82 John Street, Kingston, NY
I’ve been proud to shine a spotlight on a handful of bookshop / bar combinations in the past, and even a couple wine shop and bookseller combos too, but when it comes to putting a pint, a bite, and a book in front of a casual browser, Rough Draft is the top of the pile. At least so far, though I think they’ll be tough to beat. I stopped in on a rainy Saturday recently and it was such a warm, charming, bustling respite that I didn’t want to leave.
Located in the crisscross downtown section of old Kingston, New York, which was once the capital of the state back in 1777, Rough Draft occupies a quaint stone building that feels like someplace old Rip Van Winkle would wander into after a long nap to tuck into a meat pie and a craft brew. Stepping inside I found alternating shelves and displays of new books spread out among tables large and small where groups of people were sitting around eating, drinking, chatting, and reading. It was packed and looked like a great place to meet up with friends and family, and an even better place to hold a reading or event.
As for the books, there was an excellent variety and many new unique titles I hadn’t seen elsewhere, with your usual fiction, Children’s, and various nonfiction sections that included local history, biography, music, sci-fi, YA, art and painting, photography, and a small but excellent table for books on cocktails, baking, and finer culinary arts, with a book that contains all the essays and letters F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about booze (his favorite subject). The titles were vibrant, new, and called from every corner and table. I kept grabbing books as quickly as I could turn, and I ended up with a couple poetry titles and a new hardcover about Hunter S Thompson’s fight against fascism called Freak Kingdom. Again, the thing I loved best about the selection was that there were so many fresh titles I hadn’t heard of before. This is a bookseller who can stay ahead of the curve.
My lovely companion Amelia and I then adjourned to the bar area, where we found a menu full of pies (I selected the breakfast pie, with eggs, bacon, and cheese in a flaky crust), wine, coffee, and craft beer, most of it local but with selections from all over the map. The food was excellent and we were able to buy our books from where we sat, no waiting in a long line. The back kitchen also had a “bread lab” where they baked a unique selections of fresh breads and rolls. It was one more “B” in a shop full of beer and books, and I couldn’t have been happier.
I walked away from Rough Draft full of books, beer, and baked goods, ready to hit the road and spread the word about this excellent shop just a few minutes removed from Highway 87. If you’re anywhere within a drive’s distance, do yourself a favor and cruise on through. You won’t be disappointed.
Atmosphere — Rough Draft is full of books and browsers but still felt spacious, with plenty of tables and a full bar. The shop is very community focused and eager to serve multiple purposes. They appeared to serve them well, too.
Quality — The books were new, bright, excellently displayed, and ready for eager readers.
Quantity — It felt like a lot of books to look over at the time, but considering how much space was dedicated to seating they actually have fewer books than other shops, it just felt like a lot because they were so evenly distributed. It felt just right.
Diversity — They hit all the expected categories and genres, and many were new titles I hadn’t seen yet.
Affordability — I didn’t see any discount sections or used titles, although I got distracted by the bar so maybe I missed it? Otherwise, typical new book prices, which is fine.
Amenities — Amenities galore! Lots of seating, a full bar, food and pastries, coffee and donuts, bread of all sorts, and warmth against the cold rainy weather. Top notch points for all of it.
Location — Situated in the old downtown portion of Kingston, a few minutes away from the exit for Highway 87.
Customer Service — The staff were friendly and let us buy our books right from the bar. Easy as can be.
Overall — This is a fantastic place with everything a book lover might want, loads to look through, room for friends, quiet corners to be alone, plenty to eat and drink, and a great Colonial-era vibe. This is an A+ bookshop for new titles and it’s well worth a visit.