By Joel Eliach, Michelle Gillan Larkin, Maya Ono, John Bruno Turiano, & Abbe Wichman
8 restaurants for a proper gourmand experience
With the Hudson River as his muse, CIA-trained Executive Chef John Paidas crafts a menu that is locally sourced, timed to the seasons, and although “delicate in nature,” laser-focused on acidity and texture. “I’m a sucker for lemon juice,” he quips. Hearty and hefty, the one-pound tomahawk short-ribs entrée is “not your typical braised beef served with potato and vegetable,” he says. “It’s bone-in, braised overnight, brushed with red-pepper mostarda, and finished in the salamander broiler.” Paidas says the goal is to “put our own twist on every dish, keeping even the crowd favorites interesting and creative.”
Pocantico Hills; www.bluehillfarm.com
Chef/owner Dan Barber and his partners had been thinking about wiping their hands of kitchen duty at their double-Michelin-starred restaurant in favor of a revolving chef-in-residence program, but COVID caused them to pivot in a hurry. It’s understood (at press time) that the chef will change with the seasons, though it’s a safe bet the cuisine will continue to be thoughtfully sourced from the 80 acres of pasture and farmland upon which the restaurant is perched, sharing space with the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, a thriving nonprofit research-and-education facility.
Using fresh, seasonal ingredients, Chef Dale Talde takes traditional Cantonese staples of beef, poultry, fish, noodles, and vegetables and serves them with an imaginative, inventive twist that is at once both current and crowd-pleasing. “Goosefeather is approachable but also daring,” he says, “and [it] feels new and exciting.” His menus are akin to a romance novel for food lovers, and he swoons over opportunities to showcase his latest and greatest culinary creations, like: “Mapo tofu cauliflower, lamb longevity noodles with pistachio and mint, and a traditional hot-pot dish, which will run off coal and only be available in our outdoor tents.”
Pound Ridge; www.theinnnatpoundridge.com
Reclaimed wood, zinc, marble, and a handful of fireplaces set a rustically elegant stage for Jean-Georges’ intriguing small plates, elevated pizzas, and exquisite entrées culled from Hudson Valley and New England farms. “I think foodies keep coming back because they know the quality that Jean-Georges provides, and that makes them comfortable with us,” opines Chef de Cuisine Ron Gallo. “For them, it’s like coming to visit a good friend.” Gallo says the sushi-grade tuna tartare with avocado, radish, and ginger marinade is one of his all-time favorites, while the steamed shrimp salad with Champagne dressing is a quintessential classic, but not to be outdone, he says, by the truffle-laced fontina pizza.
White Plains; www.keeoysterhouse.com
As the name suggests, freshly caught marine delights are the main draw at this lively and sophisticated Downtown spot, where “eating is like an adventure,” according to owner Elvi Hoxhaj. “Eating at KEE is to do so with all [the] senses, enjoying how the food tastes, smells, looks, feels, and sounds while savoring every bite.” Along with East and West Coast oysters on the half shell, lobster, and seafood towers for one or two, Prime-cut meats grace the menu, along with seafood-topped pastas and house-made, meal-capping sweets.
North Salem; www.farmerandthefish.com
With four acres of farmland under cultivation, two greenhouses, and one hoop house, “people see the food being grown as they walk in, and that makes a difference to them,” says chef/owner and SUNY-schooled farmer Michael Kaphan. “Every single day, we’re writing pick lists, and our farmers are out there at 7 a.m., harvesting that night’s dinner.” He says both the farmer’s salad, with field greens and shaved farm vegetables, and the scallop salad, with crispy bacon, fingerling potatoes, sunny-side-up egg, and lemon aioli, are the fan-favorites, but to him: “All the dishes are my children. How do you pick a favorite kid?”
The Central Ave strip-mall setting may be off-putting to some, but to those in the know, those who understand a thing or two about NYC-trained chef/owner Brian Sernatinger and his never-ending quest to deliver an up-to-the-minute experience, this is a hidden gem. “We always have something new and exciting on the menu,” says Sernatinger. Recent highlights include cod brandade ravioli with toasted almonds and fresh black Burgundy truffle cream, and beef cheek braised in red wine until fork-tender, which Sernatinger suggests as “perfect for these cold, winter days.”
