Picky, picky, picky. That’s us (and proud of it).
Fortunately you, our readers, are similarly, ahem, discerning.
So what did we get when we put our picks together with yours?
Just the best ever Best of Westchester—’03.
By Laurie Yarnell and Nancy Claus Giles with Maria Bennett, Dave Donelson, Mark Golodetz, Judith Hausman, Geoffrey Kalish, Irene Levine, Cathy Sontag Nish, Lois Podoshen, Diane Weintraub Pohl and John Bruno Turiano
Featuring Photography by Phillip Ennis
Yes, we’ve been known to be a tad fussy, a bit finicky and, okay, sometimes downright annoyingly picky. So rest assured: If we picked ’em odds are they really are the best. We sampled and sipped; we snooped and shopped; we schmoozed and schlepped, all to uncover the unique and amass the amazing.
And we found them. The superlative.The exceptional. The unparalleled. The outstanding.The Best of Westchester.
Ruby’s Oyster Bar & Bistro in Rye
This seafood bistro is the real thing—the tiered platter of fruits de mer is worthy of the Left Bank. If nothing else, sip a kir royale at the zinc bar, custom-made in Paris (one of only four in this country). (921-4166)
Gus’s Franklin Park Seafood in Harrison
You know those hip places where your out-of-work actor/waitperson for the evening reels off specials featuring the weirdest fusion of seemingly incompatible ingredients? This is not one of them. What it is: a longtime local institution—down home and comfy. Regulars positively swoon over the house special Gorgonzola salad. And don’t be surprised if the bartender bursts into “O Sole Mio” in the middle of your meal. (835-9804)
in Mt. Kisco
A fish store by day, a BYOB restaurant at night, what Conte’s lacks in space (there are only 12 tables), it more than makes up for in taste—and atmosphere (fish nets hang from the ceiling, sea shells and lobster pots adorn the walls). When the weather is warm, enjoy grilled tuna on the outdoor patio. Life doesn’t get much better than this. (666-6929)
Slave to the Grind
Looking for a jolt of java? This retro coffeehouse is a welcome time-warp—like a trip back to college (with reading glasses, but minus the final exams). Think plants, reading material and fresh-baked
Lefteris Gyro in Tarrytown
A big fat Greek eatery offering traditional favorites at big-appetite friendly prices. The Aegean platter is fabulous—pastitsio, moussaka, stuffed grape leaves, Mediterranean style yogurt, tzatziki, etc.—and all for $13.95. Come hungry, or bring a crowd. (524-9687)
Amalfi in Briarcliff
If the cupboards are bare and the kids cranky, pack ’em up in the SUV and head on over to this always reliable Italian eatery. There’s specialty brick-oven pizzas and a serious wine list for the ’rents, too. Try too the take-home sauces under the Cucina Antica name (we love the vodka—sauce, that is).
Eclisse Northern Italian Cuisine in Rye Brook
They make an offer we can’t refuse. Humongous dishes, definitely meant to be shared, in a beautiful greenhouse setting (no tacky Chianti candles here). Take the family—and you won’t have to worry about little Samantha or Sebastian smearing red sauce on your tablecloth. (937-5770)
Desert Moon (Jefferson Mall) in Yorktown
Move over Mickey Ds and KFC—swap your supersized value meal No. 4 for something fast yet fresh and tasty, like a sonoran quesadilla—tortillas stuffed with cheese, peppers, onions, guacamole and pico de gallo. Note: there are other locations, but we like Yorktown the best. (245-7801)
in Sleepy Hollow
Got a hearty appetite but a thin wallet? We go loco for Corona’s Cuban sandwiches, garlic chicken steak and pepper chicken—lots of taste for very little cash. (631-6393)
The Rye Grill & Bar in Rye
Ladies who lunch, frazzled commuters and local families frequent this relaxed and surprisingly good venue. While Rye Grill is foodie-friendly, its specials are not so trendily “fused.” And the comfy booths are perfect for unhurried yenta fests.
