Richard Gere’s films include hits and misses; his restaurant, The Farmhouse at Bedford Post, however, is an unmitigated hit. The 14-seat private dining room mixes modernity and rusticity.
It’s been two years since our last mid-winter roundup and a lot has happened in the Westchester dining scene; a brutal economy meant the demise of a few veterans, but the debacle only made room for fresh meat. In fact, despite belt-tightening diners, and the worst restaurant economy in recent memory, some of Westchester’s best spots dared to open in the last two years. It seems, after all, ya still gotta eat.
And now that things are easing on the finance front, Westchester dining is only getting more exciting. Check out what we’ve found among the new crop of Westchester’s hottest tables.
Tarry Lodge’s Chef Andy Nusser (here with one of his many culinary winners— roasted rack of lamb with winter squash) is yet another reason Port Chester has become a dining-out mecca.
18 Mill St, Port Chester
While this Mario Batali/Joseph Bastianich/Andy Nusser/Nancy Selzer Italian spot didn’t exactly put Westchester on the map (surely, Blue Hill at Stone Barns helped there), Tarry Lodge drew the nation’s attention to Port Chester. After all, this is the elite team behind some of Manhattan’s most famous restaurants, including Babbo, Lupa, Del Posto, and Casa Mono; these guys are practically tripping on James Beard Awards.
But you can’t eat a reputation, so it’s a good thing Tarry Lodge’s food is great. Fans flock for Nusser’s wood-fired pizzas (like his epic guanciale, truffle, and sunny-side up egg marvel), and dazzling antipasti spreads (including buttery, melting bacala montecato and carne misti), offered at a great price with great Tarry Lodge style. To wash it all down, there’s the flourish of Bastianich’s wine list, which offers his personal picks from all over Italy and the world. (FYI: Bastianich co-wrote the text on Italian wine—Vino Italiano—plus owns New York City’s Italian Wine Merchants and three Italian vineyards; we’d take his advice when it comes to Italian wine.) But as seductive as are wine, antipasti, pastas and pizzas, the wise don’t forget secondi: look for Nusser’s lush roasted lamb racks and winter squash decked with the cheery ornament of cranberries.
Masala Kraft Café
206 E Hartsdale Ave, Hartsdale
This bright, clean nook in downtown Hartsdale takes a simple idea and does it well, slinging cheap-and-cheerful Bombay street food that all happens to be vegetarian. True, that’s handy for herbivores, but an all-veggie menu keeps Masala Kraft’s prices low—making this flavorful little pit-stop our newest destination for mid-week meals. We’re weak for crisp, buttery dosas stuffed with cheese or masala-spiked potatoes, and juicy slabs of paneer layered into Malaysian-Indian flatbread with spicy cilantro chutney. Sandwiches come in a variety of breads, including ghee-and-herb-dotted naan, but Masala Kraft also puffs deliciously greasy pooris and serves them with a variety of bright and tangy dips.
While hearty, peppery samosas are great for your February chill, be sure to explore the rest of the Masala Kraft’s menu, which globe-trots to falafels and bean-y tacos. Speaking of improbable mash-ups, some of Masala Kraft’s are quite fetching—we love its multi-culti “salad” of papdi chat: deep-fried tortilla triangles, chickpeas, cilantro, yogurt, and tangy chutney.
Sweet Grass Grill
24 W Main St, Tarrytown
“Carefully sourced” meats and “locally raised” produce are trend phrases that usually come with stiff tabs. Yet at Sweet Grass Grill, top quality is paired with good value. Look for lusty burgers made with elite Creekstone beef and soulful sausages made with local Stone Barns pork, but savvy folks know there’s more to this joint than what’s slapped between the buns.
Midwinter at this urbane country backyard (whose interior features a newly exposed back-lot building façade) finds Chef Tommy Lasley toasting house-made pasta into veggie-friendly fregola with smoked root vegetables, dried fruits, and spicy pumpkin-seed sauce. Meanwhile, dripping-knife carnivores can tuck into big grass-fed rib eyes that come seared in butter, shallots, and thyme and served with roasted purple potatoes and maitake mushrooms. The entire pile-up rests on creamy stone-ground polenta, which is snapped to attention with bacony pancetta. Take it from us—you can bet your Sweet Grass it’s good.
