When Horsefeathers owner Julia McCue was in college, she started working at the restaurant as a hostess. That wasn’t by chance. Horesefeathers, Tarrytown’s oldest restaurant, was opened by her uncle Russ Rogers in 1981 and by the late 1980’s Julia’s mother Dina, a 1980 graduate of Sleepy Hollow High School, and two of her aunts were all working there. Even her father got involved. “He played Santa Claus at Christmas,” said McCue.
When McCue graduated college in 2008, she decided to work at Horsefeathers full-time. She’s never left. In 2018, Julia bought the restaurant. McCue knew that the Tarrytown area was poised for growth. “I knew they were building Edge-on-Hudson although I didn’t know the scale of what it would be,” she noted. “We have Regeneron, Dannon, Coca-Cola, Siemens. You had the lunch crowd that was coming and then you have the Music Hall which brings people in all year-round. And of course, Halloween season had grown so much.”
Julia’s instincts were right. “We had two really good years where we were growing and growing,” said McCue. Then came Covid. The corporate lunch crowd all but went away. “People don’t come to the office and if they do it’s not encouraged to go out with your co-workers. Especially last year before everyone was vaccinated.”
For over three months at the start of the pandemic, Horsefeathers was closed but now “the restaurant is busier than it’s ever been,” said McCue. But new challenges have emerged. “The supply chain was cut. I can’t get certain liquor. They couldn’t produce the glass bottles for ketchup. But people want to be out. People want to be around each other.”
Despite the challenges McCue is very optimistic about the current Halloween season. And rightfully so since Horsefeathers is the Halloween restaurant in town. “If you come to Sleepy Hollow for Halloween, you are going to try to come here because you’re coming to town for this vibe. People ask me ‘When is your Halloween party?’ and I say, ‘Every day is our Halloween party,’” she says with pride.
Though she’s looking toward the future, the history of Horsefeathers is something McCue relishes. “I’ve had people try to tell me ‘You should fix this and change that and do this,’” said McCue. “People don’t want that. There’s authenticity to the gouges in tables. Someone told me you should put TVs there and there and I’m like no. It’s about leaning into who you are. We’re a simple neighborhood place.”
And that vibe will continue. “My restaurant philosophy is that things change all the time,” said McCue. “The one thing I’m really trying to do is have this place be a constant for people. There’s something to be said for the old faithful. For me it’s really important to keep some things the same. It’s a special place. You can’t buy memories. It takes 40 years to get there.”
914-631-6606 ~ 94 North Broadway, Tarrytown