Gleaming glass walls blur the boundaries between inside and out, escorting majestic Palisades and Hudson River vistas to this contemporary, sophisticated waterside space, where chef/owner Peter Kelly strives to “introduce guests to food they don’t always bump into alongside familiar items done in a different way.” The grilled Portuguese octopus with green and ripe papaya is “fun for the presentation and the experience,” he says, while the farm-raised pure Ossabaw pork with peach or pear mostarda and creamy polenta “just eats so beautifully.” And with a full sushi bar on premises: “You can have a taste and still have your cowboy rib-eye.”
Original menus, clever use of spices, and noteworthy plating means this pair makes any foodie’s Insta-must list.
Calling his hip, downtown, fast-casual eatery “reimagined street food in a [modern] lens,” chef/owner Mogan Anthony dishes out “diverse and explosive flavors with a clean, crisp focus [unlike] old-school Asian cuisine.” A dazzling array of authentic and creative Asian delights dot the menu boards, with the 24-hour, slow-cooked Ramen not to be missed. “We spent a few months working in Japan to learn the secrets,” Anthony reveals. Thai curry noodles, simmered in coconut milk, chili paste, and lemongrass, are go-down-easy pleasers, as are steamed buns and chicken dumplings doused in chili oil and vinegar.
Harrison, Nyack; www.thegreekish.com
Believing the “foodie style is changing,” chef/owner Constantine Kalandranis transformed his former 273 Kitchen (Harrison) into this modern, intimate den of meze (Greek for “tapas”) and ouzo. “Small plates offer a little taste of all the flavors and textures in one dining experience,” he notes. The meze special means “diners get the whole vibe very quickly,” with an assortment of 12 different dishes, ranging from oysters to lamb on a stick. A sampling of dips is another way to awaken all corners of the palate, with house-made pita rubbed with EVOO and rosemary acting as a means of culinary transport.
A duo of food-obsessed cool
Mount Kisco, White Plains
Imagination and off-the-charts creativity — in cuisine, decor, and clever plating (think: empanadas dangling from a miniature clothesline) — know no bounds at Bonnie Saran’s LDCs (which could be said of any of her string of “little” eateries throughout the county), where worldly flavors and spices mingle harmoniously, seemingly to the beat emanating from the sound system. Saran wagers it’s the whole package that lures diners back time and again: “The emphasis we place is on flavor and presentation, which is fun.” Lasooni Gobi is her culinary pride and joy: cauliflower florets in a house-made chili-garlic blend.
Like a highbrow amusement park for aficionados of all things edible, this long-standing Rivertown establishment hosts an inviting and intimate restaurant in back and a tantalizing, foods-of-all-nations market up front. “It’s the love of food and the love of people that keep me going,” says owner Hassan Jarane (above). “If you don’t put your soul and your heart into the food, you’re just shooting blanks.” New to his eclectic, soul-soothing menu, which sways evenly between vegetarian and meat-forward dishes, is the house-made fusilli with a lamb ragù or short ribs and seasonal vegetables. Says Jarane: “It’s light but satisfying.”
A scrumptious sampling of the most coveted spots for international cuisine in the 914
Often, it’s the simplest food that is the most delicious. Such is the case with the pollo a la brasa at Juicy Chicken Peruvian Rotisserie Bar and Grill, New Rochelle. Perfectly executed, with the flavors of such Peruvian spices as aji, the chicken is succulent and the skin expertly crisped. “The chicken marinates for 24 hours or longer and takes two and a half hours to cook,” says owner Luis Fernandez.
Boasting artfully created pockets of shrimp, pork, beef, plus more exotic offerings (e.g., turnip cakes, chicken feet), the dim sum at Aberdeen, White Plains, showcases the best of these Cantonese staples. The combination of the fragrant meat or seafood inside the delicate dough may have you wanting to pop these beauties into your mouth ASAP. But take time to savor what manager Ricky Ho calls “small hors d’oeuvres that are traditionally served family-style at brunch.”
The pinsa Romana (“Roman-style pizza”) served at TVB by: Pax Romana, White Plains, had to be certified to earn its designation. The oval-shaped pinsa hits all the right notes, with thin crust and char, created with a proprietary blend of flour. You can go classic Margarita or have fun with its version of avocado toast. Paul Russo, Pax Romana’s co-owner, says it took the restaurant more than a year to receive its certification from Rome, and it was the first restaurant on the East Coast to offer the certified pinsa.
