Surely you’ve heard of Pepe’s Place, at one point rated No. 1 restaurant in Westchester on Yelp (they’re currently in fourth place), as noted on their menu? Chef/Owner Pepe Manigault makes friends like his Southern-style food sticks to your ribs. When I dropped in, everyone who walked into the sunny 6-seat takeout restaurant, which opened 15 months ago near Iona College in New Rochelle, was greeted by name—and most of them ordered the Buffalo shrimp: big battered and fried shrimp slathered with just-spicy-enough house-made hot sauce and sprinkled with black sesame seeds, on a bed of fries, with coleslaw and tartar sauce. “I can’t order anything else,” said a regular, when Manigault suggested he try the whiting, Moroccan grilled lamb, or Indian barbecued chicken. “I feel like I would be cheating on the shrimp.”
I chuckled in agreement as I chowed down on them myself. “I make everything in house, from the batter and hot sauce to the fruit punch. We’d grow our own shrimp if we could,” Manigault said. Born and raised in New Rochelle, he worked as pastry garde manger chef with Brian MacMenamin at Larchmont Oyster House, then for 14 years at Park Central Hotel in Manhattan, then again with MacMenamin at Club Car in Mamaroneck (recently closed), with a brief detour developing desserts for Alvin & Friends in New Rochelle. Do not miss the one dessert: cheesecake, a new flavor each week. Mine was maple walnut with a ginger snap crust.
Don’t forget dessert—like this cheesecake.
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“Cooking, like most things, is 30 percent knowledge,” he says. “The rest is in the heart.” He plans to add to the base menu of fried seafood, meat and chicken platters, gyros, and sides (all Halal), whose availability depends on what’s coming out of the oven at any given moment. I was sorry that the Tahitian vanilla bean yams weren’t ready, but I was offered a sample of mashed potatoes with scallions, which I ordered instead, along with cooked mustard greens and cabbage. Mac and cheese was yummy (although I prefer more whole pieces of macaroni). Food is served in takeout containers, so don’t go expecting anything fancy like plates; do expect $5 lunch specials and a 10 percent student discount—and a warm welcome.
560 North Ave