A Meal for Champions: Slider Baskets and Oreo Cheesecake

Saw Mill Tavern breathes new life (and better food) into Ardsley’s Pumpernickel.

Last summer Charles Amchir and his business partners took over Pumpernickel, an Ardsley favorite best known for its extensive menu selection, casual atmosphere, and homebrewed root beer (a Best of Westchester winner). Despite some serious freshening-up, they quickly realized that being known as “Pumpernickel” was no longer a good thing, as even diehard patrons had been turning away from a once-good establishment that had been coasting on its rep.

Photo courtesy of Saw Mill Tavern

They soon shuttered to perform a major, front-to-back overhaul — re-opening last fall as the Saw Mill Tavern. Gone are Pumpernickel’s dark walls and stifling partitions. The dining room is now walled in colorfully stained wood paneling that, combined with soft pendant lighting, sparks a warm, inviting, relaxed ambience more befitting of a self-described tavern. The seating is grouped to allow more space between patrons.

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The kitchen scored some sorely needed upgrades, and its freezer capacity was downsized, reflecting the new direction — and size — of the menu. Amchir says he pruned Pumpernickel’s diner-size menu by at least a third — getting rid of what wasn’t working, keeping what was (like the wings), and upgrading many items (like the burgers, with better quality meat). By focusing on a smaller menu with a heavy rotation of specials, Amchir’s goal is to deliver fresh food — not frozen and re-heated — and plenty of it. “I want to make sure you never leave here hungry,” says Amchir. He wasn’t kidding.

But thankfully, Saw Mill Tavern’s generous portion sizes don’t come at the expense of quality.  The sliders, which can be ordered as a “basket” of three, six, or 12 with fries or onion rings, are two-handed propositions. SMT offers a choice of five — cheeseburger, Italian grilled chicken, chicken parmigiana, eggplant parmigiana, and meatloaf. The classic cheeseburger was juicy without being greasy, a very addictive marinara sauce enhanced the chicken parm, and the meatloaf slider was spilling over with sliced mushrooms and brown gravy.

The tavern’s wings come in all the typical iterations of spiciness, plus some inspired variations, particularly the General Tso’s sriracha, which has a buttery smoothness to its coating and a delayed-onset kick.

Those seeking a wider variety of firsts (or who are simply indecisive) can enjoy some wings as part of the Saw Mill Sampler Platter. For $14.95, you can choose four items, including mozzarella sticks, chicken tenders, onion rings, fries, hot, soft Bavarian pretzels, and corned beef latkes.

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Main courses skew heavily towards the comfort food zone, with fried chicken, chicken pot pie, meatloaf, baked mac n’ cheese, and fish n’ chips — with shepherd’s pie a popular special. A variety of other seafood, pasta, and beef dishes round out the entrée offerings.

All of the tavern’s desserts are made in-house — especially their not-to-be-missed Oreo cheesecake. Amchir has the cheesecakes made in smaller sizes — and therefore, more frequently — to keep them arriving tableside as fresh as possible.

On the bar side of things, SMT has found success hosting dart night on Tuesdays, trivia competitions on Thursdays (winning team gets a gift card, second place team a round of shots), DJ on Fridays, and live music on Saturdays.

Saw Mill Tavern
925 Saw Mill River Rd, Ardsley

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