Photo by Andre Baranowski
Come in from the cold and warm up at these winter-weather gems, which boast everything from crackling fireplaces to sumptuous soups.
By Cristiana Caruso, Andrew Dominick & Michelle Gillan Larkin
It’s a veritable fact that Westchester’s esteemed eateries offer a refuge from the routine of daily living, but during the colder months, there’s just something extra special about tucking into one of the county’s cozy booths, plush leather banquettes, or just a big bowl of finely executed comfort fare. From dining rooms with roaring fireplaces and seasonally inviting decor to restaurants that warm from within via hearty, soul-soothing cuisine, this is your quintessential guide to winter dining in Westchester.
Forest-green banquettes, flashes of brass, and richly hued leather bar chairs denote old-world style, but the vibe is distinctly current and, dare we say, smokin’ hot — a perfect companion to cuisine that’s boldly flavored, elegantly plated, and European-brasserie-influenced yet utterly up-to-the-minute. A collection of artisan pastas (try the tagliatelle de cacio e pepe) spells comfort in any tongue, and the côte de boeuf for two is a USDA Prime tomahawk rib-eye that’s been dry-aged for two months. For something a little more laid-back, but on a par with the rest, consider the whopping King Louis XIV burger, featuring a dry-aged blend of meats, seared foie gras, black-truffle butter, and gorgonzola house-made fries.
Handsome reclaimed wood and earthy glints of zinc set a rustic, effortlessly elegant stage for Jean-Georges’ intriguing small plates, elevated pizzas, and exquisite entrées culled from Hudson Valley and New England farms. The four circa 1833 fireplaces that roar all season long only add to the allure of this stunning residence-turned-restaurant. Silky-smooth butternut squash soup whisks away any outside chill at once, and it doesn’t get more down-home upmarket than steamed black bass with pumpkin-tamarind sauce and toasted pumpkin seeds. Plus, this time of year “it’s always a good time for a truffle pizza,” offers Chef de Cuisine Ron Gallo. Laced with heady fontina cheese and redolent black truffles, the interior mercury soars the moment it arrives at the table.
The colder months always invoke a need for heartier meals, something that will stick to your ribs to help you survive the winter, while laying on fats and carbs that act as a pair of culinary fuzzy socks. In fact, a gentle snowfall would provide the perfect backdrop to try what is arguably the eatery’s most famous dish: the duck-liver cannoli. Follow it up with savory pork osso buco sitting atop a crispy white-corn polenta, apple mostarda, and vincotto that will keep you warm long after your meal is finished. Polish the night off with Chef Dave DiBari’s take on a cold-month favorite: chocolate polenta with toasted house-made marshmallows and salted cannoli shell — no fireplace needed.
Dining options on the stunning property that is the Bedford Post Inn include the The Barn, a casual bistro using local ingredients and a French-ish inspiration; The Terrace, an outdoor garden lounge with a wood-fired menu and craft cocktails; and The Farmhouse, an 18th-century (you guessed it) farmhouse — located in the same building as The Barn — which should be back open come fall, after renos are complete. Prospective guests can expect often-changing, upscale, Modern American fare offered in a multicourse tasting or a smaller, prix-fixe experience by decorated executive chef/co-owner Roxanne Spruance. A sommelier-directed wine program complements it all.
Dale Talde’s fancifid take on Chinese classics isn’t only in the discussion of Westchester’s best restaurants; it’s a top contender for one of the most beautiful. Located in Tarrytown House Estate’s The King Mansion, Goosefeather’s lush, green lawns with firepits out front and string lights out back make for a mesmerizing scene. Once inside, you’re treated to views of chandeliers, Art Deco ceiling murals, reclaimed wooden walls, and color pops on booths and barstools. But the food takes no backseat. Must-haves are dry-aged beef potstickers with spicy horseradish mustard that’ll leave you breathless, crispy General Tso’s shrimp bao, seasonal vegetable apps, every noodle and fried-rice creation, and all the Chinese barbecue.
