Introducing The Top 10, where our favorite food-obsessed Westchesterites share the dishes and drinks they can’t get enough of.
Rob Petrone may not be a Westchester resident, but after hosting and producing Restaurant Hunter’s nearly 150 episodes in Westchester and the Hudson Valley, he knows the county’s dining scene better than most.
The shuttering of Fios1 News in November also meant the end of Restaurant Hunter, but Petrone isn’t ready to leave food commentary behind. Earlier this month, he launched Hot Takes on a Plate, a new podcast with the Bleav network. “I’ve been wanting to do a podcast for a few years now, but with the show, I just had too much going on,” says Petrone. “The premise [of the podcast] is capturing that feeling of the conversations I have with my culinary world friends and chefs off camera. We’ll get into these little mini debates about different things.” Each conversation ends with a related dining tip from Petrone to fit the week’s theme, whether that’s burgers or movie snacks. (Check out the latest installment on pizza below.)
“It was sad [when Restaurant Hunter ended]. I loved doing that show, and I loved my team. But, I also understand that these things don’t last forever,” says Petrone. While it was tough on a lot of fronts, I am looking forward to new opportunities and to seeing what can come from this.”
Gearing up for this week’s podcast? Whet your appetite with Petrone’s 10 favorite Westchester bites below.
Sopa de Tortilla at Mariachi Mexico
405 Main St, Armonk; 914.273.6805
Mariachi Mexico is like Mexican grandmother cooking if grandma shopped at the farmers’ market. This soup, it’s like if the best chicken soup had a baby with the brightest tomatillo salsa. It’s so comforting; it’s so bright. They make their own tortillas.
Bulgogi Fries at Hapa at Decadent Ales
139 Hoyt Ave, Ste A, Mamaroneck; 914.848.4060
It’s a great shareable appetizer. They take brisket that’s marinated in kalbi sauce, and then they top it with Manchego cheese. It’s just this soy-ginger punch in the face. It’s savory; it’s an umami bomb. It pairs really well with the sweet beers they have on tap at Decadent Ales. On the last day of Fios1 News, me and the rest of the Restaurant Hunter staff had our last get together at Decadent Ales, and we all shared the bulgogi fries and were raving about them.
Arugula Salad at Fortina
17 Maple Ave, Armonk; 914.273.0900
136 S Ridge St, Rye Brook; 914.937.0900
1086 N Broadway, Yonkers; 914.358.3595
Everybody thinks of the pizzas and pastas, but in my opinion the best things to order at Fortina are vegetables, whether it’s the wood-fired vegetables or their salads. The arugula salad is simple, yet it’s perfect. I think Christian Petroni might sneak some honey into his lemon dressing. It’s acidic, yet it’s a little sweet. He’s got this big ol’ blast of Parm that he puts on it. He also works in pistachios, which are my favorite nuts. It’s got everything. It’s sweet, acidic, peppery, bitter, nutty, salty, savory — all in one salad.
Any Bowl at Dig
112 S Ridge St, Rye Brook; 914.305.8463
When I worked at Restaurant Hunter, our office was in Rye Brook, When I could sneak out of the office, this was my lunch of choice. It’s a great value. It’s well executed; it’ll fill you up without weighing you down. I would usually get the vegan kale Caesar. It’s my favorite kale salad — one of the only ones I actually enjoy because I think kale is a little overrated. I don’t usually order chicken breast when I go places. They’re usually kind of dry and boring, but [Dig] has a really good chicken breast. It’s never dry and it tastes like chicken should. The seasonal sides are all fantastic.
Plain Pie at Johnny’s Pizzeria
30 W Lincoln Ave, Mount Vernon; 914.669.1957
It defies logic how thin and crunchy it is. I love how they ladle the sauce on top of the cheese. I love the old school charm. When people ask me who has the best pizza in Westchester, my answer is usually Johnny’s because there’s just not a whole lot like it.
Grilled Pizza at Coals
35 N Main St, Port Chester; 914.305.3220
131 Parkway Rd, Bronxville; 914.337.1901
Another pizza that defies logic for its thinness, it might be the thinnest pizza you can find anywhere. The dough actually sits in olive oil before going on the grill, so it essentially fries up. It’s got those great, smoky grill marks. When it comes out, it looks huge, like something you’re going to want to share with a bunch of people, but you could literally polish off an entire pie on your own because it’s just that light.
D.I.Y. Summer Rolls at Vietnam’s Central
694 Central Ave, Scarsdale; 914.723.7222
I think it’s just a cool thing to get to assemble your own food, especially if you have kids. Kids love doing that. They give you the rice paper, some warm water to dip the rice paper in to make it pliable, and then you can add broiled pork, fried shrimp, [green] mango, pickled daikon, cucumber, bean sprouts, mixed greens. When you combine all that stuff and wrap it up, it’s just such a balanced bite. You get freshness, you get savory elements, and you’re having fun.
Dry-Aged Minute Steak at Eugene’s Diner & Bar
112 N Main St, Port Chester; 914.481.5529
Eugene’s is a place known for Instagrammable food, and this is not that. But, I think it may be the sleeper of the menu. David DiBari is taking that cheap, easy thing you grew up eating — the minute steak — and he’s elevating it so you’re getting dry-aged funk like you would get at a high-end steakhouse, but at a fraction of the cost. He serves it with this amazing horseradish crème fraiche that just complements it so perfectly.
Custard Corncake at Revenge BBQ
48 Main St, Irvington; 914.674.4848
It is the sleeper thing there. I love their barbecue. I think Revenge might be the best barbecue in all of New York State, including the city. Everybody knows the brisket, but don’t sleep on [the corncake]. It plays like corn bibingka, which is a Filipino dish, because it’s custardy cornbread. It’s almost like dessert. When you get that sweet element with the hearty, savory, salty meat, it’s a perfect marriage.
Over the Rainbow Milkshake at Bona Bona Ice Cream
10 Westchester Ave, Port Chester; 914.481.5712
This was my guilty, drive-home-from-work pleasure. Once every couple of months, when I would leave the TV station, I would swing by Bona Bona and I’d get one of these for the car ride home. It’s thick, but not undrinkable. The cookies give it texture, but not in the way that chocolate chips do where it clogs the straw. He’s got this homemade whipped cream on it that is absolutely perfect. It’s everything that a milkshake should be.