When a restaurant is named Croqueteria, it’s no surprise the croquetas served there live up to the top billing. This Sleepy Hollow restaurant showcases owner-chef Carlos Zequeira’s Cuban heritage. Whether it’s chicken, ham, or the ropa vieja, the croquetas (except dessert varieties) feature a delectable béchamel sauce. “Our croquetas are made from scratch and based on family recipes,” says Zequeira.
The arepas at Aqui Es Santa Fe, Port Chester, are the tasty vessels upon which such scrumptious toppings as shredded beef cooked in Colombian sofrito or Colombian chorizo and cheese are enjoyed. The flavors here are redolent with the spices of Colombia. Carlos Santos, who owns the restaurant with his mother, Olga, says, “We want customers to feel like they’re getting the same food we serve at home.”
“The key to a making a good brownie is to underbake,” says owner Suzanne Hart. To be most accurate, the thick, dark brownies at this prepared-foods shop are not good — they’re spectacular. More fudgy than cakey, made with three types of chocolate, expect an intensely rich flavor and a beautiful, shiny top crust with delicate ridges that pleasingly shatter with each bite.
South Salem; www.farmersgrind.com
Situated on the border with New Canaan, this market/coffee shop may be a bit out of the way for many Westchesterites. There’s at least one item — the crumb cake by certified home baker Anna Oneto of South Salem — that makes a visit worth a drive from anywhere in the county (or Ohio, for that matter). The soft-yet-just-sturdy-enough yellow cake holds a substantial streusel topping that smacks of good-quality cinnamon and has a gentle crispness to contrast the cake.
Hard-to-beat versions of everyone’s favorite breakfast sandwich
There’s a breakfast sandwich a quick drive over the county line that will easily fuel your trip home and possibly hold you until dinner. It’s located in a hollowed, pale-blue school bus that’s been reimagined as a sublime sammie stop on the grounds of this apple- and pumpkin-picking paradise, crafted by the celebrated hands of Chef David DiBari, who says, “We wanted to dedicate a sandwich to the blue-collar hero and anyone else who likes their breakfast to go deeper.” Deep, indeed, with house-smoked, thick-cut bacon, a custardy over-medium pasture-raised egg, sharp cheddar, and crisp potatoes sandwiched between a pair of toasted English muffins with “our special ketchup nuzzled into all of its nooks and crannies.”
At this northern upmarket mainstay of coffee, baked goods, and ready-to-eat meals, the BEC is “a classic sandwich, but we use really great ingredients,” says chef/owner Jennifer Vellano, who, along with husband Jim, boasts such big names as Per Se, Bouchon, Blue Hill, and Boulud on combined CVs. Between bookends of artisan-baked multigrain or challah bread, farm-fresh eggs tango with Vermont cheddar and double-applewood-smoked bacon. “For an updated twist, you can add avocado, tomato, or hot peppers,” Vellano offers, but either way, upwards of 100 sandwiches slip out the door on weekends. —MGL
A quartet of pies that is the best the county has to offer.
The thick Sicilian pie at this Mamaroneck mainstay of 50-plus years is a true glory. Well-used pans give a crispy bottom to the surprisingly airy yet delightfully chewy crust. Tangy tomato sauce is topped with a generous amount of seductively stretchy cheese; you won’t be blamed for forgoing the slices (which are quite fresh at this high-traffic shop) and tackling a generous pie to put you on the fast track to the most wonderful of carb comas.
Mount Vernon; www.johnnys1942.com
A classic New York attitude meets classic New York pizza at this almost 80-year-old institution. By ladling the vibrantly flavorful tomato sauce on top of the mozzarella, Johnny’s accomplishes what few pizzerias can: a crust that’s nearly paper-thin yet crispy as a pizza can be. No slices, credit cards, or frills here — just righteous pizza on par with even the best NYC has to offer.
After nearly a stealthy decade in Eastchester, Burrata still has the feel of a stylish, new, dining destination. With a traditional wood-burning oven imported from Naples and a family history of pizza-making going back generations, owner Chas Anderson puts out pies that are a paradigm of Neapolitan perfection. High-quality ingredients lead to a fabulously fluffy pie, with toppings ranging from beautiful burrata (duh) to superb soppressata.