Hunan Village in Yonkers
This is the place to go for Beijing-quality gourmet cuisine. Try the Beijing lamb, the crispy duck or the pork lion’s head (a covered hot pot), or order “off the menu,” and ask for the tea-smoked squab appetizer.
La Panetière in Rye
Bernard Loiseau. Alain Passard. Joel Robuchon. If the mere mention of these cult-
status French chefs leaves you longing for some foie gras, bouillabaisse and crème brûlée, put this premier Provençal-style French restaurant on your must-visit list. Having trained with the triumvirate of taste, Chef Christophe Philoreau’s credentials are impeccable. Not surprisingly, his food is superb and the service magnifique (le café is served avec warm milk to ensure proper temperature—bien sûr). (967-8140)
in Briarcliff Manor
Great south-of-the-border cuisine right here in the ’burbs. A bonus—this spot doubles as a cultural outing for the kiddies with a live mariachi band on weekends. And the guac and margaritas are addictive.
Only five or so more months. Forget the holidays…we can hardly wait for über-chef Peter X. Kelly’s newest restaurant to open on the Yonkers waterfront in the beginning of next year. Considering Kelly’s other ventures—Xaviar’s and Freelance Café and Wine Bar in Piermont (29s in Zagat) and Restaurant X & Bully Boy Bar in Congers (26) —we predict fine dining over the Yonkers piers come this winter. (All we want from Santa is a reservation.)
in Croton Falls
Cinema sizzle meets countryside elegance in actor Stanley Tucci’s newest production, set in a beautifully restored 19th-century manor. Imaginative New American cuisine includes Maryland crab cakes, Atlantic salmon and butter-tender beef short ribs. There’s also a wonderful Hudson Valley artisanal cheese selection. Hint: Reserve way, way in advance for weekends. And come on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday between 5 and 7 p.m., when drinks are half-priced.
in Sleepy Hollow
A hidden gem that’s worth the hunt—particularly for lunch: a three-course meal for $7.95! The tamarind duck is particularly sublime and the vegetarian selections excellent. Down a few Singhas and Thai one on.
in North Salem
Fires flickering in every room. Original stone hearths and candles set everywhere. Rose petals strewn across the table. This singularly romantic historic landmark offers a cozy atmosphere that’s stylish, not stuffy. (In nice weather, settle in on the outdoor porch.) And, oh yes, we love the food, too. (277-2301)
in New Rochelle
Think Cheers with Italian food. Come once or twice and everyone’ll know your name. A longtime popular hang out for local politicos. (636-1229)
Harvest on Hudson
The interior is almost as gorgeous as the view. Our advice: Drink in the spectacular Hudson River views from the terrace while the sun sets. Then head indoors (wonderful views there, too) and sample the tempura ahi tuna and the chocolate peanut butter gelato cake. (478-2800)
in South Salem
Thinking of tying the knot? We propose you propose here. An elegant stone mansion with wood-paneled dining rooms, grand staircases, stone
fireplaces—and spectacular views of rolling hills. Hitched already? Think anniversary. (533-6631)
in White Plains
Three reasons we keep coming back to Mulino’s: (1) the food (classic Italian done right), (2) the setting (a wall of glass with waterfall views), and
(3) the service (who doesn’t love being taken care of?).
Three times a charm.