Martha? Richard? Who knows whom you might see dining at the luxuriously rustic Farmhouse at Bedford Post.
The Farmhouse at Bedford Post
954 Old Bedford Rd, Bedford
What do you get when you cross groovy, yoga-loving Hollywood with WASPy Bedford horse country? Why, of course: a hip, star-studded restaurant cosseted in the lap of luxury.
Look for co-owner Richard Gere, who is a constant in the dining room, chatting up buddy Martha Stewart as they tuck into modernist, Italy-inspired dishes. (The two equestrian neighbors ride from nearby homes.) Meanwhile, Gere’s wife, actress Carey Lowell, is responsible for the rustic-chic décor—though Chef Brian Lewis is originally a Westchester boy who made his name in the wilds out West.
The Farmhouse’s winter roots, shoots, fruits & leaves salad is almost too beautiful to eat but then again, too delicious not to.
Stars aside, Lewis’s food is dreamy, with must-have dishes changing with the seasons: we pine for his elegant Madeira-glazed black cod, though haunting MacFarlane Farms pheasant with roasted chestnuts is a necessity, too. Then again, we pray to find his ravioli wrapping a bursting, locally raised yolk—while Lewis’s winter version of signature “roots, shoots, fruits & leaves” features tangy goat cheese, medjool dates, almond oil, and ice-wine vinaigrette. Now if I could only lift my fork while gazing into Gere’s eyes...
583 Warburton Ave, Hastings-on-Hudson
Comfort’s chef/owner, John Halko, has the luxury of knowing his customer base. His first Westchester business—the wildly-popular, original, mostly takeout Comfort—earned him the loyalty of Rivertown families, who found reasonably priced fast food prepared with organic ingredients. Within a few months, his Asian-spiced chicken had supplanted even pizza delivery as the pinch meal of choice, though a phone-booth space made lingering at Comfort un-comfortable, as did an absent liquor license and bathroom.
Halko’s urbane new digs across the street sports a full bar and bathrooms, plus a slew of new dishes designed for enjoying in “little-c” comfort. Alongside the familiar standards (like Comfort’s addictive rotisserie chicken), look for deep, warming bowls of Thai-style shrimp curry, in which snappy, perfectly cooked shrimp bask in deep lakes of lemongrass-scented sauce. In fact, you’ll find that everything in this stylish, family-friendly eatery—from organic burgers, steaks, and pastas to loads of gluten-free and vegetarian dishes—offers loving consolation when home cupboards are bare. Plus, at Comfort, takeout is still offered (and used)—but now home delivery is a bonus for locals.
115 Cedar St, New Rochelle
This gorgeous former plastics factory has been reborn as a Puerto Rican restaurant, where dancing, drinking, and dining mix with perfect ease. Gone are the dark colors and heavy moldings that marked its iteration as MacMenamin’s Grill. Instead, you’ll find stark brick walls and billowing white curtains: the space’s loft-like glamour is restored.
Fans from the Bronx to Connecticut come for Don Coqui’s inclusive, happy vibe, which includes massive servings of homey Puerto Rican standards, like slow-cooked pork pernil served with pigeon pea rice and tostones, or hanger steak churrasco paired with black bean rice and tangy, garlicky chimichurri. They wash it all down with potent mojitos, and when their heads start to spin, they sweat it out on the dance floor to the strains of “It’s Raining Men.”
A table at The Cookery is a no-thrills affair—until the food arrives
39 Chestnut St, Dobbs Ferry
So much about Italian food—its reverence for fresh ingredients and lack of pretension—is exemplified in The Cookery’s no-nonsense dining room. You’ll find no linen tablecloths and no regiments of glasses—only napkins made from dishtowels, and waiters who wear mechanics’ uniforms. The no-frills approach speaks volumes in restaurant-ese: this little restaurant is all about its kitchen.