Pizza is a staple on this eclectic menu that shows just how scrumptious local ingredients can be. A gas-assisted wood-fire oven makes pies that are chewy and crispy and the perfect canvas for RiverMarket’s superior toppings. These include everything from house-made sausage and meatballs to locally sourced bacon, eggs, and clams to anchovies imported from Sicily. There’s no going back to canned olives after experiencing a RiverMarket pie.
Go veg or carnivore
A dozen nearby farms provide the eats at this bustling hotbed of all things local and seasonal, where the menu depends on the harvest, and hand-crafted cocktails are passed across a bar fashioned from a big ol’ oak that toppled at Rockefeller Preserve. “We are committed to working with local farms to help sustain our larger community,” says owner David Starkey. Leaning heavily toward the vegetarian side, there are still options in the meat department, like grass-fed, slow-braised beef short ribs. Meanwhile, the “burger” — composed of quinoa, sweet potato, and kale — keeps veggie regulars returning and carnivores admitting they don’t miss the meat. Surely, both sides can agree on eggplant fries with truffle honey.
Notes of the smoky South add to the eclectic air on Main Street, where “everything we make is from the soul and heart,” says owner Hassan Jarane. The fried chicken at this corner barbecue nook is an “updated version” of a down-home dish. “You don’t usually see fried chicken made with an organic bird,” he notes. Mostly rice flour is relied upon for the delicate and crunchy coating, which lends a “crisper, healthier, and more interesting,” taste. And with hints of spice in the main, the side of rosemary pepper honey strikes a pleasing balance.
Beef-Fat Potato Fries: Few pandemic innovations match the partnership between Chef David DiBari and Salinger’s Orchard. The Bus at Salinger’s Orchard opened in the summer of 2020, aiming to achieve the trifecta of a delicious meal, the restaurant experience, and safety — not to mention its take-home-proof beef-fat potato fries. “We wanted to create something that was more organic and rustic that also maintains its crispness,” says DiBari. The fries are cooked so that no matter where you take them, even if you must heat them up the following day, they retain the crisp foodies yearn for in a perfect fry.
Smashed Fries: These twice-fried wonders, topped with coarse salt, with a shape akin to hash browns, are flavorful, flattened wedges you will repeatedly order — and be reluctant to share with your dining companions. Perfect with the 8-oz lamb burger topped with spicy, whipped feta.
Truffle Fries: Truffle can be an overwhelming flavor, but Chef Mike Abruzese strikes the right balance in his thin-cut truffle Parmesan fries, which are crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and perfectly salted.
Pommes Frites: Who said one of the best parts of ordering steak is the pommes frites? It’s a good thing that Appetit Bistro’s popular pommes frites are served in two of their highly touted dishes: steak frites and moules frites. Crispy, crunchy, and salty, the frites are made using a high-starch potato (they have less moisture, which results in a superior crisp-factor) and served with ramekins of house-made spicy aioli and ketchup.
A true foodie typically wants more than a run-of-the-mill pub. Instead, they crave a drinking experience where cocktails are crafted, the setting is engaging, and the bartenders are gregarious.
This Modern Italian restaurant offers an extensive Bloody Mary menu, ranging from the traditional to the Bloody Bayou with Cajun seasoning and New Orleans bitters. For a truly “extra” brunch*, order the Bloody Bulldog, a spicy-salty-sour take on a Bloody Mary, with English Bulldog Gin, minced garlic, aged balsamic, and a bacon rim.
*At press time, tredici NORTH brunch service was temporarily closed due to COVID.
Mount Kisco; www.pourmtkisco.com
This romantic, Victorian, boutique bar in Northern Westchester has been a destination for locals and visitors for 13 years, spearheaded by musician-turned-restaurateur Anthony Colasacco. When it comes to his philosophy behind the bar, Colasacco emphasizes quality and offers a rare selection of craft spirits, including an impressive whiskey lineup, admitting, “I’m infatuated with collecting whiskey; it’s nice when you see people trying something new.”
The mojito menu at Chef Bebe Gonzalez’s The Cube Inn is not to be missed. Each cocktail is available with both alcoholic and “virgin” options. White-rum mojitos include The Flamingo, with strawberries and jalapeño; Verde Fresca, with cucumber and honey; Mariposa, with liquid stevia and mint 7 club soda; and La Bodeguita, with lime and simple syrup. The Babalu features dark rum with fresh pineapple, lime juice, and club soda.