A historic location provides its own incentive to dine off the beaten path. Cellar 49, which opened to the public last year, is housed in the castle-like Biddle Mansion, former home of Mary Duke Biddle, of the tobacco Dukes. In 1964, it became the country’s first conference center, Tarrytown House Estate. Make your way up the winding drive—the GPS will get you there just fine—then remember I told you to walk down to the main building and make an immediate left inside the door. There you’ll find the tiny entrance to the cellar restaurant, whose Gatsby-era décor takes your Hudson Valley excursion to the next (albeit lower) level. Rack ’em up, because we’re gonna play pool in the clubby game room, or have a clandestine meeting in the wine cellar. I cannot help but regret that the bowling lane Ms. Biddle installed here is gone, but its footprint remains; it fell into permanent disrepair.
Start with a Biddle Royale—cucumber-infused gin with Champagne and mint. The wine list is fairly extensive, and lunch (Friday to Sunday) has its own selection of wine, beer, and cocktails that, according to the menu, “work really nice with lunch.” Chef Chris Hettinger hits up local suppliers for modern American cuisine. Try the top-notch burger with farmhouse cheddar, bacon, and caramelized onions on a brioche bun, or the Cobb salad with grilled chicken, a deconstructed beauty with pristine ingredients. Dinner offers snacks (hush puppies with maple butter); small plates (pretzel bread, garlic sausage); medium plates (lentil taco); large plates (smoked pork chops from Oscar’s Adirondack Smoke House); and whimsical desserts like chocolate-dipped cheesecake lollipops and warm donuts.
But for the most fun, order the four-course 1964 anniversary menu, featuring Julia Child’s onion soup and salad, Graham Kerr’s chicken Gismonda or Craig Claiborne’s steak Diane, and 1964 World’s Fair Belgian waffles sprinkled with butter-crunch. To drink: Cherry Coke, Schaefer beer, or French Burgundy or Chablis. Cute, no?
I perched at a table near the bar, my eyes wandering among vintage photos—men in fur coats preparing for boat races across the frozen Hudson—and over to the TVs. There’s a lounge area and a clubby, candlelit dining room, and you can take food out to the patio or pool. Upstairs, explore gracious rooms and old Time magazines whose covers relate to the mansion’s history.
But do make a reservation, because the restaurant can fill up quickly on days when they’re hosting a function. If they’re not, you might have the run of the place.
49 E Sunnyside Ln, Tarrytown (914) 591-3183 | www.cellar49.com