Kathleen’s Tea Room
An oh-so-civilized welcoming cocoon of porcelain, floral chintz and potted plants. Choose from over 40 varieties of tea (and nary a cardboard cup or plastic lid in sight). Kathleen’s afternoon tea includes mouthwatering tea sandwiches, scones and clotted cream or lemon curd, cake and sliced fruit. Where Fergie would have indulged before Weight Watchers put her on its payroll. (734-2520)
Mighty Joe Young’s
in White Plains
A one-of-a-kind steakhouse with a safari theme (check out the stuffed lions and antelope heads adorning the walls). Really kitschy. The food is surprisingly good too, especially if you’re game for game meat. (428-6868)
Sonora in Port Chester
Our Latin love, chef Rafael Palomino, satisfies our every desire for Nuevo Latin cuisine. What he can do with cilantro, chili and peppers raises the bar. This is way more than rice and beans—think Chilean sea bass with spicy Colombian chorizo, or sirloin steak sided with sweet plantain mofongo. And the drinks ain’t too bad either. Brazil’s staple, Caipirinha, a potent combination of rum, sugar and fresh limes, or Cuba’s Mojito, same ingredients with the addition of fresh mint, go well with just about anything on the Bistro Latino menu. (933-0200)
Artichoke Ravioli at Cafe Mezé in Hartsdale
Mark Filippo is a culinary wizard—and while we love trying anything new he dishes up, we just can’t have him take the artichoke ravioli appetizer off the menu. Permeated with heady flavors of Parmesan and truffles, Filippo’s delicate pasta pockets evoke dreams of carefree sunny days on the terrace of a Tuscan villa. (428-2400)
Almost worth the whole meal. Sports Illustrated’s bathing-suit photographer Jay Maisel once had four loaves before even placing an order. Of course, he’s not the one wearing the bikinis. (234-9647)
Oy vey, mon! You don’t have to be Jewish to make a mean chicken soup. Try this version of Caribbean penicillin. It’s better than Sudafed and it’s homemade, with chunks of chicken, vegetables and delicious dumplings. (332-9111)
David’s Jade Palace
A corner of China on Central Avenue. And between 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., the dim sum carts, laden with delectable steaming dishes, come straight to your table. Addictive shark fin dumplings. Taro-
coated shrimp fritters. Fat spare ribs in a black-bean sauce. Even chicken feet! The servings are purposely small, so you can sample lots. (288-8008)
in New Rochelle and Port Chester
Olé! These fajitas are infused with real homemade flavor (that is, if you make your home in Mexico City). Choose from chicken, beef, shrimp or shrimp and salmon, and have it your way with such traditional condiments as guacamole, yellow rice, black beans, etc. Pair with a mango margarita or a selection from the rolling tequila bar for a fantastico taste sensation. New Rochelle: (636-7222); Port Chester: (937-6969)
Eastchester Fish Gourmet in Scarsdale
There’s only one word for Eastchester’s Chatham cod “gently heated”: Wow! (725-3450)
Le Jardin du Roi
Hot, crispy and habit-forming, Le Jardin’s fries are somewhere between shoestring and steak fries, size-wise, and somewhere between heaven and nirvana, taste-wise. The ultimate finger food. (238-1368)
Clino’s Pizza, Pasta & Things
in Port Chester
Betcha can’t eat just one. Everything at Clino’s is delicious, but the garlic rolls are to-die-for. Caution: These are not recommended for first dates. In any event, bring Binaca. (939-8000)
in Port Chester
Hot, hot, hot! Jerk—that fiery Caribbean barbecue we love—is one of our favorite memories of the islands—along with steel drum bands and white sand beaches. And the island of Jamaica is the only place where you’ll find a friendlier staff. Yeah, mon. (937-4885)
City Limits Diner
in White Plains
If greens are your thing, these are the antithesis to the ho-hum, boring old lettuce and tomato variety. We recommend: the seared scallops and shrimp (with asparagus, seasonal greens and beet vinaigrette), the crispy veal paillard (with arugula, artichokes, tomatoes and truffle pecorino cheese) or the sesame crusted tuna (with julienne of wakame, cucumber and daikon, spicy mayonnaise and ginger soy vinaigrette.) (686-9000) Also in The Westchester and Stamford, CT
Cosi in Rye
Revisit summer camp Pow Wows minus those annoying bugs and scary ghost stories. Cosi provides all the ingredients: chocolate bars, graham crackers, marshmallows and a mini-hibachi for you to make your own S’Mores. You didn’t worry about the calories then, so why start now? (921-3322) Also in Larchmont (834-9797), Mt. Kisco (242-5408) and New Rochelle (637-8300).
