Photography by Andre Baranowski
A seat by the fire beckons businesspeople to the Ritz-Carlton’s sophisticated Lobby Lounge, where they can enjoy delicious breakfast options such as almond-milk pancakes.
Stacey Cohen, president of Mount Kisco-based Co-Communications, likes to joke that City Limits Diner in White Plains is her second
office. This self-proclaimed morning person admits she often conducts business meetings at 8 when the restaurant opens and when the distractions of the day haven’t set in yet. The Chappaqua resident even has her favorite booth (the fourth one on the left) where she confesses to occasionally holding back-to-back meetings, sometimes lasting into lunch.
“It’s easier to get a person’s undivided attention early in the morning,” she says. “Plus, breakfast meetings don’t interfere with the work day. They have a more casual ease to them and are more productive.”
Cohen isn’t the only businessperson in a high-power position who likes starting her mornings mixing nutrition with business. Lori Hall Armstrong, CEO of The Thought Partnership, a strategic positioning company, often goes to Mirage Diner in New Rochelle, City Limits, or the Lobby of the Ritz-Carlton, Westchester. Though she usually keeps her meetings brief—and depends on quick turn-around service—she says these appointments are crucial to jump-starting a productive workday for multitaskers like herself who have long to-do lists and limited time.
F.A.B. French American Bistro in Mount Kisco offers early-morning deal-makers some decadent options, including the French toast bread pudding.
Such is the allure of what has long been called the power breakfast. Morning meals/meetings have the advantage of starting early—before the headaches of a hundred other things crowd one’s agenda. An 8 am (or earlier) start is still relatively peaceful and angst-free, offering a clean slate to (hopefully) strike a deal. The fact that breakfast is the least expensive meal of the day is another bonus—especially in this still recession-weary economy.
Another reason why breakfast meetings are booming: the plethora of coffeehouses, diners, and cafés at which you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a good meal. It’s all part of a “casualization” trend, opines Brad Barnes, senior director of culinary education at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), who often holds his morning meetings at CIA’s Hyde Park headquarters’s Apple Pie Bakery Café. In other words, says the Yonkers resident, the food world is changing. Whereas, in the past, you’d only find truffles on poached halibut or other high-end entrées, today, they are sprinkled on French fries and mashed potatoes. This more informal approach extends to the domain of the executive breakfast, meaning a neighborhood bakery with free wireless, house-made muffins, and Fair Trade coffee is just as acceptable for a morning meeting as an upscale hotel or restaurant (though, of course, those with still-liberal expense accounts might tend towards the latter). With that in mind, here are some of the top eye-opening locales where Westchester’s movers and shakers meet to schmooze, kibitz, negotiate, and, of course, break bread.
|For executives and office dwellers who need that extra jolt of caffeine, Armonk’s Tazza Café is a good spot to start the day with a cappuccino and breakfast items such as this egg muffin sandwich with spinach, cheese and tomato.|
Atrium at Doral Arrowwood
975 Anderson Hill Rd, Rye Brook (914) 939-5500
Breakfast served 6:30 to 10:30 am
Atrium AT Doral Arrowwood makes usiness meetings—especially for those who have to catch a plane or need to be in the office early—a breeze. The sedate setting, where the sun comes shining in via the sky-high glass windows, is an expansive room with an ebullient noise level ripe for deal-makers. Entrées are pretty much your usual suspects: eggs, French toast, cereal, and fruit, all artfully laid out among an assortment of food stations, including ones specifically catering to breakfast burritos, oatmeal, yogurts, and fresh fruit. Table service provides juice and coffee while you serve yourself from the buffet, giving you reason to excuse yourself when the conversation gets heated.
Black Cat Café
45 Main St, Irvington (914) 231-9060
Breakfast served 8 to 11:30 am
The smell of freshly roasted coffee envelops you the minute you walk into this jewel-box of a café, enlivening your senses even before you order. Two things distinguish this rivertown social center: the emphasis on fresh, proprietary cuisine sourced from local farmers and vendors whenever possible, and the laid-back vibe which, starting at 8 am, begins emanating from folks tapping into laptops, beside them a steaming mug of Fair Trade coffee (from Coffee Labs Roasters in Tarrytown). The unpretentious breakfast powwow makes for a homey, comfortable atmosphere that suits the needs of many area writers, artists, and music-biz execs who are more than eager to start their day with hot, old-fashioned, steel-cut oats; veggie breakfast burritos; or decadent French toast.
