By John Bruno Turiano, with Cristiana Caruso, Andrew Dominick, and Michelle Gillan Larkin
It’s been five years since our inaugural — and much debated — restaurants ranking, so we thought it was time to revisit the list. There were nine closings (e.g., La Panetière, The Twisted Oak, Tarry Lodge) since our initial effort, plus others were bumped off the list by some newbies we liked just a tad better. And while excellent food was the most important criterion, it was not the sole determinant. Dining out is an experience that should at its apex be transporting, comforting, joyous, and/or pampering. Pick a number from 1 to 36, and a top dining experience can be had at any of the following restaurants, where some combination of the food, service, decor, and ambience makes for an exceptional experience.
Coming off a chef-in-residence program that hosted known chefs from around the country who cooked everything from pizza and barbecue to the native cuisine of New Mexico, Blue Hill principal Dan Barber is back to serving an approximately four-hour tasting that has earned the restaurant two Michelin Stars. (BTW: The restaurant, set on land that was once part of the stunning Rockefeller estate, is one of only 31 two-Michelin Star restaurants in the U.S.)
A reservation (they go fast) for $348–$398/person gets you a multitude of courses, including seasonal vegetables grown on the 80-acre farm, breads made with wheat developed by Barber and slathered with farm-churned butter, and their own pasture-raised meat, all expertly prepared, beautifully plated, and highlighting their mission of sustainability and changing the way we think about food. If you’re not down with dropping four C-notes on a tasting, Blue Hill has rolled out a cafeteria-lunch-tray experience for $38 Wednesday to Sunday and community-table, family-style suppers Wednesdays and Thursdays for $125.
A striking vaulted ceiling of reclaimed-wood beams, rough stone walls, and earthy glints of zinc set a rustic-chic stage for Jean-Georges’ intriguing small plates and pizzas, soups, salads, and entrées culled from Hudson Valley and New England farms whenever possible. The four circa 1833 fireplaces only add to the allure of this stunning residence-turned-restaurant. Two dining rooms, two full bars, and a candle-illuminated wine cellar for private dining beckon for a special-occasion meal or a laid-back glass of wine and a pizza; the black truffle iteration, laced with heady fontina cheese and redolent black truffles, is both a staple and a standout. Sushi-grade tuna tartare and steamed black bass are also constants, with inventive accompaniments timed to Mother Nature’s rhythm.
Chef Peter Kelly’s indelible impact on the Yonkers culinary scene is easy to understand at first bite. The sleek, 25-foot ceilings of the glass-encased restaurant on a Victorian pier at the Yonkers waterfront set expectations high from the first glittering glimpse of Manhattan. The menu is a global-fare thrill ride, maneuvering from expertly crafted sushi to light and airy shellfish crêpes. The cowboy rib-eye for two will make a convert out of even the staunchest steakhouse disciple. But for Kelly, success is not found in the kitchen but just outside of it. “I believe every business, not just restaurants, should strive to create a lasting legacy in their community,” says Kelly. “The way this is done is by first dedicating yourself to delivering quality at whatever level and price that may mean. Community legacy is built by hiring and training people of that community and by taking pride in being a part of a community you work to support every single day.”
Chef Anthony Goncalves’ Kanopi, an ode to Hudson Valley bounty and his Iberian heritage, is a special-occasion destination due to more than its unique location on the 42nd and 43rd floors of The Opus Westchester (the tallest building between New York City and Boston).
But oh, what vistas. The striking venue provides panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline, the Hudson River, and Long Island Sound, plus the tree-topped canopy that makes up the bulk of 914 topography.
The setting is expertly matched by continuously changing offerings on several tasting menus (it’s $145/pp for a vegan tasting up to $250/pp for Portuguese Omakase at the Kitchen Table). At turns, the fare is inventive (crabmeat grilled cheese), playful (a dessert called chocolate land), and unpretentiously delectable (tiger shrimp in a traditional Portuguese garlic sauce). Plating is striking; servers glide about in proper attentiveness without smothering.
Want to impress somebody? Take them here for a meal they will remember long after the elevator ride down to the street.
A rocking-chair front porch dotted with picnic tables sets a rustically refined feel that flourishes within the walls of this 1776 farmhouse, where wide-plank wood flooring and exposed beams command attention. This is not to be outdone by the four acres of terraced farmland under cultivation, two greenhouses, and one hoop house that assure hyper-fresh farm fare is on every plate. “People see the food being grown as they walk in, and that makes a difference to them,” says chef/owner and SUNY-skilled farmer Michael Kaphan. Beef, poultry, and fish are sourced from family farms and co-ops where the animals are free-range and ethically raised, yielding deeply satisfying mains, like Niman Ranch strip steak with farm string beans, chanterelle, and Madeira jus and bigeye tuna with spicy shrimp and garden-vegetable fried rice. Three original fireplaces roar when nature says it’s time.
