Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway, Part 2: Dan Rooney's

Andrea’s 25 North, Dan Rooney’s, and some of the best food as reviewed by Westchester Magazine and Leslie-Anne Brill.

First Taste: Dan Rooney’s

Hey buddy, wanna go to a great Irish sports pub? Meet me at Dan Rooney’s, in the casino at Yonkers Raceway. Yeah, Yonkers Raceway. Nah, it’s not hard to get to, after you ask directions once or twice. They got a huge expansion and built this dramatic glass entranceway that stands out from the street and classes up the joint. When you walk in, Rooney’s is on your right.

Oh. You’re not keen on going to a pub when the new Ducasse restaurant, Pinch, just opened upstairs? Tough luck—we’ve been there, and I’m takin’ you to the other new place tonight. It has a history: the Rooneys took over the Raceway in 1972 and have maintained harness racing even as casino gambling has taken over, and Dan Rooney? That would be the owner’s grandfather, who ran a Pittsburgh speakeasy in the 1900s.

What are we gonna eat? Well: turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce. Yes, in summer. Wait, where are you going? Trust me on this.                                          

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Can you watch the game? Are you kidding? Thirty-five flat-screen TVs show every game you can think of, and—get this—each booth has its own TV. There’s also a late-night happy hour with dueling pianos. The place is modeled after the old speakeasy, with a “train car” dining room that has “snugs” (booths) with curtains we can draw closed.

What are we gonna drink? Beer or whiskey, of course. They have 12 beers on tap versus Pinch’s 100, but Pinch has only New York beers—here’s where you’re gonna find your Guinness, your Bass, and a changing selection of unusual high-mileage beers. But if you want local, these people have Yonkers Brewing Company making beer just for them: a floral IPA (my personal choice) and honey blonde ale. Details are on an iPad menu, and their growler would make a nice souvenir.

Irish pub food you can get at many places, but not like this. It’s as if the cook were a Michelin-starred, James Beard Award–winning chef, like Chef Christopher Lee. Wait untill you taste his corned beef and cabbage, braised until spoon tender, with potatoes cooked under rotisserie drippings and a mustard sauce you’ll want even more of. Ads in the casino brag about the award-winning burger, and it is great, but what I fell for was the rotisserie stuff, including the above-mentioned turkey. This Thanksgiving on toast, piled with turkey, sausage stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, and haricots verts, with country gravy, is all you could want any time of year. And there’s this impressive roast chicken, served on a board with hash, greens, and your choice of sauce.


You want fish? I’m gonna get the blackened salmon again. It sits on a bed of white corn grits with asparagus and smoked paprika oil, under a melting pat of scallion butter. Fish and chips is good, maybe a bit greasy. Bangers and mash contains delicately flavored homemade pork and parsley sausage with a Guinness sauce that again, you’ll want more. Or try the candied smoked bacon. I can’t taste the Guinness in the onion rings, but whatever—First Tastes aren’t critical reviews, and we’re not here to judge, just to eat. For dessert, I like the apple pie à la mode.

Before we leave, let’s check out their live pari-mutuel betting cage, then take the winding stairs up to the bowling lounge, Alley 810. (You can hear people making strikes up there…drinking game?) And while we’re on the second floor, we’ll take in the spectacular Raceway view. We don’t have to go to the casino—we’re by the door—well, all right. You can try to explain the games to me again. If I win, I’m paying for my dinner.

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White Plains International Food and Jazz Festival
September 8, 11:30 to 5:00 pm

This third day of the White Plains Jazz Fest offers a lineup of musical greats, including Grammy nominees Gil Parris and (ex-Yankee) Bernie Williams. And while you’re getting an earful of that, enjoy the local hot spots that’ll be out there selling food, including Elements, Vintage, The Iron Shaker, The Iron Tomato, Turkish Cuisine, Sofrito, The Melting Pot, and Buffalo Wild Wings. The fun takes place on Mamaroneck Avenue between Main Street and Martine; for the performance schedule and an updated list of restaurants, check the website.


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Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Egg Rolls at Andrea’s 25 North

At this brand-new offshoot of two upscale Italian restaurants on Long Island, you might expect to find favorites such as linguine with clam sauce and chicken Milanese…but egg rolls? Yes—broccoli rabe and sausage egg rolls, to be exact, and what a great idea. A well-seasoned mixture of ground sausage and chopped broccoli rabe in traditional egg roll wrappers emerges from the kitchen sans excess oil and cut lengthwise, on a bed of mixed greens, with a spicy cherry pepper marmalade. For a peek at how this delicious starter is made, there’s even a video.


Hot Sauces and Spice Rubs at Beer Necessities

What do Vicious Viper, Biker Bitch, and Liquid Stoopid have in common? No, they’re not characters in the latest superhero movie, they’re among the multitude of hot sauces on the shelves at Beer Necessities, where you already know you can fill your growler with well-chosen craft beer. And if you’re planning to fire up the grill, know that they also sell many interesting spice rubs, like Rub with Love’s Exotic Mushroom Rub and Char Crust Java Buzz. I’m looking forward to showing up at a barbeque with some crazy bottles of hot sauce for the host (as an excuse to try as many as possible).


Sizzlin’ Firefighters’ Barbecue—in Your Backyard!

We hear from Larchmont Dish that local firemen will come to your home and prepare a barbecue. Let us ponder this for a moment. From the site: “Members of the Larchmont Historical Fire Company, dressed in full uniform and accompanied by Engine One and a 1910 Chief’s Car, provide this one of a kind experience. You and your guests will enjoy spicy barbecued flank steak, lemon ginger marinated salmon and a custom dessert accompanied by a craft beer tasting. There’s even entertainment as the firemen re-enact a fire inspection and give tours of the mobile fire museum. Suffice to say, you’ll be the talk of the neighborhood!” Proceeds benefit the continued existence of Engine One; more info here.

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