The Cookery’s sumptuous appetizer of grilled housemade scamorza with tomato jam and baby lettuces ($7). The dishtowel? Evidence of The Cookery’s no-nonsense approach to dining.
Look for robust regional dishes executed with finesse, including divine house-made pastas, gutsy house-ground sausages, and fish so perfect (like dorade with fennel and borlotti beans) you’ll think it swam down from heaven—via Italy. In fact, it’s a little sickening, but Chef Dave DiBari’s great at meats, too. We can’t wait for his jubilantly carnal marrowbones stuffed with pork cheeks and breadcrumbs—DiBari quips that this on-trend February special was inspired by stuffed clams.
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napolitana
1955 Central Ave, Yonkers
Sacrilege! Pepe’s august 1925 pizzeria—the anchor of New Haven’s fabled Wooster Street—has come down to Yonkers to challenge the Great Pies of New York. Can it beat Tarry Lodge, or even Totonno—or is Connecticut pizza coming to Yonkers akin to bringing coals to Newcastle?
We’re not going to detonate that particular bomb, but we will confess our addiction to Pepe, whose twin coal-fired behemoths crank out some of the best clam pies south of Norwalk. Imagine yeasty, slightly charred rounds holding lavish beds of juicy topneck clams, whose briny, sea-side punch is punctuated by salty Romano cheese and sliced garlic. And don’t judge us on this one—after all, addiction is a sickness—we love these pies paired with liter after liter of artificially-flavored Foxon Park birch beer, brewed in East Haven, Connecticut, but always available at Pepe.
Lolita Cocina and Tequila Bar
230 Mill St, Byram, CT
Look for a table-side tequila cart at this urbane, bi-level party place, where a cozy outdoor terrace overlooks projected silent, captioned films. Inside, ranks of votives glimmer, reflected in old, shimmering mirrors, making this chic, clubby restaurant as tough/cool as a Sergio Leone flick.
But with a serious Mexican kitchen headed by ex-El Teddy’s Juan Manuel Reyes, Lolita’s doesn’t stop at margaritas but boasts a sophisticated take on South of the Border. Look for barbecued spare ribs and masa-dusted fried oysters (paired with chili-spiked masa and chipotle crema), as well as blackened grouper tacos served with jicama slaw and pepitas. We don’t know about you, but it all looks delicious—and we’re already whistling the theme from Fistful of Dollars.
Through the glass doorway, adjacent to The Gap on South Moger, you’ll find the vivid green-walled interior of NEO.
NEO World Bistro and Sushi Bar
69 S Moger St, Mount Kisco
Evoking the futurist hero of The Matrix and the bounty of the new world, this serene, subterranean space spins Asian fusion with a twist. Instead of endless loops around the Orient, Chef Sianto Njotoatmodjo’s (formerly of Thornwood’s ACE) sails west—hitting Europe and even Mexico for an inclusive culinary embrace.
NEO World Bistro’s bibimbap is a fiery Korean treasure.
Look for sushi tortillas to start, piled with tuna, salmon, yellowtail, cilantro, and guacamole, or dip into soothing aioli-slicked bouillabaisse or Parmigiano-dusted seafood risotto. Inventive, super-fresh sushi is always a winner, though these days we’re craving heat. We wrap ourselves around radiantly-hot stone bowls of Korean bibimbap, spiked with pleasant, sinus-clearing fire.
222 E Main St, Mount Kisco
This vast downtown space with pressed-tin ceilings and a glittering bar found a comfortable little niche in the dense dining Mecca of Mount Kisco. F.A.B. offers satisfying Gallic comfort food, all day and all night, ideal for breakfasts of omelets and croissants and late dinners of wine and coq au vin.
But F.A.B. is short for French American Bistro, so diners can expect a crowd-pleasing mix—which runs from burgers, fish, and pastas to the more traditional French standards. We don’t know where it falls on the Franco-Italian spectrum, but we love F.A.B.’s falling-off-the-bone lamb shank. It comes with creamy polenta, roasted Brussels sprouts, and a sweetly figgy gastrique. Call us suckers for Henry-the-Eighth sized haunches, but—deep in the dark of February—this leg feels as primally satisfying as an evening spent tucked up near a blazing fire.