The notion of what Chinese food is to most Americans — cheap sustenance with a preponderance of salt and oil — gets a makeover at owner Peter Liu’s 95-seat, antique-filled restaurant, as Chef de Cuisine Eric Gao presents a more genuine showing of the diverse flavors and ingredients of China’s many regions. Home cooking and street food served family-style is what to expect from the broad menu, including dishes honoring the culinary traditions of the north, like Mandarin pork shank with wild peppercorn or the fiery foods of Sichuan province, such as a seafood clay pot and prime-rib hot pot. The spicing is complex and flavorful without overwhelming the palate. Among many must-orders: the wild pepper shrimp and crispy rice.
Handmade pasta, house-made mozzarella, and plenty of meaty carnage (note the links hanging in the meat-curing cabinet) are what make David DiBari’s new-age take on Italian a hit since 2009. Crispy pork osso buco with creamy white-corn polenta, a daily secret sandwich, duck-liver-filled cannoli, and spaghetti with clam and pork sausage are some of the daring, delicious dishes that make their way out of DiBari and Executive Chef Sajin Renae’s kitchen.
The $39.95 three-course-and-a-drink brunch on weekends is arguably the best way to experience The Cookery, as choices include a mixture of dinnertime classics, like heirloom meatballs, freshly made mozzarella, and a few pastas, alongside such breakfasty fare as ricotta pancakes and the Hungry Whoever, a restaurant version of two eggs any style.
Culinary Institute of America alum Jared Secor’s menus are a love letter and homecoming wrapped into one. A Hudson Valley native, Secor’s devotion to and passion for fresh, locally sourced ingredients and skillful usage of flavors and techniques are the marquee reasons his dishes are so successful. Roasted bone marrow and escargot, pistachio-crusted lamb rack, and fig-and-goat-cheese ravioli mingle on the same menu to show the depth of Secor’s prowess. Capped off with the ambience of eating in a beautifully restored abbey overlooking the Hudson, patrons are treated to the luxury and refinement of Napa County at the edge of Westchester.
The stately, historic King Mansion on the rolling grounds of the Tarrytown House Estate is the stage upon which James Beard-nominated chef Dale Talde takes traditional Cantonese staples of beef, poultry, fish, noodles, and vegetables, and whips them into modern dishes both crowd-pleasing and off-the-charts creative. His menus — seasonally driven and ever-evolving — read like an adventure novel, with fancified renditions of potstickers (stuffed with dry-aged beef), General Tso’s shrimp nestled in puffy bao buns, and char-siu Berkshire pork belly with shaved apple, coconut, and Chinese mustard. One glance at the handsome reclaimed-wood walls, Art Deco murals, and brilliantly hued fabrics, and the innovation at play in the kitchen is digested and reaffirmed.
As the name suggests, freshly caught marine delights are the main draw at this sleek, upmarket, downtown spot where an extensive raw bar yields East and West Coast oysters on the half shell and eye-popping seafood towers for one or two, but you’d be remiss to ignore the beef. Four Prime steaks grace the menu, the most popular being the grilled skirt steak with chimichurri sauce and the 32-ounce, dry-aged porterhouse for two. Lobster, whole-fish entrées, seafood-topped pastas, chicken paillard, and house-made, meal-ending sweets make KEE an easy pleaser for a sophisticated yet approachable dining extravaganza.
A landmark Northern Westchester staple for nearly six decades, La Crem reopened its storied, circa 1750 doors (after a year-plus closure) with a young chef and his fresh take on the hallmarks of French cooking and dining. This translates to the cuisine of a fine French restaurant but “with seasonally driven ingredients and applied classical French techniques presented in a modern way,” explains Chef Thomas Burke, who learned his trade trial-by-fire at some of the country’s top eateries. Inherent skill and an abiding love for French food allow him to create culinary harmony when pairing foie gras and duck breast with black truffle risotto and Colorado rack of lamb. What hasn’t changed or evolved is the exquisite, old-world, European-farmhouse setting (though jackets are no longer required).
