No Pretense and Lots of Protein
Bring your hefty appetite to this Tarrytown comfort-fare haven; you won’t leave hungry
Each of the three evenings
I dined at Jack & Dyl’s, the contemporary American restaurant opened by chef David Thomas (formerly of Tribeca Grill, Union Square CafÃ©, Lark Creek Inn in San Francisco, and the now defunct Two Moons in Port Chester), the view across the street was the same: a quartet of heavyset firemen sitting in lawn chairs. Each was like a quasi-mayor, surveying the comings and goings along Tarrytown’s picturesque main thoroughfare of antique shops and assorted eateries.
It is a fitting sight; it’s clear to me that Jack & Dyl’s wants no part of chic or trendy (though the absence of a marquee is Big City modish) nor anything to do with espuma, quenelles, or sous vide. This is a blue-collar, hefty-portions kind of place where you won’t need a culinary dictionary to read the menu, where you can’t care about calories (meats and starch rule here), and where you could just as easily enjoy a beer as one of the 15 bottles of reasonably-priced wines ($18-$38).
The appetizer list does offer light fare (heck, even burly firemen don’t always want a heavy starter before their main-course hunk of meat), and most selections were commendable.
Especially the salads. I’d order again the mixed greens with crisp sliced pears, crunchy candy-glazed walnuts, and blue cheese dressed perfectly with just-sweet-enough mustard vinaigrette, as well as the arugala salad with fresh, melt-in-your-mouth goat cheese and crimson sliced tomatoes. The corn-and-shrimp fritters, though fried, were not greasy but delicious, especially after a dip in the accompanying homemade “firecracker” sweet-and-sour sauce. Ditto the glistening garlic chips, made even better with a Saranac Pale Ale. Buffalo chicken spring rolls and juicy skewers of grilled chicken, served with a kicky peppercorn ranch and a coconut-peanut sauce, respectively, made for worthy beginners, as did a chicken broth-based soup special of Italian sausage, white beans, and vegetables.
The clunker appetizer was the stale-tasting jalapeÃ±o-and-beer steamed mussels; just a few shells in and we were wishing the lot back to the prehistoric sea from whence they came. To add to
the unpleasantness, the accompanying grilled anchovy toast was burnt.
In line with its regular-guy menu appeal are the prices—almost every entrÃ©e is under $20. Unfortunately, no price would have been low enough for the dry meat that made up the applewood smoked pulled-pork entrÃ©e. Equally distressing was the roasted sweet-potato salad that ranged from lukewarm to cool. I took solace in the Waldorf apple coleslaw, the plate’s only saving grace.
The entrÃ©es improved from there, however, starting with classic meatloaf, moist in rich brown gravy, served with a substantial twice-baked potato. Marinated hangar steak is also a good hungry-man’s meal: succulent strips of meat topped with a bed of crispy onions alongside what was a do-it-yourself salad—a manly hunk of iceberg lettuce and thick-cut beefsteak tomato finished with a generous dollop of peppercorn ranch and a scattershot of crumbled bacon. The pecan-crusted chicken entrÃ©e, a lighter version of a chicken cutlet, was fine, and the sides, a winning trifecta: a maple-whipped sweet-potato mash, soothing creamed corn, and a mildly sweet apple chutney.
Fish is not completely forgotten here, and the fish entrÃ©es we tried—roasted salmon in tomato vinaigrette and seared tuna in a beurre blanc—were both firm and intensely flavored.
Despite its no-nonsense dÃ©cor of exposed brick, wood, and the random lithograph (I’d call it bachelor pad-meets-English pub), there are just enough lighter touches—the bread “bouquet” stuffed into a warm flowerpot, the slim books of poetry and quotations used as check holders—to make you suspect someone is thinking of the details. Is it un-PC to assume it’s a female touch of, say, Thomas’s wife Sharon? Jack & Dyl’s staff, casually dressed in jeans, white shirts, and ties, is friendly and likeable.
There wasn’t much to like, however, about the desserts. A chocolate mousse cake was reminiscent of the one dessert barely touched at a family function, a brownie fudge sundae and crÃ¨me brÃ»lÃ©e were all too standard, and an apple crisp was a bowl of warm (albeit tasty) pie filling in sore need of some pastry. Luckily, there’s a quality ice cream shop up the street.
You may be too full to finish all of this comfort food, but the watchful members of the Tarrytown Fire Department right across the way have considerable appetites and may appreciate you stopping by on your way to the car with a doggie bag or two.
JACK & DYL’S
49 Main St., Tarrytown
Dinner, Wed. to Thurs. 5-9 pm, Fri. and Sat. 5-10 pm, Sun. 5-8 pm