Emma’s Ale House
68 Gedney Way, White Plains
This White Plains Irish/American pub (which took its space from Sunset Grille) manages the delicate balance between bar and sit-down tables; it offers enough party hubbub to welcome a little tippling, yet eaters won’t feel like they’re slumming in a poorly-lit, grungy bar.
Emma’s classic pub menu is also meant to please, offering burgers, sandwiches, stews and steaks—the perfect excuse for beer and cones of fries. Our favorite midnight snack (which is also available at lunch) is a melting lamb confit sandwich served with roasted tomatoes and basil mayo. Like the best sandwiches, it offers a complete meal in a single bite, conjuring Sunday roast legs of lamb served by your loving Irish nana.
128 Cortlandt St, Sleepy Hollow
Sleepy Hollow’s tidy, little Thai eatery has a pretty aggressive hand with the citrus, which is really welcome with all that palate-coating coconut milk. While we love a tart and mushroomy tom ka gai (so perfect in the dead of winter), we’re devoted to Tyrynda’s lamb massaman, which offers a dizzying dip into luxury. Imagine nearly creamy lamb shanks, slow-cooked in heady, fragrant massaman curry, punctuated by lush, ripe avocado chunks and the satisfying crunch of cashews.
Solmar specializes in soulful Brazilian dishes—especially seafood.
12 W Main St, Tarrytown
This tiny Brazilian/Portuguese restaurant offers only a few tables—but its teeny kitchen spins flavors as big and sunny as geographies that inspired it. Look for soulful Portuguese traditions—like caldo verde and codfish fritters—mixed with some of Brazil’s most famous dishes, including a reverent feijoada. This national dish of Brazil is a meat-y/bean-y/sausage-y porridge so intensely full of ju-ju that it’s singlehandedly responsible for Gisele Bündchen.
One of Solmar’s signature plates—penne with shrimp and scallops in a cachaça (fermented sugarcane liquor) sauce.
Beans and churrasco aside, the real story at Solmar is seafood, all of which exemplifies this joint’s Portuguese name (“sol” means “sun” and “mar” means “sea”). Look for sunny Mediterranean favorites like lemony grilled sardines and filets of trout—the last served with a tart caper sauce that would be equally home on the Côte d’Azur. (See full review, page 104)
Café of Love
38 E Main St, Mount Kisco
Look for lavish portions and one-third bottle pours, which make this convivial Mount Kisco hotspot so popular, that by 7 pm on Friday, its windows are completely fogged by the crowd. But the mob standing three-deep at the marble bar isn’t complaining too loudly—not with gratis bar snacks like warm blue potato chips and a long buffet of tasty freebies (like wheels of cheddar, bread, olives, and yummy dips). This spread offering does double duty by mollifying the wait and soaking up all that vino—plus it’s great to have something to munch on while chatting with your neighbor.
Of course, owner Leslie Lampert’s hospitality isn’t limited to managing a happy bar. Café of Love’s hearty, crowd-pleasing menu offers serious rewards for determined waits, including Westchester’s plushest comestible, black truffle salsify soup. It’s velvet heaven in a spoon, and deserving of your abstention from nibbles—though Lampert’s Parmesan-crusted chickpea fries are also a never-miss bite. And after rich and hearty mains (not to mention all that wine), the wise save a little room for homey, croissant bread puddings which feel Lampert’s hug in a warm, smooth bite.
The interior of Bistro Rollin.
142 5th Ave, Pelham
Classic bistro fare greets pilgrims to this Pelham newcomer, which is decorated by thickets of potted herbs and swathed in cozy, dark paneling. You’ll find all of your Gallic favorites here, including deep bowls of winey moules-frites—though burgers and steaks wait for those with less-than-Francophilic taste.
Mais bien sur. At a French bistro, e.g., Bistro Rollin, go for that classic dish, steak with peppercorns and—what else—frites.