City Limits Diner
200 Central Ave, White Plains (914) 686-9000
Breakfast served all day starting at 8 am
City Limits has the appeal of a casual diner but with the feel and food of an upscale restaurant—which is why so many executives flock here. The spacious restaurant, which can accommodate large or small groups, is located at the intersection of Central Avenue and Tarrytown Road (Route 119), just across from the County Center and near the Bronx River Parkway and I-287, making it easy for those in various Westchester locations to meet. Plus, there’s ample parking as well as a cheerful décor: a mixture of 1950s malt shop with quick-turnaround coffee-shop service—and lots of booths for hushed wheeling and dealing.
The appeal also lies with the food: solidly good home-style fare, often in oversized portions, though many regulars (like Cohen) rarely look at the menu (her standard order: coffee, scrambled eggs, wheat toast, and sliced tomatoes instead of the hash browns). Ever popular: house-smoked Atlantic salmon on a toasted bagel with cream cheese, red onion, and tomato; raisin currant and challah French toast; house-made granola with seasonal fruit, berries, and yogurt; and vegetable frittata. Also to be filed under Why It’s So Popular: the coffee’s strong and the waitstaff is quick with refills.
Equus at Castle on the Hudson
400 Benedict Ave, Tarrytown (914) 631-1980
Breakfast served from 7 to 10:30 am
Deep in the heart of Tarrytown’s dizzying maze of suburban cul-de-sacs, the sophisticated venue that is Equus quietly provides pretty much everything you could possibly want in a morning power breakfast. The restaurant carefully walks a fine line between elegant and old school by offering well-executed standards like omelets and buttermilk pancakes alongside slightly more adventurous but equally satisfying entrées like Chesapeake Bay eggs Benedict (poached egg with jumbo crab cake, wilted spinach, and Béarnaise sauce); and Scottish salmon eggs Benedict (crisp potato pancake, poached eggs, and smoked salmon with a dill hollandaise). Whether uncomplicated or high end, the food delights with quality ingredients and careful preparations. Combined with the stylish ambiance, the knowledgeable and well-trained waitstaff, and the exquisite castle-like surroundings, it’s no wonder this venue ranks high on the list of the well-heeled, many of whom call the Castle “home.” Rochelle Carrington, president of Sandler Training, is one exec who holds breakfast meetings here once a month. She uses the allure of the Castle’s unique atmosphere to get four or five local CEOs together, giving them an opportunity to discuss best practices and challenges in running a business. “I always hold my breakfasts in the sunroom because the views are incredible and the ambience is elegant and impressive,” she says. “Plus, it’s quiet and easy to conduct strategic conversations.”
F.A.B. French American Bistro in Mount Kisco offers early-morning French toast bread pudding.
F.A.B. French American Bistro
222 E Main St, Mount Kisco (914) 864-1661
Breakfast served 9 to 11 am
There’s a lot of TLC at F.A.B., the bra- sserie-style eatery, which impresses with creative food in impressive surroundings. Much of the menu is polished and very—what else—French, however substitutions are easily accommodated. Though, honestly, if you’re already here, you might as well go for a “repas complet,” which means indulging in the decadent and delicious French baguette French toast bread pudding with maple syrup and strawberries, which literally can hold you until dinner. The croque monsieur with toasted country bread, ham, cheese, and béchamel sauce, is a close second. Rcommend either to your business guest—he/she will thank you for it. F.A.B.’s offerings are a refined (and filling) way to start your day with prices that rival any diner (the French toast pudding is $7.95; the croque monsieur, $10.95). There are a lot of personal touches here as well—such as servers who know when to top off your coffee, whisk plates away, or simply leave you to your conversation. The fact that you’re never rushed is a big plus, ending your meal on a positive—and hopefully deal-sealing—note.
Jean-Jacques Culinary Creations
468 Bedford Rd, Pleasantville (914) 747-8191
Breakfast served all day, every day, starting at 6 am
Fresh-from-the-oven goodies are one reason deal-making power brokers flock to this congenial French eatery. The other is its light and delicious morning fare, including fluffy omelets, traditional quiches, and the café’s swoon-worthy specialties: house-baked cinnamon-raisin buns, and brioche French toast (it’s a toss-up which one to order, so hopefully you’re with someone who shares). What looks initially like a small place is actually quite large, with a private room that accommodates up to 70. It’s here that many local networking groups meet on a regular basis, often as early as 7. It’s also where, if you drop your business card in the bowl near the front, you could win a free meal for up to 10 people (a nice treat for your office mates, perhaps?). Jean-Jacques’s daughter, Jeannette Gabrillargues Chacho, who is the catering director, says this space is growing in popularity thanks to its versatility and affordability, as well as the growth of area business groups which draw from Briarcliff Manor, Pleasantville, Thornwood, Mount Kisco, and Chappaqua.
