News from the Frontlines

Well, folks, the news is bad and getting worse in the restaurant industry, where Westchester’s sulking, shell-shocked diners are sitting home and licking their financial wounds instead of eating out on the town. This spells doom for a lot of local spots, who endured a lackluster holiday season followed by a soul-sucking January and early February – and they can’t run at a loss much longer. According to Chef Phil McGrath of Iron Horse Grill www.ironhorsegrill.com, who just earned a well-deserved “Excellent” in the currently “Excellent”-happy NY Times, at least 20% of our local restaurants will go belly up in the next few months.

Now, McGrath’s okay over there in Pleasantville, but he echoed something that I’ve been hearing all over—people are being stingier with their wine purchases. So, instead of habitually plonking down a solid $100 or $200 for a good bottle of wine, they’re drowning their sorrows in a couple of $12 by-the-glass picks or a single Johnny Walker Blue. And, as we all know, profit margins on food are slim and restaurants need, need, need for their diners to catch a buzz – preferably from back of the book wine purchases.

And then there’s the tragic buzz that one of the cutest restaurant nexuses in Westchester — the re-developed Lord and Burnham Factory in Irvington – has not been drawing the predicted crowds to justify massive construction repurposing expenses. According to local sources (and totally denied by One’s ownership) Restaurant One  is up for sale after a dizzying couple of years of chef-o-rama. We spoke with Owner Bobby Manzi and he was dismayed by rumors, stating only that One was making some changes to cope with the current economic climate. Then there is the (unconfirmed) buzz that Red Hat on the River  – which has one of our most gorgeous settings, right on the Hudson’s banks, with a rooftop deck and inviting riverside seating – is in trouble. To be honest, we sympathize – it was a tough moment to go from a modestly-scaled spot on Main Street, to a new joint three times the size. And I’m sure we’re not the only ones who want to sit for hours on a summer night nursing one of those Hendrick’s martinis with cucumber, taking up real estate that a bigger spender might use.

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But there we go again, drinking those $12 cocktails, when we know we must do our part and order bottles of pricey wine…

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