interesting position. Geographically speaking, it welcomes westbound tourists to the Finger Lakes Region and it waves a fond farewell to those venturing east. For local residents — Onondaga County and nearby Cayuga County urban, suburban and rural settings — it’s a quintessential business of a perceived destination town and village.
Like any place in upstate New York, winter imposes an unpredictable onslaught of snow and nature’s thermostat seems to be broken. Cue a bear-like desire to hibernate, and all the birds to fly south and return sometime in April or May.
But the soft glow of porch lights in the darkening evening skies is another throbbing pulse of central New York culture.
“There is a stigma of Skaneateles … as if it’s in a little bubble,” said co-owner Kim Weitsman, talking about the summer season and lake life, especially boating to the village and hopping off to enjoy everything the village has to offer. “(The Krebs is) always busy during a snow storm. Any place you can walk to is always fun on a snowy night.”
And warm. Whether you’re looking for the clothed table, sit-down experience or a more casual evening out and stationed near the fireplace, the restaurant offers each. Whether you’re venturing for culinary forward offerings or unique comfort food favorites, The Krebs has a couple menus that boast both, menus that change when the seasons transition from one to the next.
Given the upscale appeal, the dress code is business casual, said Weitsman. Denim is allowed, and sport coats aren’t necessary. However, it’s important to think twice about wearing a T-shirt, sneakers or other comfier items.
Recently, I was invited to an evening outing at the restaurant, a separate occasion from the interview where these quotes are from. The group was filled with socialites, artists, and photo-focused foodies; we were able to enjoy a dining experience and sampled items off of the menu.
The homey, comfortable appeal of The Krebs is notably high. The lounge in the bar is a notable aspect of the experience. There’s a fireplace, one of many throughout the restaurant, plus prime and ample seating that anyone would helicopter around, get ready to swoop in when seats are vacated.
“It’s been great. We have this beautiful, sexy lounge area that’s aesthetically different than a lot of places,” she said. “(The menu) encourages people to come in and have a different experience than on the dining side.”
She and her husband, Adam, of the familial Ben Weitsman scrap metal business based in Owego, opened the restaurant almost four years ago after a few years and around $4 million of renovations. The intention of opening the business was to focus on sourcing locally and boasting a farm-to-table approach to its menu, plus donating money to women’s and children’s charities.
“We just gave a big gift to 10 different charities at the end of 2017. We did the same in the spring,” said Weitsman, in a one-on-one interview in the tavern of The Krebs. She continued with talking about the mission of the restaurant, giving credit to local providers, which include Marigold Farm, Black Brook Farm, Fresh Herbs of Fabius and Finger Lakes Farms. This year, she said, they’re looking to reach out more.
Weitsman said, “The mission has always been the same … to have a reputation for fine dining, but hopefully not everything that comes with it. It seems to be a dying trend. I don’t think people want to go out and spend three hours eating, but they still want good, locally sourced food. It’s healthy, it’s clean, and it’s beautifully presented.”
“I don’t want to say we’re elevated, but we push the envelope on food and beverages. We need to keep our pulse on the food and wine industry. I don’t ever want to have a menu that’s the same for three years,” she added. “I think that is one of the reasons why we get good staff and people here, because they have that like-minded mission,” she said.
Historically speaking, The Krebs has always been upscale. It originally opened in 1899, under the management of Fred and Cora Krebs. The story began with serving good ole fashioned food to neighbors. The Weitsmans took it over after previous owner Jan Loveless died in 2010, and they named their bar area in her honor.
Is such a restaurant intimidating? Yes and no, said Weitsman, who wants people to come in and relax. However, she’s not opposed to individuals having high expectations. The prices may be out of the range for some tastes, but it’s the price a person pays for seeking quality.
“My general manager (Peter Justin Jacobi) has taught me … you have to take risks, but you also have to stay true to your identity. We don’t have a chardonnay on the list … so we want to push and educate others,” she said. What makes a great CNY restaurant – it’s the vibes it gives off, the people who work there and how you’re treated the second you walk through the door. It sets the tone for the rest of the night.”
Recently, The Krebs was featured in Vogue, and the Finger Lakes Region continues to get nationally recognized. Where the central New York region may not have the notoriety of California’s valleys, we have a place in the niche, especially with white wines.
This year, the restaurant is stepping up its game. Save the donating to charities. Save the Wednesday evening ladies nights. Culinary classes and workshops for kids and adults will be added to the repertoire. Weitsman said more information about the classes (i.e. cocktail classes, kitchen basics and cook-and-consume) will be popping up soon.
Plus, they’ve been having a blast with local celebrity bartending nights, raising money for a particular organization and re-emphasizing the Weitsmans’ desire to give back.
There is so much that’s happened here. The Krebs will probably continue after the Weitsmans are long gone, and more stories will be made, and moments will be revisited. The restaurant’s current matriarch said they’ve been focusing on developing relationships, which is something, she said, they’ve come to learn and value in the hospitality industry.
“There is always some connection here. People come in with a smile on their faces. That’s what is so fun about hearing stories every night,” said Weitsman.
All photos in gallery by C. Malone