Reclaiming the River: EATER’s Respectful Thanks to The Chart House and the Hudson River’s Polluting Industries

When we heard that the Chart House was shuttering its tacky, nautical-themed doors (to be re-opened by the team behind Harvest-on-Hudson), it set us to thinking: we actually owe our thanks to the Chart House. Until Harvest-on-Hudson opened in 2000, the Chart House was Westchester’s premier riverfront restaurant. When Harvest’s site was a still Robison Oil truck depot and X20’s luxe premises were still the derelict Yonkers Recreation Pier, the Chart House was proving that the Hudson waterfront was viable for a large, successful, ambitiously-priced restaurant. At the time, this was by no means a foregone conclusion.

Now we revere the Hudson waterfront for its stellar views of Manhattan, the Palisades and the Tappan Zee Bridge, but its primary use (until recently) was for Westchester industry. Think of Sleepy Hollow’s General Motors, Irvington’s Lord and Burnham greenhouse factory, etc., etc. The river’s value was in its quick and easy transportation (to Manhattan, the Atlantic and the rest of America through the Erie Canal), and its ability to carry away waste — certainly a reductive way to view the mighty Hudson, but not at all unusual in the development of this country. Traditionally, our nation’s poorest residents lived on riverfronts, along with untreated sewage, manufacturing stench, pollution, and noisy, disruptive shipping traffic. There’s a reason that the Metro-North Hudson Line has such fabulous views – the loud trains were ghettoized to the riverbank along with the rest of our County’s undesirable activity.

While it’s sad to see manufacturing jobs leave the County (and turn into fewer opportunities in restaurant work), we’re happy to reclaim the Hudson for our enjoyment. And now that they’re gone, it turns out that we need to thank those factories, too. After all, if it weren’t for stink-pot industry, the Hudson shores might have been snapped up by wealthy homebuilders like Westchester’s non-industrialized Sound shore. Currently, most of the Sound shore is in private hands and there’s very little chance of new waterview restaurants being built. (The exception is the wonderful F.I.S.H., actually reclaimed from the semi-industrial shores of the Byram River).

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So here’s thanks to the twin scourges of The Chart House and Hudson River industry. Without you, we wouldn’t have Westchester’s reclaimed riverfront dining scene.

Harvest-on-Hudson was sited on a Robison Oil truck depot. The lush gardens currently gracing Harvest’s frontage are planted in soil that had to be trucked in—a good thing, too, since Harvest actually serves the herbs and veggies that it grows.

Red Hat on the River and One are located in the redeveloped Lord and Burnham greenhouse factory. The thoughtfully repurposed site is stunning, with several reclaimed industrial buildings (now used for upscale housing, a gym, etc.); old, patina-ed brick; and exterior hoists and pulleys. The complex is reminiscent of the recently repurposed Thames-side industrial and warehouse areas of London—like Vinopolis in the formerly industrial bankside of Southwark and the chic restaurants of Rotherhithe. Red Hat’s riverside patio seats what looks like hundreds, while a rooftop deck promises loungy drinking and stellar dining views, slated for opening this spring

Monteverde at Oldstone Manor. Who’d have thought that this moribund (and by all reports, decrepit) “Continental” restaurant and former Knickerbocker manor house, located just perpendicular to Indian Point Nuclear Reactor (which is oh-so-carefully planted out of views), would ever become cool? Richard Friedberg did, that’s who. He took a seriously iffy proposition and made Monteverde one of the hottest restaurants in Westchester, thanks to hotshot Chef Neil Ferguson.

X2O. Constructed in 1900 as a stop for day liners steaming up the Hudson, the Yonkers Recreation Pier soon fell on hard times and stayed there. The open steel structure, defaced by an ugly sign stating (rather obviously), “Yonkers”, was neither joyful nor pretty—and rather than attracting pleasure seekers, it served more as a magnet for miscreants. For a peek at what the site looked like before Chef Peter Kelly took up residence (and spent wads of money), check out the Philipse Manor Hall folks’ virtual tour of downtown Yonkers.

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Harvest-on-?. (AKA the former Chart House) Who hasn’t been to the Chart House for one reason or another? For years, The Chart House was the sole upscale restaurant to actually celebrate the Hudson’s banks with grand riverside dining and views. The bad news? It was a Chart House, a corporately-owned chain-store. (For details of Harvest’s plans, see EATER’s “Buzz Buzz Buzz“, January 2.) The changeover is a mark of the re-hipping of Westchester’s waterfront: we’re losing a run-of-the-mill chain outlet and gaining a genuine, ambitious restaurant. The even better news is that the new restaurant promises to serve at a lower price point than any of the other reclaimed riverside restaurants, making it a spot for stellar views at everyday prices.

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