Nothing like glorious, attention-grabbing decor and well-executed classics from both the north and south of Italy to take the wintry chill from the bones. Just one foot across the threshold, the breath is stolen as the eyes are drawn to the ornate, tin-style ceiling, then to the exposed brick, carved mirrors, and wood-toned wainscoting that line the walls. Top that off with rust-colored banquettes and café tables, where the indulgence begins in earnest. Authentic old-world favorites of rollatini, rigatoni Bolognese, off-the-bone chicken scarpariello, and branzino blend seamlessly with a double-cut heritage pork chop and caramelized peppers and onions, or the sirloin with an Amarone reduction, whipped potatoes, and broccoli rabe. The extensive wine list is equally superb and as strictly Italian as not only the cuisine but also the family-heirloom portraits that adorn the walls.
Brothers Joseph and Mark Mazzotta took a rundown Kent Place building, knocked it down and gave it new life as a Tuscan-style farmhouse. The dining room’s exposed brick wall (complete with hanging pizza peels, black-and-white photos, and antique corkscrews) and reclaimed wooden beams from an old barn in the Catskills make for the perfect setting for old-school bowls of pasta and Italian classics, like spicy, tangy chicken scarp, veal parm, and zuppa de pesce. If the peels weren’t a dead giveaway, there’s crisp artisan pizza here that’s from-scratch-made, including the dough, red sauce, and fresh mozzarella.
The intricately crafted mosaic scenes dictate the mood at La Bocca, alluding to the same level of meticulousness you’ll find in the dishes. Share your dinner conversation with the porcelain Carnevale masks speckled across the walls; just don’t let them take a bite out of your homemade pappardelle pasta slathered in Bolognese — made with a three-meat sauce. If being adventurous is on the menu, Master Chef Tony Spiritoso has a special touch with wild meat; indulge your inner hunter-gatherer with his fine selection of prepared rabbit, quail, venison, and boar.
Soup for You!
Nothing spells cold-weather comfort like a cup of soup served hot and steaming. These local spots offer up serious, slurp-worthy, slam-dunk (able) soothing.
The rustic house brew at this eclectic waterside taco joint boasts epazote, a common Mexican herb that ushers a pungent and lemony punch to a sensational swim of white- and dark-meat chicken, potatoes, onions, jala-peños, sawed-off ears of sweet corn, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.
The local authority on all things that beckon a spoon, this quick-serve, small-batch soup stop (stellar stews and chili too) stands out for its chicken noodle, replete with oodles of thoughtfully sourced, shredded white-meat chicken simmered with herbs and classic mirepoix. For a richer sip, the chicken dumpling version is akin to a molten pot pie with no trace of cream or milk.
You’ll want to dive into the melt-in-your-mouth onions that inhabit this toasty crock of French onion soup that’s appropriately smothered in melted Swiss and mozzarella. Excavate underneath your cheese layer to find gooey chunks of broth-soaked bread, Saltine purists be damned.
Walking through Moderne Barn’s ivy-outlined entrance is one thing, but once you’re inside, its all-equestrian-themed decor is highlighted by an inviting dining room with vaulted wooden ceilings, glass chandeliers, and globe lights. Settle in with one of the many homestyle meat or fish dishes, usually served sauced and with veggies, and do it with a selection from the lofty, award-winning wine list or a stellar bourbon cocktail that should be either a Paper Plane or a Port Old Fashioned. And much like its sister restaurant, the Livanos-owned City Limits Diner, Moderne Barn’s sweets are all made in-house, so do yourself a favor: Don’t skip dessert.
If one of the goals of a French bistro is to mentally transport you to an eatery on the streets of Paris, Saint George wins top awards. Its cozy 19th-century bar is perfect for sipping a Sazerac or dipping your spoon into a bubbly, cheesy-topped bowl of slow-simmered onion soup. Head to the dining room for additional indulgences, from buttery, garlicky escargot and charcuterie to medium-rare steak au poivre which comes with a proper side of thin, crispy pommes frites. Pair it all with a glass of French red or get more adventurous, with absinthe. If you dare, take on The Green Fairy, served fountain style, with an ice-water drip that melts a sugar cube over the spirit.
Get cozy with your special somone for a by-the-fire meal.