Rye Ridge Deli
in Rye Brook
This is the matzoh ball soup your Jewish grandma would be making if she wasn’t rushing off to the Early Bird Special in Boca. So eat, Bubbalah, eat; no puny size 2 portions here. One bigger-than-a-baseball matzoh ball with chicken soup and Saltines is a meal in itself. Oy…a loved one has the sniffles? Bring some right over. (937-2131)
Zephs’ in Peekskill
Everything is homemade, including the heavenly ice cream, the wonderful chestnut torta, the sublime pear bread pudding. And the dessert menu changes each season. For summer, we love the peach and blueberry cobbler and the lemon pudding soufflé; in cooler months we favor sticky pudding with dates, and chocolate mousse cake with vanilla malted ice cream. Diet another day. (736-2159)
Winston’s Coffee House and Bakery in Armonk
These oversized beauties are the must-have errand-running accessory. Pair one with a cup of caffeine and you’re good to go. There are over a dozen outrageous flavors (cinnamon coffee crunch, carrot raisin or pumpkin kashi, anyone?), but the cappuccino is so scrumptious, we’re amazed they’re legal.
Flames Steak House
in Briarcliff Manor
Crisp and full of flavor, we know you can’t eat just one—and why should you? Aren’t onion rings just veggies in disguise? (923-3100)
Caravela in Tarrytown
Adore paella? We do too. Caravela’s fragrant stew of scrupulously fresh shellfish (clams, mussels and shrimp) and tender chicken and chorizo sausage is cooked to perfection and with just the right amount of saffron rice and secret spices to summon up sunny scenes of the Costa del Sol (siestas not included). (631-1863)
in Golden’s Bridge
Two paper plates are required to hold one Portofino slice, but it still counts as one serving, right? Tastes first-rate, too.
If salad pizza is the best—and most guilt-free—fast food ever, Pizza Station’s salad pizza (lotsa lettuce, tomatoes and cukes, hold the cheese) is the best of the best. And what’s more, you can have it (and other Pizza Station entrées) brought right to your door. Courteous Chappaqua seniors (driving safe Volvos, naturally) make deliveries in rain, sleet or snow. We almost feel guilty asking gramps to fetch food in inclement weather—but better him than us. (238-1400)
Frankie & Johnnie’s
Testosterone-zone ahead. Frankie & Johnnie’s juicy steaks are as close to Peter Luger’s as you can get north of the city. (925-3900)
Azuma Sushi in Hartsdale
If you knew sushi, like we know sushi—then you must know Azuma. The sea urchin is pristine, the sashimi, deluxe. The fluke, salmon, scallops, yellowtail—simply glorious. (725-0660)
in Dobbs Ferry
Okay. So perhaps Holy Mackerel roll, French Dynamite and American Hero aren’t exactly authentic (you won’t find them in Kyoto), but who cares? They are delicious. Our secret lunch-time passion: the Out-of-Control Roll made with spiced tuna, avocado, scallions and eel. (591-0054)
Continue reading for our Food & Wine section and the rest of the Best of Westchester 2003
Village Prime Meats
Fire up the grill. This old-fashioned butcher shop has such juicy, tender cuts of meat, even the staunchest vegetarian may trade in that tasteless veggie burger for the real McCoy—100 percent prime meat: organic chicken, thick slabs of bacon, juicy cuts of beef, natural tender veal, lamb, pork and chicken. Oh, and if you’ve forgotten your greens, pick up salad stuff here too: something for your envious veggie friends. (273-5222)
Say cheese! This tiny shop does—in French, Spanish, Italian and English. Note: Velveeta not spoken here.
Mt. Kisco Seafood
in Mt. Kisco
It may be small (some closets in Westchester homes are bigger), but Mt. Kisco Seafood is the big fish in our small pond. It sure sells alotta fish—approximately six thousand pounds each week. And no wonder: the fish is of such high quality, you could slap it on some rice and pass it off as sushi.
Not up to cooking? No problem: just call ahead and have your salmon and lobster cooked-to-order. Nothing fishy about that! (241-3113)
Turco’s in Hartsdale and Yorktown Heights
Bravo! We give this self-describ