There is a kind of magic at L’inizio, which flourishes at a culinary crossroads of intermingling yet unexpected flavor profiles. In addition to serving myriad fresh pastas, Chef Scott Fratangelo puts forth a stronghold of Italian flavors with his own modern spin, like the butternut squash cutlet parmigiana, the creste di gallo, with kale and truffle oil, and the crispy cauliflower, with a chili-lime vinaigrette. His wife and co-owner, Heather, is a trained pastry chef who heads up a dessert menu boasting such tempting treats as bomboloni with chocolate sauce and bread pudding with caramel sauce. After a repast so rich in flavor and creativity, it’s the only fitting end to a truly memorable epicurean experience.
Put a bunch of different Neapolitan pizzas in a lineup, and there’s no mistaking which one is from Burrata. That puffy, charred, blistered crust… dough that’s light as a feather after a minimum 48-hour (and up to 72-hour) fermentation. Each is almost too beautiful to eat. Almost. Order a pie with a classic spaghetti, the rigatoni with duck and porcini ragu, or get both, and wash it down with a couple of their stellar craft cocktails. The J Sexton is arguably Burrata’s best pie, essentially a Margherita reinvented. This rendition swaps cooked mozzarella for creamy chilled burrata; raw basil hits you in the face, and additions of garlic, black pepper, and Parmesan make this riff a hit.
The brand’s second location (also in Westport), launched in 2019, OKO shines in its approach to and appreciation of Japanese cuisine. Chef/owner Brian Lewis (above, left) and Chef de Cuisine Fecedio Douglas (right) have crafted a menu driven by quality and freshness, letting the ingredients speak for themselves (try the Hokkaido uni toast with smoke trout roe, and you will believe). With nigiri and sushi expertly prepared by Benny Chow of Nobu and Morimoto pedigrees, the proteins are delicately accompanied by a range of red miso to garlic furikake. For the truest omakase experience, opt for the chef’s nigiri selection.
An ornate, tin-style ceiling, exposed brick, and handsome, rust-colored banquettes and café tables set an elevated but welcoming tone for authentic, well-executed, Italian classics (rollatini, rigatoni Bolognese, branzino) that blend seamlessly with entrées such as sirloin with an Amarone reduction and a double-cut heritage pork chop. The extensive wine list is equally varied and as strictly Italian as both the cuisine and the heartwarming family-heirloom portraits that survey it all.
Mogan Anthony’s melting pot of Asian street foods encompasses cuisines from Japan, China, Malaysia, Korea, and Vietnam all under one roof. What began as a fast-casual concept in 2019 evolved into a sit-down by late-summer 2022; an expanded menu of sharable snacks, larger entrées, and the addition of a bar with fresh-juice tiki cocktails and classics like a pandan-infused gin Negroni will make you want to stay. Rich ramen and pho broths, fresh vegan salads, spicy chili-oil dumplings, rice bowls, and more bring an umami punch that’ll leave you dazed, wondering how they do it. Pro tip: Don’t miss the colorful and delectable Lady Wong desserts.
Westchester’s mecca for tapas for more than 20 years, Colombian chef Rafael Palomino’s passion for every iteration of Latin cuisine is felt down to the wall art designed in the Lineas de Nazca of Peru. There is no way to go wrong with this menu: Each dish is an elevated experience in itself, with a companion plant-based menu. The paella, jeweled with shrimp, clams, mussels, and chorizo, deserves a spot on everyone’s must-have list.
A fresh, ice-cold raw bar is a focal point of Chef Chris Vergara’s classic French bistro, so begin by slurping oysters splashed in mignonette, then move on to escargot, duck-and-pork pâté, onion soup gratin, curried steamed mussels, and one of the finest steak frites in the county. Should you require something stronger than a fine selection of French wines, Saint George’s absinthe fountain — served traditionally with the sugar cube, slotted spoon, and water drip — is a must for appreciators of The Green Fairy.
Chef Michael Psilakis’ remaining restaurant is still a powerhouse on the river. His upscale take on Greek cuisine features everything from barrel-aged feta with roasted veggies as an appetizer to an exquisitely grilled branzino and a slow-braised lamb shank for dinner. But it’s not so stuffy as to exclude two tasty burgers (Prime beef or lamb) and souvlaki with your choice of Amish chicken, falafel, pork, or beef. The don’t-you-dare-skip smash fries served alongside a few entrées result from a semisecret process of blanching, partially frying, smashing, and frying again at a higher temperature, for a salty, crunchy, unforgettable potato “wedge.”
