The best bar food, bar none
Highfalutin cuisine has its place, but not at the corner bar. When guys go out for beer, they want real grubâ€“wings, ribs, chili—to go with it. Where to find the heartiest, tastiest, sauciest, manliest, and most satisfying bar food
By Judith Hausman * Photography by Phil Mansfield
Hey, we know guys like an ethereal, low-calorie Dover sole served with steamed asparagus much as the gals. But there is something about bar food and guys—and we’re not talking beer nuts or chips here. We’re talking about the real stuff: breaded, fried, dripping-in-sauce tidbits that are the perfect accompaniment to ice-cold beer and manly discourse. Here, a guide to the county’s best bar-food bets.
The most famous bar food hails from—you guessed it—Buffalo: chicken wings. Forget the fork—grab them, dip them, and gnaw away on the mouth-tingling meat. Lazy Boy Saloon (154 Mamaroneck Ave., White Plains, 914-761-0272) does a good job with them. Meaty, not fatty, the wings are glazed with a suitable cayenne burn and accompanied by the requisite celery and blue cheese dip. For a change of pace, try the wings Thai-style or flavored with citrus instead. Wash ’em down with one of the ever-changing selections of nearly 40 beers on tap and more than 350 bottled beers. You might choose a richly sweet Ommegang Three Philosophers from Cooperstown, NY, or Brooklyn Lager’s seasonal specialty. Can’t decide? The bar staff knows its stuff and will happily recommend. Now, ready for a game of pool?
The Candlelight Inn (519 Central Ave., Scarsdale, 914-472-9706), which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, is a no-frills hangout where if you like your beer poured into a glass, you’ll have to ask for the glass (but, come on, what real guy needs a glass when he can chug right out of the bottle?). Families and 20-somethings alike go for the dense, hot, crisp fries with brown gravy and chili or the extra-hot “Chernobyl” wings here. On weekends, put your name on the list for a booth out back, and feed the jukebox while you wait. Save room for a giant chocolate cookie Ã la mode—calorie counting is for sissies.
Sports fanatics, young and old, never have to struggle for a view of the big game at Michael’s Tavern (150 Bedford Rd., Pleasantville, 914-769-9849), but it might be harder to hear your compadres kibitzing. It’s easy to munch your thick-sliced, crunchy onion rings, breaded mozzarella sticks, or well-browned sweet-potato fries around the lively bar and still see your favorite players: there are 10 TVs showing local, national, and international sports, varying by season and customer preference. There’s baseball all day in the summer, but if there’s a NASCAR nut in the house, NASCAR it is. Meanwhile, it’s Yuengling or Smithwick all around. There are booths for groups and families, too.
The Garth Road Inn (96 Garth Rd., Scarsdale, 914-722-9472) has friendly Irish barmaids to pull you a pint (or half pint) of Harp, Guinness, Sierra Nevada, Stella Artois, and Killian’s Red. The lilt of their accents is as inviting and warm as the atmosphere. The dÃ©cor is nothing fancy—just the Irish Pub DÃ©cor Kit with the requisite oak bar, mirrors, and beer on tap—but the vibe is friendly and the food is quite authentic and good. The bar is on street level; a quieter, family-style dining room can be found up a few stairs. Break into the puffy golden crust of a steaming chicken pot pie, try a splash of vinegar on the crispy scrod fish and chips, scoop up the smooth mashed potatoes covering the generous shepherd’s pie or alongside the bangers, those fat, browned sausages served in Irish, British, and Scottish pubs all over—and, lucky guy, right here in Westchester.
“Bye, Joe. See ya in a couple-a days,” calls a regular at Dunne’s Pub (15 Shapham Pl., White Plains, 914-421-1451), a classic neighborhood Irish pub, which, though known as Dunne’s for the past 14 years, has been around for 70 years. Posters of Ireland and neon signs hawking Rhiengold, Guinness, and Harp Lager decorate the walls. A wooden partition with short curtains separates the bar area from the tables. Bar food here is hearty but nothing out of the ordinary: jalapeÃ±o poppers, potato skins, wings. But you’ll find humble daily specials as well, such as meat loaf, corned beef and cabbage, or a triple-decker turkey club for a proper meal. It’s all slightly grubby, very homey, and the food is meant to sustain so no one has to drink on an empty stomach.
