There is something going on in Tuckahoe. The small wedge of Eastchester is starting to rival even Peekskill as a Westchester beers drinkers Mecca. First, in 2007, the Pearl Restaurant Group (of Rye Grill & Bar and Elm Street Oyster House) installed the Tap House in Depot Square, which opened with 14 taps (and scores of bottles) primarily offering imported and craft brewed beers. Polpettina followed this year – admittedly with only three taps – but, in the past, those have been found to offer brews from holy Dogfish Head and local Captain Lawrence (and only a mile away from the Tap House, too). In addition to its taps, Polpettina slings 11 bottled beers, the now obligatory canned Sixpoint quintet, and PBR. Not bad for a roughly 20-seat restaurant, but Polpettina really upped the beer ante with 64 oz. growlers (return with one from a previous visit or pay $3 for a new one ). Polpettina’s growlers can be filled for around $17—sadly, up from an all-time low of $9 and are offered for drinking at the table with your meal. In fact, the staff at this tiny nook of a restaurant might even ice your jug behind the bar between hits.
Cue Growlers Beer Bistro, which opened on Labor Day with 17 taps. It’s sliding into one of Westchester’s architectural remnants – a gorgeous, turn-of-the-century power station [once associated with the nearby train line. Happily, the folks behind Growlers retained some of the best things in this industrial structure, like its uneven, highly patinated concrete floor and scarred brick walls. Some oddball wooden triangles–frames meant, presumably, to keep those pesky wires from crossing –were unearthed from the basement and repurposed as wall art.
Though our visit was only a First Taste (Growlers Beer Bistro had only been open one week, and that’s too soon for a formal review), we saw a few things that caught our eye. The draught offerings ($6.00-$8.50) were perfectly split between locally- (New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania) and distantly-brewed (California, Ireland) beers with three interesting picks from Belgium, including an intense Rodenbach Grand Cru Flanders red ale for $8.50. There are 20 bottled beers, sticking to the U.S. and Europe, plus a mess of cheap ($5.50-$8) cans from Oskar Blues, 21st Amendment, Butternuts, and others. Growlers offers cask-conditioned ale (when we last checked, it was tapping Sly Fox Chester County Bitter) and, currently, it offers a few “craft” sodas – including a selection of Fentiman’s celebrated English pops at $4.50 per.
Choices were limited on our visit, but Growlers is planning budget-friendly, French-inflected comfort foods that run from ratatouille ($5.50) and mussels in white wine and shallots ($13), all the way to burgers ($8) and tractor toast ($9). It looks like Growlers’ owners and Chef Ciaran Cullen (lately of The French Culinary Institue—and Leno’s Clam Bar, aka Greasy Nick’s, in New Rochelle) had eaten around before opening: this menu feels—and the typeface looks—like a synthesis of DBGB, the Spotted Pig, the Breslin, et al. Here, you’ll find the charcuterie (with shreds of yummy mangalitsa ham), the roasted marrow bones, the chicharrones and the ironic (but delicious) devils on horseback. Many of your favorite trendy bar bites can be found on the computer-generated, but blotchy, Corona-typewritten-looking list.
When we visited, mains were limited to salads and sandwiches – which were somewhat less successful than our starters. The salt on the pretzel roll holding our Tuckahoe cheese steak had melted in the humidity, leaving cloudy scars on the stale, dry bread. Our Growler burger arrived quite firm and a few ticks past the medium rare that we requested – which turned out to be a good thing, because its patty mix contains pork (maybe waiters should remind diners of that fact when they’re about to order medium rare ground pork.) Sadly, even an all-beef burger was cooked beyond the way that we requested it – but both arrived with fries lavishly garnished with bacon, and, as we all know, bacon makes everything better.
And while the beer list is excellent, don’t try to order a growler and sit down: the growlers from which this restaurant takes its name are sold strictly for takeout. That Growlers doesn’t offer its diners the price break implied in its name feels a bit harsh, plus the namesake jug they’re vending from behind the bar is stingingly priced at $10 sans beer (while Polpettinas is $3) But here’s the thing: at only three weeks old, Growlers is still evolving. In fact, though its doors are open, it official debut is slated for October 1 (and will be accompanied by a ribbon-cutting and live music). Given its youth, details like menu and pricing at Growlers are bound to change. We’re looking forward to checking back soon.