A superb raw bar — and if you sit at their bar, you’ll be front and center for shucking action — is one of the focal points of this finer-dining gem in a historic grain warehouse. Daily East and West Coast oyster selections; crocks of Maine steamers; fancy seafood towers; and one of the brighter, meatier, and more buttery lobster rolls around are all worth splurging for. Bargain hunters should note the discounted wine, beer, and cocktails, alongside affordable small seafood plates and half-priced oysters on offer at happy hour Tuesday through Sunday.
An amalgam of stone, brick, and wood (note the 200-year-old reclaimed maple floor and ceiling made from mushroom-growing crates), the interior sets the tone for the dining experience at this New American standout. Natural, locavorian, and sustainable, RiverMarket’s menu designations (among other praiseworthy elements) showcase such local ingredients as Hemlock Hill Farm chicken, mushrooms via Westchester Mushroom Company, and Jersey beefsteak tomatoes. Plates of handmade pastas and responsibly sourced seafood (especially anything with oysters) are smart orders. A handsome, wraparound walnut bar staffed by bartenders who take their craft seriously and a front-room market replete with Hudson Valley-sourced goodies (e.g., butter, cheese, bacon, raw honey) are additional draws.
Like an amusement park for grown-up aficionados of all things edible and delectable, this Rivertown mainstay plays host to an intimate restaurant in back and a tantalizing, gourmet, foods-of-all-nations market up front. The eclectic menu sways evenly between vegetarian and meat-laden dishes, highlighted by staples of seared Moroccan chicken with couscous, prunes, and toasted almonds, and fragrant saffron risotto. Hearty handhelds include duck confit and burgers of Wagyu beef, ahi tuna, and vegan-pleasing creations.
Proffering the flavors of Mexico in ways Westchester had yet to enjoy, this Michelin-recognized village hotspot (with a smartly sophisticated decor) dishes out elevated, sustainably sourced fare driven by the seasons and, in some cases, imported from Mexican farms. The Puebla-raised chef Victor “Erik” Lopez employs a delicate hand with his succinct menu of intoxicatingly subtle small plates and entrées that taste more homegrown than restaurant-born. And it’s all made in-house — even the tortillas, which are nixtamalized from heirloom corn and ground on the premises.
Seafood with a New England flair gets a gentle contemporary remake at Brian and Paula Galvin’s intimate, light-blue-and-cream-hued eatery, where the frequently changing blackboard menu displaying the restaurant’s latest catch is where to find the keenest orders. Sparkling-fresh grilled calamari; a first-rate New England chowder; battered, deep-fried oysters; and sautéed rainbow trout in a lemon-thyme butter are on-point regular menu dishes to try. Service is attentive without being overbearing, and the amiable owners are present to ensure your meal goes as swimmingly as possible.
The gears are constantly turning for Chef Andrea Ingenito, who plates up the fine balance of richness and delicacy in his transportive restaurant experience. Co-owner and front-of-house manager Marco Varriale brings genuine charm to enliven the rustic-chic interior splashed with homages to the homeland: Italian crushed-tomato cans, dried chilies, and a shrine to Padre Pio, patron saint of stress relief. Focused on local ingredients, Ingenito composes luxe, homestyle dishes to the tune of pork chop agrodolce, grilled branzino, and the eponymous Spaghettoni Padre Pio. If you’re lucky, the pistachio cake will be among the evening’s dessert offerings.
Award-winning chef Constantine Kalandranis has meze down to a science at this cozy Harrison restaurant (a second location is in Nyack). Spicy, whipped feta, ouzo-steamed mussels, and satiny dips with warm olive oil set the bar high for a low-key dining experience with luxury flavors. And yes, the focus is on small plates, but there are worthy mains, too, such as Fossil Farms Greek lemon chicken and sizzling octopus. With a wine program that showcases the new wave of Greek winemaking, The Greekish has mastered the art of how keeping it simple can create a divine product.
We all love our chicken tikka and mango lassi, but traditional can be a bit boring. Enter contemporary regional Indian, where owner Shawn Nagpal gives import to seasonality and creativity (and fun cocktails, like the Mumbai Mule, with fresh fig jam and house-cured honey-ginger syrup) not often seen in 914-based South Asian restaurants. Curried chicken tacos, tricolor Vidalia onion bhaji, and butternut hummus and avocado “naan” (seasonal) are progressive-minded starters, while the saffron Atlantic wild black cod main and a side of tandoori-roasted seasonal veggies is an order worthy of any maharaja.
The oasis that awaits just beyond the threshold of Durian extends from the decor to the menu. The food at Durian is a full spectrum of the flavor profiles in Thai cooking, without inhibition. Spicy, sweet, sour, and savory elements boldly make their presence known across the dishes. Dive into the aromatic curries, Burmese-style lamb shank, and Durian’s calling card: pad thai in all forms. If you’re in want of a distinctively sweet ending, order the restaurant’s namesake fruited dessert.