Since 1993, this multi-award-winning, business casual, white-tablecloth Italian joint has been a neighborhood institution. If you’re lucky enough to snag what they call the King’s Table, you can enjoy fresh, simple, beautifully plated classics directly across from the fireplace.
Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, The Tap Room at Crabtree’s is where you’ll want to be for fireside social occasions. Dive into such elevated pub grub as crocks of homemade chili, moules frites, cheese or charcuterie boards, or wrap both hands around a burger, spicy chicken sandwich, or a buttery lobster roll with a seasonal craft cocktail or locally brewed beer to wash it all down.
Serving brick-oven pizza, mostly traditional scratch-made Italian food, and a worthwhile Wagyu cheeseburger in the elegant old Mamaroneck train station house, guests can expect a roaring hearth that provides both ambience and toastiness.
When passing by La Vista on Smith Ridge Road, it’s hard not to stare in awe at their bright, string-lit front entrance. Make haste inside for a mixed menu of Italian red-sauce staples, comforting bowls of pasta, and plenty of seafood options. It’s a classy but come-as-you-are atmosphere, complete with a stone fireplace, a bar, and a lounge.
A bowl of soup seems like a prerequisite for a cozy, cold night. O Mandarin offers up the perfect handwarmer to sip and kick-start your meal, from wild-mushroom-and-riblet soup to traditional Chengdu fish soup that showcases hearty morsels of flounder. For a hug in edible form, the soup dumplings present a burst of flavorful broth, with a tucked-away nibble of tender meat. While enjoying the Peking duck delicacy (O Mandarin’s calling card), take in the wood-carved partitions and warm, earthy tones that kindle the ambience.
Serving farm-to-table dishes since 1965 in a rustic setting can only mean you’re at Peter Pratt’s Inn. Located in a 1780s barn, the structure still has much of its original charm intact, including 75% of its foundation. Those thick, old, petrified chestnut beams you see overhead are all from its original construction. Completing the cozy, cabin feel is a fireplace to keep you toasty while you dig into homey American dishes, like balsamic-braised short ribs, a hulking portion of Riesling-braised pork shank, Long Island Duck served two ways (confit leg and a pan-roasted breast), and a dry-aged burger topped with local cheese, house-cured and smoked bacon, and whiskey onions.
A charming rocking-chair front porch outfitted with old-fashioned picnic tables sets a rustically refined tone that continues inside this authentic 1776 farmhouse, where wide-plank wood flooring journeys underfoot, exposed beams dazzle overhead, and farm-fresh fare is right at home on every table. “What’s more warming than our three original fireplaces roaring every night and a root cellar stocked full of winter radish, carrots, celeriac, kohlrabi, potatoes, and spinach that’s super-sweet from the cold,” says executive chef/owner Michael Kaphan rhetorically. It’s all sourced from the on-site farm and accompanies deeply satisfying mains, like the Berkshire pork loin, served with fennel, apple, persimmon, and those hyper-local potatoes.
Always Al Fresco, Never Frozen
The pandemic may have made outdoor dining a regular sometimes required) thing, but these clever establishments elevate a meal in the great outdoors on a whole other toasty plane.
Take your taste buds on a gastro-vacation fit for royalty under the Sultan’s Tent, where bejeweled lanterns shimmer above the tapestry-draped walls as the simmering aromatics of tajine-cooked fare float through the space. If it weren’t for the heavy jackets shrouding chair-backs, one could easily play pretend, imagining oneself far away in a Marrakesh hotspot.
The expansive, skylighted tent treats guests to dining under the winter twilight, with the comfort of space heaters. Potted trees adorned with warm, white lights and a green, turf-like carpet maintain the ambience of fine dining while adding the pseudo-al-fresco element to the mix.
The stunning balsam and vine decor inside the sidewalk tent that fronts the restaurant sets a picturesque winter-wonderland feel but with ski-lodge-in-the-alps class. Bask in that dewy glow while nibbling on such sophisticated dishes as coq au vin and figs with oven-roasted Roquefort cheese. It’s all of the atmosphere and style of dining at an Upper East Side soiree, hold the train fare.
