Hudson Social, Dobbs Ferry
Photo by David Weiss Photography courtesy of Hudson Social
Not just for commuters anymore, Westchester’s iconic train stations are being reimagined as upmarket cafés and cloth-napkin eateries.
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There was a time when coffee and a bagel were all a hurried commuter needed before hopping the silver bullet to GCT. Today, more and more of Westchester’s quaint, historic train-station buildings are being transformed into full-service cafés and restaurants offering everything from breakfast sandwiches and lunch salads to fine dining for “travelers” heading nowhere but home with a full belly. Here is a sampling of the depot dining options on all three of Westchester’s Metro-North lines, where the fare varies from station to station, but one thing remains the same: coffee for those early morning rides.
Capturing this Bronxville bastion of train travel fell on the once-weary Wall Street shoulders of Charu Rana, who breathed new life into not only the station but also her spirit, leaving behind the Lower Manhattan rat race in favor of a friendly, neighborhood spot she could use to get her neighbors off to a good start each day. Contentedly ensconced in the evocative Spanish Mission Revival-style depot, Rana’s BXVL offers an array of hot, iced, and nitro coffees, along with teas (including chai, matcha, and Rishi brand), fruit smoothies, and pastries. Come lunchtime, pressed sandwiches come chuggin’ to the fore, including a caprese, French prosciutto provolone, and mortadella gruyere (all of them nitrate-free) and a vegan-friendly hummus and cucumber. BTW, BXVL’s roster of ice fruit pops make for tasty yet healthy palate cleansers.
Built in 1902 and on the National Register of Historic Places, this fieldstone stationhouse retains its rustic, woodsy appeal with the original ticket counter and benches polished up by Bobo’s Café, open daily for breakfast, lunch, and early dinner, with elevated BEC sammies, paninis, açaí and basmati bowls, and coffee: hot, cold, or frozen. Owner Craig Bernardi digs the town-center vibe at the edge of the rails: “You see workers going to the city, then the stay-at-home moms, and high schoolers at lunch. You hit all the demographics and it’s cool watching the transition.”
Choo-choos rattled through as early as 1847, back when the hamlet was Unionville, but the original Richardsonian Romanesque depot was replaced in the 1950s by today’s simpler structure. With the brick exterior repainted in edgy gray Off The Rail boasts a breakfast bounty on the blackboard beginning at 5:30 a.m., with smoothies, burgers, burritos, wings, and pizza through lunchtime, courtesy of the Wood & Fire Restaurant Group. CEO Michael Ferrara hails the foot traffic. “It’s a great reminder for daily commuters about our other restaurants,” he says.
It’s not Katonah’s first trackside dwelling, but this red-trimmed local landmark dates to 1910, and for nearly three-decades, the DiScala family (from an island off Naples by way of the Bronx) has operated Peppino’s Ristorante, serving homemade traditional Italian faves of gnocchi and zuppa di pesce at lunch and dinner daily. Joe DiScala says folks “young and old get a kick out of eating in a train station and enjoy the novelty of it.” Pro tip: His mom Sylvia’s famous ricotta cheesecake pairs well with a sip from the arm’s-length martini menu.
It’s not the first station to stand in its place, but the elongated, circa 1910 building that endures bears the Richardsonian Romanesque style of its predecessor. Inside, exposed brick with black-and-white wall hangings usher old-world charm to new-school Italian, Locali Pizza Bar & Kitchen, where handcrafted pizza and pasta coexist with shaved cauliflower and umami meatballs at lunch and dinner (closed Monday), accompanied by a comprehensive wine list. Chef Mogan Anthony says a station place is all about the people. “Restaurants run on hands-on labor, and it’s easier to find staff,” he explains. “Plus, it’s a landmark that’s easy to find and remember.”
While there’s evidence of a station as early as 1846, the current-day depot dates to 1905 and is home to Pub Street, serving up highbrow lunch and dinner daily (except Monday), with a distinctly Asian flair in a hip and airy setting. The raw bar, ceviche, and lobster rolls are tempered by wings, burgers, hangar steak, and a classic Reuben. “It’s a myth that a train-station restaurant means 2,000 commuters will flock over, but it does advertise your business with the smell of chili flakes, garlic, and basil-infused olive oil permeating the air,” says Pub Street Chef Mogan Anthony.
This nondescript 1890 structure is flanked in red by a 1910 B&O caboose and an 1896 passenger car, and occupying it all is neighborhood fave Valhalla Crossing, where regulars enjoy lunch and dinnertime burgers, beers, big salads, and wraps in a homey, old-school setting. Owner Stan Chelluck says kids (and kids at heart) elbow for a seat in the Track Room, with its grand picture windows and unobstructed silver streak scenery “You’re four feet from the tracks, and when it goes by, you know it. The windows rattle!” he says.
Built in 1889, an eye-catching stone-and-terracotta-trimmed archway leads to Hudson Social, with coffee and baked goods ready at 6 a.m. and ovens hot until the sun sets on the daily grind. Nightly bistro fare, including crispy Brussels sprouts and steak frites, is served aside craft cocktails and a solid wine list. Owner Matt Kay loves the locale: “Easy access for commuters, a lot of parking, and for me, it’s the view of the Hudson River and the folks enjoying the waterfront park.”
Self-described as a “modern, family-friendly café,” pouring all manner of Brooklyn Parlor Coffee alongside bagels, muffins, cookies, and a thoughtfully curated market of artisan jams, chocolates, and teas, The Good Witch Coffee Bar occupies a lofty perch inside a charming 1910 red-brick building, with counter service starting at 7 a.m. most days and ending by noon.
Picturesque, crimson, and stone, this stop was built in 1889 by turn-of-the-century Boston architects Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge but retired as a ticket office in the 1950s. Today, BRRZAAR, a café and dessert bar, swirls all-natural frozen yogurt side by side with hot and cold Double Barrel coffee and espresso, teas, Balthazar baked goods, and vegan hotdogs.
Circa 1890, the original depot did double duty as John D. Rockefeller’s private telegraph terminus before it was destroyed by a cigarette fire in 1922. Three years later, the current structure was erected and now houses The Bakehouse of Tarrytown, a satellite of Ardsley’s Riviera Bakehouse, as it’s known locally. Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (except Sunday and Monday), pies, tarts, cookies, cupcakes, breakfast items, and sandwiches tempt passers-through, while grab-’n’-go dinners are a mitzvah on late-night arrivals.
New Haven Line
One of the largest local “whistle stops,” this striking, red-brick, Romanesque building was constructed in 1888, making it one of Metro-North’s oldest, too. Inside, yesteryear charm is carefully refreshed as Modern on the Rails, sister to New Rochelle’s Modern Restaurant & Lounge, serving weeknight (except Monday) pizza, pasta, and traditional Italian apps and entrées, from classic chicken parm to eye-popping lamb T-bone chops, along with weekend late lunch and dinner. “We have guaranteed visibility and an easy spot for commuters to pick up food on the way home or enjoy happy hour,” says owner Anthony Russo.