Tim Masterjohn, owner of the Red Caboose, did not come to Oneonta to open a restaurant, but found himself compelled to do just that.
Masterjohn had opened restaurants in California and Washington, D.C. He was anticipating leaving the food service industry when he and his wife, Hannah Masterjohn, moved to her hometown, Oneonta.
“We did not move here to open a restaurant,” Masterjohn said. “I was going to get out of the industry. But then this location came open, and the chef I had worked with in Washington called me and said he was looking to get back to New York.”
The location at 214 Main St., with a patio and ample space, was alluring to Masterjohn. He sealed the deal and opened the Red Caboose in the summer of 2012 with his partner, chef Eric Fleischer.
The dining experience at The Red Caboose reflects Oneonta history, with a train motif and farm-to-table menu choices.
“I support the local history,” Masterjohn said. “The railroad history here is kind of dying, but it is why Oneonta is on the map. We wanted to honor that.”
On the Red Caboose website has a shout-out to the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen who, in 1883, gathered in a small caboose and began what would become the largest railroad workers union in the world.
The Red Caboose menu features choices that include ingredients from local farms. Fruits, vegetables, herbs, pickles, cheeses, ice cream, butter and eggs, as well as eco-friendly beef, naturally raised pork, farm-raised venison and free-range chicken are all bought locally and used in the recipes at the restaurant.
All of the food is prepared under Fleischer’s supervision.
Fleischer was trained in Michelin Star restaurants in Paris and has worked in New York City, San Francisco and Washington.
“We have a high standard when it comes to what we serve,” Masterjohn said. “We serve American cuisine, using fresh, local produce and meats. Everything we serve is made from scratch. It is the quality of our food and the service that sets us apart.”
In addition to the dining menu, the Red Caboose offers a variety of beverages from specialty cocktails, to an extensive selection of wines and beers. Many of the beers are locally brewed. Fresh-brewed iced tea, fresh-squeezed lemonade, espresso and cappuccino are served, as well as soft drinks.
Masterjohn said the community has embraced the Red Caboose. When he brought his family, including two young children, home to their maternal side, he felt right at home in Oneonta.
“I think Oneonta is on a growth pattern,” Masterjohn said. “There is a changing ideal. I think downtown is becoming a destination for people. There are new businesses and a feeling of prosperity here.”
As a member of the community, Masterjohn is involved in groups created to ensure the continued prosperity of downtown. He is on the board of Main Street Oneonta, an organization dedicated to promoting and preserving downtown Oneonta. He also is a member of the Greater Oneonta Historical Society.