Larchmont Tavern vs. Rye Grill and Bar, Stone Barns Harvest Fest 2010, and Personal Day Indulgence at Black Cat Café

Smackdown

Sound Shore, Family-Friendly: Rye Bar and Grill vs. Larchmont Tavern



It sounds oxymoronic — family-friendly bar and grill — but just check out the 6pm dinner slot at these two local hangouts. Moms, dads, kiddies, and grandparents, all celebrating a break from the kitchen table, tucking into classic tavern fare served with (for the adults) a well-earned cocktail.

Larchmont Tavern and The Rye Grill & Bar are both recently revamped Sound Shore standards. Both have served generations of loyal customers, and each promises open arms to parents toting kiddies. In today’s Eater, we’re doing a smackdown between these two locally embedded hangs: Which family favorite works better for a couple toting an energetic three-year-old?

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The Rye Grill & Bar During its renovation two years ago, Rye Grill went from modestly scaled to massive. Now, its tri-level, 14,000-square-foot digs can seat up to 200 diners. Recently, this Pearl Restaurant Group standard, which is located steps from the Rye Metro-North station, was named one of OpenTable’s top 50 US kid-friendly restaurants.

Pros: In this case, size matters. Parents of noisy children can ask to be seated in the louder, golf-themed downstairs dining room; similarly, diners seeking to avoid noisy kids can ask to dine in the quieter, maritime-themed upstairs room. With its paneling and golf and boating themes, Rye Grill’s décor can feel campily Lovey and Thurson Howell III – but given the usual, sticky-table TGIWhatever shtick, Rye Grill’s upscale pretensions come as a relief (and fireplaces are always nice). Also, its size means that, at Rye Grill, families rarely have to wait for tables – a huge bonus for tired parents trying to juggle a toddler. Plus, a roomier dining room means more space between tables.

Though devoid of a specific kids’ menu, Rye Grill’s menu is democratic enough to offer something for everyone – kids can tuck into milk and $9 pizza margherita while Granddad kicks it with bourbon and a $32 steak. Also look for quesadillas, wraps and burgers, seafood, sliders, salads, and wings to round out the spread – even better, there’s a roomy wine, beer, and cocktail selection for parents struggling with shattered nerves.

Cons: During early dining hours (sadly, common for those with small kids), Rye’s train station parking can be tight to nonexistent. Though we’re not fans of children’s menus, which offer the worst emissions of freezers and Frialators, we do quail at paying full price for a barely touched adult-sized entree. Aside from high chairs and lidded and strawed water cups, Rye Grill offers no real concessions to children — though its staff are considerate, and our server hot-footed a side of mac ‘n cheese to our hungry daughter before we placed our own order.  

Larchmont Tavern has been in the same spot, though under different ownership, since 1933. It’s such an ingrained part of Larchmont that it’s practically City Hall. A popular drinking spot at night, LT’s early dinners and brunch are huge with families and kids. Expect to see everyone you know, whether that’s good, bad, or indifferent.

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Pros: The LT is smaller and has fewer pretensions than its Rye counterpart, which may feel more welcoming to parents dreading a rambunctious child’s behavior in a dressy spot. (LT’s de rigueur sport-themed décor says it all: democratic baseball rather than Rye Grill’s elitist golf and yachting.) Given their practice, LT’s servers can intuit the concerns of parents (with high chairs appearing as if by magic), but the clincher for this particular family was that LT’s kids’ menu comes Velcroed to the back of an Etch A Sketch. Rye Grill’s OpenTable award or not, this meant Game Over for this smackdown. Our daughter contentedly banged and fiddled with her Etch A Sketch throughout an (almost) leisurely meal.

Cons: Etch A Sketch aside, the LT’s small dining room means that tables are packed close together. This means that other diners will overhear your child, and potentially lie within a missile’s reach. Also, understandably (given its size), LT’s actual table surfaces can be tight. It’s difficult to keep cutlery, water glasses and hot foods out your smaller kids’ reach. On the other hand, small tables mean that errant kids are within reach of every adult at the table. LT’s popularity and small size also mean that there’s the potential risk of table waits.

Winner: Both had real (and amazingly different) advantages, and families should think about their own specific needs before picking a destination, but for this particular threesome, Team Etch a Sketch is the winner. Though less upscale than Rye Grill (and, sadly, with a much less seductive drink program), we felt that LT had more consistently anticipated the needs of our young family. We’ll be returning soon, and maybe apologizing to close dining neighbors for errant missiles – though, given LT’s popularity with young families, they probably expect that sort of thing, anyway.

Fall Back into Fall

Even though it’s still technically summer, planning these fall events will get you in the mood for autumn.

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Harvest Fest 2010 at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture (October 2, 10am – 3pm) This annual Stone Barns hoe-down promises to be its best festival ever, offering “festivities for the whole family, including include live music, farm market, hayrides and games.”  Tickets cost $30 for adults, $20 for ages 6-14 and $10 for ages 2-5, while food must be purchased separately from vendors with (presumably) loads more cash. Vendors at this year’s festival will include:

* Balthazar Bakery: pastries, breads, tarts, and cookies
* Bark Hot Dogs: hot dogs, sausages
* BobbySue’s Nuts: baked nut mixes
* Brooklyn Soda Works: handmade artisanal sodas
* Captain Lawrence Brewing Company: craft beer and ale
* Chipotle Mexican Grill: pork, chicken, and vegetarian tacos
* Connie’s Bakery: candy apples, muffins and cookies
* Flourish Baking Company: vegetable-filled pies
* Irving Farm Coffee: farm roasted coffee
* Ladle of Love: soups, stews and mac ‘n cheese
* Luke’s Lobster: lobster rolls
* Mast Brothers Chocolate: gourmet chocolate bars
* Murray’s Cheese: selection of cheeses
* Pickle-licious: New York- style pickles
* Red Barn Bakery: cookies, pies and savory tarts
* Stone Barns/Blue Hill at Stone Barns: pork sandwiches and grass fed-beef chili
* Van Leeuwen Ice Cream: ice cream with homemade toppings
* Whole Foods Market: highlights of New York State

Farm Sanctuary’s “Compassionate Thanksgiving” adopt-a-turkey program ($25, exclusive of its natural lifetime of turkey feed) Does your heart break every time you pass that stuffed Butterball freezer case? Why not take some of those doomed poultry home to live with you as pets?  Though neither cute nor cuddly, and possessed of nearly epic stupidity, turkeys are thought to make a pleasant cooing sound when heard from afar. And that’s the best I can say in their defense.

Personal Day at Black Cat Café




Ever have one of those personal eating experiences that make you glad that you don’t have to share it? When dining alone is not lonely, and you’re very happy to be relieved of conversation? If you need a vacation from your summer vacation, then step into Black Cat Café for a quiet lunch. Irvington’s tiny haven is perfect for solitary lunching, and filled with other singletons tapping on laptops or staring into space. Try quarter-quiche servings from either of these tortilla-crusted beauties, which come with a fresh side salad and plenty of solitude.

On right, mushroom, double-smoked bacon, Vermont cheddar, pepper Jack, Swiss, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Fontina; on left, garden vegetable with mushrooms, spinach, arugula, cheeses, and herbs.

 

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