If the smell of fresh cinnamon doughnuts doesn’t lure the masses, the vibe of the outdoor dining options sure will. Brave the tundra to bask on the heated patio in personal igloos. Munch on Detroit-style pizza and cast-iron-skillet-cooked meatballs while Metro-North trains zoom by across the way, beyond your bubble of foodie heaven.
The way we see it, the recipe for an enriching, solid dining experience is simple: Mix one-part community watering hole with two parts elegantly laid-back neighborhood restaurant; shake it up with brass rails and festive, seasonal decor, and the result is the always-reliable, forever-friendly Sam’s of Gedney Way. The crowd-pleasing menu focuses on elevated pub grub (Chesapeake-style crab cakes, cauliflower-and-truffle pizza with Brussels) in perfect harmony with sophisticated plates of roasted Farro Island salmon and toasted fregola, and a cast-iron chicken pot pie with fingerling potatoes, pearl onions, carrots, and thyme velouté.
Grand wooden staircases with wine racks carved into them, icy twinkle lights, and rows of premium alcohol illuminated by the bar’s blue backlight give Sergio’s the ultimate winter chill but without the dropping temperatures. Thick and smoky pasta fagioli sets the tone of what’s to come: thick-cut veal chops, bone-in Berkshire pig pork chops, and oven-roasted Cornish hen are just a taste of the game variety that’s handily served up. These meats are accompanied by potatoes, onions, and peppers for an extra level of substance. Don’t forget the robust espresso macchiato to round out the ideal Italian experience.
Here, the friendly, embracing vibe is palpable from the intimate tables surrounding the long, shining bar to the slightly more formal upper-level dining room. The theme extends to the back, as well, past the open-view kitchen and alongside the fireplace in a crimson leather banquette. Black Angus steak frites with herb butter feels just as seasonally appropriate as fish and chips coated with Captain Lawrence pale-ale beer batter or a spinach-and-farro salad with honey-lemon ricotta, cranberries, almonds, and grilled lemon chicken. Tall-windowed views of the well-lit village square on a chilly evening add to the overall warmth.
Clear, unobstructed scenes of ice floes on the Hudson River may seem counterintuitive to a warm dining experience, but it works like a charm at this glass-wrapped haven of inviting ambience and hearty, satisfying fare. “View the winterscape of the Palisades from an upholstered chair in our dining room while indulging in an order of our six-hour braised short ribs of beef, and stay warm all evening long,” suggests chef/owner Peter Kelly. The sides complement the main in expert fashion, with rich truffle potatoes and roasted cauliflower brightening the plate. Kelly also recommends the Hudson Valley-raised duckling, roasted and accompanied by tender spaetzle and haricot vert, as a surefire means of chasing away the chill.
Winter Weather Edibles
The hard ground and harshness of winter may not sound like the best time to tend the crops, but there are paticular ingredients that thrive during this season — planted or otherwise. Look out for these heirloom elements on the next menu you peruse.
Much like us during the winter, beets have an earthy profile with just a little scooch of bitterness. Bistro 146 melds the vegetable with pears and almond-crusted brie over a salad of spinach greens, paired with a Champagne-hazelnut dressing to pull it all together.
BLACK WINTER TRUFFLES
The black truffle trofie dish is as decadent as it is comforting, with black truffles in a cream sauce that are then coated with Pecorino Romano and laid over trofie pasta.
There are very few dishes less comforting than creamy carbonara peppered with salty, crunchy chunks of pancetta. Here, the garganelli pasta is also tossed with eggs and Parmigiano Reggiano. Bonus: The dining room is decorated to the gills with jewel tones and elegant up-lighting, all of which is kept in place through February.
The Italian version of grits helps warm even the chilliest days. Rosie’s dresses the grain up with a stunning fillet of Pacific sea bass simmered in tomato broth with baby clams, mussels, and grilled polenta, for just the right texture and to soak up all that delicious sauce.
Pears are a hearty fruit that add a delicate sweetness and distinctive snap to any dish. Taste them two ways with the salmon, both mixed in with roasted broccoli and cannellini beans, and then drizzled over the dish as a pear butter.