When the last Metro-North bar car was retired last year, it signaled the end of an era: Gone were the days of holding court in the bar car as you would in your local pub. Train socialization has been reduced to asking your neighbor to let you plug your device into the outlet under the window. Nothing like your wire going across someone else’s lap to foster camaraderie.
So it’s only fitting that our grand old station houses, languishing in the face of ticket machines and climate-controlled platform shelters, should become the last bastion of locomotive luxury.
One after another, these buildings are finding new life as restaurants. Metro-North seeks tenants, reserving the right to public access for bathrooms and waiting rooms and stressing the need for morning coffee (which we all second); restaurants handle utilities and maintenance, and the rent goes toward railroad expenses. Crowning this trend, a food pavilion and Nordic restaurant are slated to open in Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall in 2015.
You could eat your way along the Harlem Line from Valhalla Crossing to Starbucks in Hartsdale, which is housed in a 1914 building on the National Register of Historic Places. (A Starbucks beats an empty building—especially if you’ve just missed a train.) On the New Haven Line, it’s beer and pub fare at Port Chester Hall and opulence at Club Car in Mamaroneck. Below, the complete guide to railroad eats in Westchester.
The 1888 Gothic Revival building was vacant for 30 years before the MTA sold it to the local developers who helped Chef Brian MacMenamin realize his vision for Club Car. The ticket booth became a bar, stained glass and fireplace were restored, and a tin ceiling and crystal chandeliers were installed. The result when it opened in 2012 was a place where the One Percent could feel right at home. Eats: New York sirloin steak, cedar plank-roasted wild Scottish salmon, oysters, stuffed clams, garlic sausage. Drinks: A Martini or the Westchester cocktail (Jack honey, fresh ginger and lime, brown sugar, and ginger beer). First-class seats: By the crackling fireplace. (Mamaroneck; www.clubcarny.com)
Port Chester Hall
New York’s Heartland Brewery chain spent $5 million on the 1890 building, which wows with restored mosaic floors, antique beer steins, and a heated outdoor beer garden. The ticket booth in the dining room is open until 1:40 pm on weekdays, and a back door opens breathtakingly close to the southbound platform. Eats: Humongous, hanging New York-style hot pretzel served with cheddar cheese sauce and mustard; Pat LaFrieda burgers; salads. Drinks: Beer (duh) from Heartland’s Brooklyn facility—not hyper-local, but not bad. (The menu doesn’t mention the chain connection.) The Sawpit Struggle cocktail nods to Port Chester’s original name, Saw Pit. First-class seats: By a fireplace, either indoors (under an 1895 beer mural) or at the beer garden. (www.portchesterhall.com)
Peppino’s opened 25 years ago in the 1910 station house, but don’t mistake it for shopworn—we’re talking high-end Italian in a dining room with original fixtures. Eats: Eggplant parmigiana, veal Sorrentino. Drinks: Signature Martini with house-made Limoncello; house-made Sambuca First-class seats: By the north-facing window. (Katonah; www.peppinoristorante.com)
This 6-year-old restaurant (which replaced The Flying Pig) conjures Venice, with Murano glass chandeliers and floor tiles copied from Doge’s Palace. Are we still on the Harlem Line? Eats: Bucatini Bolognese, award-winning gelato; a weekday special from 5 pm to 7 pm for $9: a glass of Montepulciano and a delicious mini pizzette (e.g., the Beatrice: sliced figs, Gorgonzola, toasted walnuts, honey). Drinks: Gourmet gelato floats First-class seats: At the Carrara marble bar. (Mount Kisco; www.viavanti.com)
Note: According to their website, The Iron Horse is closed for renovations from January 1 through February 8
This elegant village fixture changed hands last year; the new owner bought the 1904 building from the village for $650,000. Eats: The Crossroads of America menu spotlights a different US city each month. Lunch is inexpensive—try the burger with cheddar, beer fondue, and hand-cut truffle fries. Drink: Prickly Pear Mojito First-class seats: The private, 16-seat Green Room. (Pleasantville; www.ironhorsepleasantville.com)
At this 45-year-old restaurant in an 1890 station house, dine in a 115-year-old presidential train car or in a caboose still on tracks. Eats: An NFL special features 50-cent wings and half-price pizza with a $3 draft or $9 pitcher of Bud. Drinks: Adult milkshakes, made with ice cream from nearby Village Creamery. First-class seats: In a train car or at the bar, under the original ticket window arches. (www.valhallacrossing.com)
Friends meets Metro-North, with comfy chairs, old books, and local art. Friday nights it’s a jazz club with small plates and wine. Eats: Homemade organic oatmeal, frittata, and borekas (baked, savory turnovers). Drinks: Seriously well-pulled espresso First-class seats: Sink into a couch and plug into a nearby outlet. â€‹(www.hastingsstationcafe.com)
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