At this pillar of Westchester’s farm-to-fork movement, respect for the earth and a commitment to locally sourced ingredients is at the core of every finely composed and plated dish. Steeped in the effortless elegance of a 1790 inn, the dining room is stately and serene, with sweeping verdant vistas, while the wood-paneled Tap Room beckons with its historic bar, stone fireplace, and pleasing pub fare. In either locale, consider a glass of wine — the cellar boasts upwards of 45,000 bottles.
Mingling structured Italian flavors with stylish contemporary twists, Chef Giuseppe Fanelli flexes his culinary résumé (Felidia, Rao’s) with every dish. A rotating seasonal menu is complemented by the mainstay favorites, which blur the lines between comfort and refinement. Think Kobe beef ravioli with black truffle, bang bang shrimp dressed with Calabrian chili sauce, a panko-breaded veal T-bone Parmigiano, and massive meatballs stuffed with fresh ricotta and mozzarella.
One of Westchester’s most recent Bib Gourmands, this vibrantly colorful and welcoming Rivertown gem is an established go-to for traditional Indian fare derived from every corner of the subcontinent, along with all manner of curries. Chef/owner Navjot Arora hand-grinds spices and fashions them into signature blends that refine and reinvigorate generations-old family recipes that pair perfectly with modern, clever cocktails, like the Sassy Lassi and the Chai It, You Will Like It.
Paper-thin, cash-only, Yankees memorabilia decking the walls, and the same sensational slice every single time: THIS is what Johnny’s is all about. In business since 1942, this hopping, come-as-you-are, Lower Westchester institution draws pizza devotees, big eaters, and anyone seeking the perfect pie (no slices!). Specialty pies, salads, and classic “red sauce and cheese” dishes dot the menu and are solid, but it’s the pizza that will dominate your food-driven dreams.
Take your neighborhood red-sauce joint, modernize it, don’t skimp on the Parmesan, and that’s Fortina. Wood-fired crispier than your average Neapolitan-inspired pizza, hearty pastas, deep-fried meatballs, and cheesy garlic bread make for a satisfying Italian feast. Day-one dishes include the black truffle LB pizza and the paccheri ala vodka with mini veal meatballs and crunchy breadcrumbs. But make sure you try such wood-fired newbies as the sausage and peppers and rib-eye with bone marrow — and don’t sleep on the brunchy goodness of guanciale, egg, and cheese gnocchi or the Prime beef burgers griddled in duck fat.
Utilitarian decor, subpar fish, and mediocre sushi prep skills characterize too many Japanese restaurants, unfortunately. But the 80-seat KOKU, with its sleek design (love the curved walnut overhang above the sushi bar and onyx marble bar) and use of top-rated Japanese fish suppliers that ensure the handsomely presented sushi is also excellent tasting, is a local exemplar those corner sushi joints should aspire to. The contemporary Japanese menu means there are also international touches to the offerings, such as blue-crab fajitas, a lobster taco, and an organic basil-chicken entrée. For a swoon-worthy “fifth taste” umami experience, don’t miss the grilled black cod appetizer, marinated for a day in mildly sweet saikyo miso.
With the consistency of your nonna’s kitchen but the culinary flair of an exclusive Manhattan restaurant, Maria has brought passion and top-level pasta plates to diners. With sapphire-blue banquettes and whitewashed brick walls, chef/owner Giovanni Cucullo (above) serves up such soulful dishes as hand-cut fettuccine with lamb ragu and charred octopus, along with classics like chicken scarpariello — all to honor his mother (you guessed it), Maria.
Chef Bonnie Saran’s “Little” empire now includes a bonus location, Little Drunken in White Plains. Both Mount Kisco and its sequel bring a lively, music-thumping atmosphere to match its fun, flavor-packed, mostly tapas-culture mashup menu. Deep-fried jamón and Manchego croquetas are a must, as are shredded-chicken empanadas, cutely served on a mini clothesline. Spanish influences aren’t all you’ll encounter, though, as Saran’s menu includes Mexican, American, Vietnamese, and Italian. Plenty of her own Indian culture is expressed, too, in standalone items (samosas, rice bowls) and throughout Little Drunken’s offerings. Saran’s other “Littles” are also worth a visit. Take your pick from Mount Kisco’s Little Kabab Station and Little Crepe Street or Little Mumbai Market, in the heart of Pleasantville.
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