Top dishes are Bistro Rollin’s well-balanced frisée salad, where a soft poached egg combines with vinaigrette for the perfect dressing—though its bacon lardons clearly help (and crisp, tiny croutons never hurt). Also great is a silken tuna tartare, where the satiny fish is punctuated by sparkling capers and sherry vinegar—and we found that great desserts can make up for BR’s iffy service (we loved teasingly bitter crème caramel).
Frankie and Fanucci’s Wood Oven Pizzeria
202 E Hartsdale Ave, Hartsdale
This neighborhood pizzeria occupies the space previously inhabited by the much-lamented Lia’s, and—thanks to a pre-existing wood-fired oven—cranks some of Westchester’s favorite pies. Look for a thin, Neapolitan crust studded with soft, white fior de latte cheese, crisped in a rocket-hot 800°F oven until perfect—charred, bubbling, and lightly wood-scented.
And the folks at Frankie and Fanucci’s don’t waste that precious fuel between pies. Look for wood-baked little clams stuffed with breadcrumbs, as well as crisp panini of wood-roasted chicken.
Turkish Cuisine of Westchester
116 Mamaroneck Ave, White Plains
Sure, you late-night revelers can stick with your nasty burgers and slices—but we know where we’re going to be after our next long night on the town. This small Mamaroneck Avenue Turkish restaurant offers greaseless, fluffy felafels—which make the perfect drinking snack paired with samplers of pita-paired dips—until 3 am on weekends. Though we confess, we’ll stop here at any time for kebabs and buttery baba ghanoush, hummus, and lebni.
Shiraz’s interior may be ho-hum. but the Persian fare is anything but.
81 E Main St, Elmsford
This stellar Persian restaurant in Elmsford won a three-star rave from this magazine’s reviewers Marge Perry and David Bonom, who note that its nondescript digs hide a seriously fabulous kitchen. Hits include smoky, chunky, kashk-e-bademjan, an eggplant dip topped with a big pile of caramelized shallots, and an unforgettable boorani-e-spinach—garlicky sautéed spinach capped by fantastically rich homemade yogurt.
Shiraz’s moist Cornish hen kebab is served with barberry rice.
If you can survive past the starters—most are rich dips served with buttery naans—mains stress stick-to-the-ribs kebabs, and come with barberry rice. Look for chunks of Cornish hen on the bone, and flavor-soaked filet mignon—though moist chicken-breast kebabs are fabulous, thanks to saffron and other spices. P.S.: If you dare to try to pronounce it, don’t miss the koobideh—it’s a spiced ground-meat kebab as mouthwatering as the menu describes.
Black Cat Café
45 Main St, Irvington
Fair-trade coffee and healthy, seasonal fare set this cozy Wi-Fi enabled space apart from Starbucks saturation; its 19 seats are often filled with locals who come for tasty wraps, panini, and fabulous quiches. Expect loads of nutritious soups, like Black Cat’s signature velvet mushroom and fortifying carrot, ginger and artichoke—but, sadly, the crowd often lingers through coffee and dessert, which are baked in-house by Chef Emily Feliciano. Come early for a seat (this mostly-lunch spot closes down at six or eight, depending on the night)—though many savvy scenesters simply drop by the counter for healthy take-home dinners.
Melt Sandwich Shop
277 Mamaroneck Ave, White Plains
The swiftly moving line says it all at this lunch-centric Mamaroneck Avenue sandwich shop, where 1 pm means a queue that can snake right out the door. They’re here for gooey pressed sandwiches made from house-roasted and brined meats (including Cuban pork, porchetta, and pastrami), which get slapped onto tasty breads and then showered with blankets of cheese. After a thorough hot pressing, the paper-wrapped perfection is delivered piping hot—and we defy you not to crack this sucker open within 45 seconds of plonking down your bills. Our favorite? A lush Reuben made with house-corned and brined beef, where the tart sting of sauerkraut and pickles is softened by the lush whiteness of melted Swiss.
Photography by Andre Baranowski
Julia Sexton, omnivore, is a restaurant critic, food writer, and blogger (check out Eater at westchestermagazine.com). Her ideal, multi-course meal is resplendent with Champagne, oysters, salumi, and marrowbones...yet still gets her home in time to watch Mad Men.