1240 W Boston Post Rd, Mamaroneck (914) 833-1320
Open 24 hours; breakfast served all day
Networking get-togethers and the rubbing of influential elbows goes on at inviting booths and long tables at this standard diner which, despite its bright lights in the wee hours of the morning, is a prime meeting spot for those in the Sound Shore area. One reason: it’s well located—with a prime Boston Post Road address that links power players from Rye, Harrison, White Plains, Mamaroneck, Larchmont, and New Rochelle. Easy parking and tons of table configurations inside are other pluses, and some of the reasons why Judy Myers, the County Legislator for the 7th District—which includes Mamaroneck, Larchmont, and parts of Rye and New Rochelle—comes here. “It’s quick and the food is tasty, and the coffee’s good,” she says.
It’s also big with the networking crowds. Larchmont resident Brad Garfield, producer/director for North Ridge Productions, started his “low-key, low-stress” breakfasts here as a way to get area business people talking and schmoozing. The group began with five people about a year and a half ago and has grown to 292 members (though the average morning meeting usually ranges from 20 to 40).
Indeed, this diner’s almost mythic breakfast scene, with its laundry list of protein-packed dishes, caters to a wide variety of morning groups (movers and shakers, elderly couples, as well as gaggles of high school students) and features a wealth of offerings—everything from Egg Beater or egg-white challah French toast to cheese blintzes to omelets (including those with veggies or even pastrami). (Though, note to Nautilus: some of us “old-timers” miss the mini jukeboxes in the booths.)
Ritz-Carlton’s almond-milk pancakes.
The Lobby Lounge at the Ritz-Carlton
Three Renaissance Sq, White Plains (914) 946-5500
Breakfast served 6:30 to 11:30 am
CEO Lori Hall Armstrong of The Thought Partnership is just one of many who enjoy this elegant post though she admits meetings here are often on mornings when she has more time. Indeed, once here, it’s difficult to leave and go back to the office. No place feels more commanding than this sophisticated lounge where privacy and a plush, relaxed living-room setting are on the menu along with a side of discretion, impeccable service, and delicious food. The menu features options as simple as an egg-white omelet, cold cereal, or a fruit smoothie and as innovative as almond-milk pancakes or raisin brioche French toast. The food, which comes from the hotel’s kitchen (not 42 on the hotel’s top floor), is mostly in the $15 to $19 range, the most expensive being the Hudson Valley Sunrise (two eggs, hash browns, ham, sausage or bacon, coffee or tea, juice) and Healthy Start (egg-white omelet with spinach, oatmeal, sliced fruit, carrot juice, coffee or tea) for $25. A granola-yogurt parfait (my breakfast of choice) is $12; coffee is $6 and you get your choice of illy espresso or cappuccino ($7).
Armonk’s Tazza Café-cappuccino and breakfast items such as this egg muffin sandwich with spinach, cheese and tomato.
382 Main St, Armonk (914) 273-0788
Breakfast served 6:30 to 11:30 am
A mean cup of Joe is critical to start- ing off business right and, at Tazza, with its European coffeehouse ambience and high-octane caffeine fixes, mornings start off with a jolt (in a good way). Here you’ll find freshly baked goods in an array of flavors—where else can you find a French toast muffin, cinnamon coffee-cake muffin, Mandarin orange muffin, and multi-grain (low fat!) granola muffin—along with a host of fruit scones, buttery croissants, and egg muffin sandwiches with spinach, cheese, and tomato? You can also order pancakes, hot oatmeal, and panini, which a lot of IBM folks, whose offices are nearby, often relish before a long day in front of the computer. Dark wood chairs and tables aren’t too close together—so you don’t have to whisper when it comes to office gossip—and, come warm weather, there’s plenty of outdoor seating. For those highly caffeinated individuals, you can also buy your beans to go.
Crowne Plaza Hotel, 66 Hale Ave, White Plains (914) 682-0050
Breakfast served from 6:30 to 11 am
Location, location, location is just one reason the recently renovated (and renamed) Whisk (formerly Fenimore’s Bistro) inside the Crowne Plaza Hotel is high on the list of go-to morning spots. The light-filled contemporary eatery, with its mod sage-green chairs and orange accents, gently beckons with its broad assortment of eggs, pastries, pancakes, and frittatas. Opt for the breakfast buffet featuring omelet, waffle, and fresh fruit stations or order à la carte. This is a prime spot to get work done as just outside the restaurant is the hotel’s mini business center where you can log onto one of its computers or tap into your own. The comfortable chairs on the perimeter of this area are also business-friendly, with built-in adjustable shelves so you can use your laptop while nursing a cup of coffee. Oversized tables in the bar area (now known as Mix) also make for stress-free lounging after hours.
Jeanne Muchnick admits she’ll often “power up” with a cup of coffee at home before any early breakfast meetings. Jeanne is the managing editor of Project You Magazine, an online publication for moms (projectyoumagazine.com), as well as a frequent contributor to Westchester Magazine.