Check out Coughlan’s American Bistro (15 S. Broadway, White Plains, 914-285-0900) for a pub at the other end of the spectrum. The large dance floor in the back and the restaurant operation up front, set up for white-tablecloth dining, make Coughlan’s a classy dating destination as well. But that’s not what we’re here for tonight, right fellas? Belly up to the elevated, pub-style, wooden bar and chug a cold glass of Bass Ale—your fried calamari with guacamole sauce will be right up. Or try the colossal crab cake or a plate of tasty baked oysters. Then you can all move to a table for a giant filet mignon and the house chopped salad topped with Maytag blue. Be aware that this is also a popular “meet market,” so prepare to share bar space with sweet young gals and guys on the make.
Yes, even real guys eat fish but, hey, let’s batter the sucker up, throw it into sizzling hot oil, and slap it onto a roll. That’s the flounder sandwich at The Town Dock Tavern (15 Purdy Ave., Rye, 914-967-2497). Bar food is shore food here and the fresh, hot fish and chips are another perfect match for draft brews, such as Guinness, Bass, or Amstel Light, and oysters and clams, shucked to order, have macho appeal as well. A rack of lobster pot buoys adorn the roof of the Town Dock, and the jauntily nautical tavern room often sports local politicos, hanging out after hours and no doubt telling fish stories. A few steps up from the homey bar is the dining room which has pine booths. Warning: it’s packed on weekends.
Located conveniently between the Rye train platform and the main street of town, Rye Grill & Bar (1 Station Plaza, Rye, 914-967-0332) pulls in the commuters and the contractors. Guys can be found noisily putting in their two cents even during a weekday lunch hour, but there’s plenty of room at the bar. Muscle in and order a good beer: Foster’s, Stella Artois, Labatt, and Sierra Nevada are on tap. Bar food includes a crisp Caesar salad, catch-’em-in-your-mouth popcorn shrimp, gooey white clam pizza, or chicken quesadilla sloshed with salsa. Move on to a hefty burger served with fries and onions or a plate of farfalle with hot sausage in a tomato-cream sauce and no one’s gonna have to cook dinner tonight (especially not you).
Sam’s of Gedney Way (52 Gedney Way, White Plains, 914-949-0978) is a venerable, old man of a spot; 80 years of its history is documented in a montage of images along the wall. There’s Bass and Brooklyn Lager on tap, but the customers here are more genteel, a rather mature, wine-drinking crowd that you can often find leaning against the brass rail or relaxing on the covered deck in the summer. You can actually hear a conversation in this bar. “For every martini, it’s three or four glasses of white wine,” comments Ed the Bartender. Shrimp cocktail is fitting bar food at Sam’s, as is a very respectable Caesar salad (yes, real men eat anchovies). Mussels, a half-pound burger, or a Tuscan BLT make good light meals here as well.
Globe Bar & Grill (1879 Palmer Ave., Larchmont, 914-833-8600) is brightly colored and stylish with tasseled lamps, padded banquettes, colorful paintings, and glass doors that open onto the sidewalk. But don’t let that fancy dÃ©cor stop you. An impressive wall of stored wines stretches back to an expansive lounge with low seating and—here big fella, this is what you wanna know—mammoth, looming TV screens. There are four more screens above the comfortable bar. On Friday nights you can move to Brazilian DJ music until three in the morning while you sip a Caipirinha or another tropical concoction. Don’t worry; no cute little umbrellas here. The very thin, wood-fired pizzas are terrific (try bianca with fontina, mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma, arugula, and truffle oil, or the sausage and onion pizza, or plain Margherita) or refuel with a bowl of mussels, rich buffalo mozzarella, or a pile of thin-sliced fried calamari rings with a crumbly, black peppery coating.
Downright swanky is Blue (99 Church St., White Plains, 914-220-0000), part of White Plains’s re-energized downtown. Suave guys may enjoy showing off over the thoughtful, balanced wine list, but really a sweet Bluetini in a kooky glass is enough of a conversation piece (warning swanky guy: hold the glass, not the curvy stem, otherwise your T-shirt will be enjoying your martini). Gnaw on some sticky, spicy Asian-style ribs with that or some chewy grilled octopus. I have dibs on the tentacles! With bright blue and mustard yellow walls, modern lighting, and banquette seating in the lounge, it’s a buzzing, sophisticated scene, equal parts bar and restaurant.
So choose your spot—upscale, downscale, upcountry, downcountry—roll up your sleeves, and dig in!
Judith Hausman enjoyed schmoozing with the bartenders for this article, but she’s a cheap date; one drink and the evening is over.