What pops into your head when you hear the word, “Ireland”? For many, it’s the country’s famous exports: corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, and Guinness—not necessarily in that order. When it comes to finding these specialties in the County, the Westchester city that probably comes to mind is Yonkers. Stroll down McLean Avenue and you might swear (or imagine) for a moment that you’re back in the Old Country, thanks to the honeyed lilts that waft out of doorways, the numerous Irish flags that flutter in the wind, and the proliferation of bars adorned with shamrocks. But Yonkers isn’t the only place in Westchester to find yummy Irish fare. Here, a selection of County venues to go to when you’re feeling “green”—and where folks know that “Erin go Bragh” is not a woman’s name.
The Irish are known for their warm hospitality and nowhere is that more apparent than at the ever-cheery Eileen’s Country Kitchen (964 McLean Ave, Yonkers 914-776-2001), where a pot of piping-hot tea is as welcoming as the staff (the majority with melodic brogues). Here, young families squeeze into booths next to groups of singles still recuperating from a night out on the town, while elderly couples linger over mugs of warmth. The big draws? Affordable eats as well as ample portions. This cozy restaurant, owned by Eileen Collum, has its roots in her mom’s age-old recipes. You’ll feel like you’re at a homey B&B when you dig into the traditional Irish breakfast—two eggs over easy, two pieces of Irish bacon, blood pudding, Irish sausage, and home fries ($9.95). Kick it up a notch with the Ulster fry ($11.50), which is all of the above plus potato bread, fried mushrooms, onions, and Irish baked beans.
Casey Egan, the proprietor of Emma’s Ale House (68 Gedney Way, White Plains 914-683-3662; emmasalehouse.com) is a lifelong White Plains resident but that doesn’t mean he’s forgotten his Irish roots. On the contrary. Aside from the annual countdown to St. Paddy’s day that’s listed on his restaurant’s website, the menu boasts a long list of comfort foods, among them Guinness-braised beef stew ($18) and Guinness-battered fish and chips ($21), both of which are cooked with the world-class stout. Each is a hearty dish; the stew has a rich, malty flavor while the fish and chips might remind you of your pub-crawling days. Whichever you order, make sure you pair it with a cold pint of Ireland’s finest.
Maggie Spillane’s Ale House (571 Gramatan Ave, Mount Vernon 914-699-8900; maggiespillanes.com), Mickey Spillane’s (431 White Plains Rd, Eastchester 914-395-3838; mickeyspillanes.com), and Molly Spillane’s (211 Mamaroneck Ave, Mamaroneck 914-899-3130; mollyspillanespub.com) offer the quintessential neighborhood Irish Pub experience, from the warm, deep polished-wood interiors and Guinness on tap to the friendly service and delicious, hearty fare (and heartier brogues of the wait staff). The “Across the Pond” choices at Maggie Spillane’s, for example, run the gamut from thick-cut corned beef on a bed of cabbage with boiled potatoes and carrots ($13.99) to Spillane’s Irish lamb stew served with mashed potatoes ($13.99) to Spillane’s Irish chicken curry ($13.99), tender chicken pieces with pineapple, sweet peppers, and scallions in an Irish curry sauce.
Large portions of eggs and bacon, usually served with tea and as part of an after-church ritual, are big in Ireland, which is why The Garth Road Inn (96 Garth Rd, Scarsdale 914-722-9472; thegarthroadinn.com) takes its Sunday brunch seriously, offering a traditional Irish Breakfast: two eggs, Irish sausage, Irish bacon, black-and-white pudding (i.e., pig’s blood sausage and minced liver sausage), grilled tomato, Irish baked beans, and home fries (10.95), as well as an Irish eggs Benedict: poached eggs served on toasted English muffins with Irish oak-smoked salmon and hollandaise sauce ($11.95). All Irish meats hail from The Butcher’s Fancy on McLean Avenue, the go-to spot for all things Irish. Don’t forget to top off your meal with either Banshee coffee (Irish Mist liqueur with Baileys and coffee) or Irish coffee—a dash of strong, just-brewed coffee, a bit of Jameson Irish Whiskey, and a cloud of heavy cream.
Harper’s Restaurant & Bar (92 Main St, Dobbs Ferry 914-693-2306; harpersonmain.com) takes its liquor seriously, with many drinks named after the colorful, trailblazing Rose Harper, the great aunt of Chris Vergara, the restaurant’s executive chef. Rose loved her Scotch and cigarettes and so, in her honor, there’s a long list of brews and cocktails, among them the ever-smooth Michael Collins Irish Whiskey, a 10-year-old, single malt handcrafted at the Cooley Distillery in Ireland—the only one to double-distill its whiskeys and using peat-malted barley. Whiskey lovers will appreciate its fresh oak finish and delicate balance and aromas. Drink it neat or on the rocks ($8).
Most traditional Irish foods are known for their simple, basic ingredients, a reminder of the country’s peasant past. Which is why the modest (but ultra-filling) Dublin meatloaf ($12.95) at Heritage Bar & Restaurant (960 McLean Ave, Yonkers 914-776-7532; heritagebarandrestaurant.com) is such a charmer: thick slices of mouthwatering meatloaf served with creamy mashed potatoes, vegetables, and lots of stick-to-your-ribs gravy. For an authentic, time-honored dish, try the boiled bacon and cabbage ($14.95), cured Irish bacon accompanied by boiled potatoes and cabbage, topped with a parsley white sauce.
For those into enjoying a wee bit of this and a little bit of that, Katie’s Cottage (521 Central Ave, Yonkers 914-965-0422; katiesny.com), offers variety—and heft—thanks to its Mixed Grill breakfast and entrée options. Ask for the dish during morning hours and you’ll get a broiled pork chop, Irish sausages, black-and-white pudding, Irish bacon, tomato, and sautéed onions served with eggs cooked in the style of your choice ($13.95). During dinner, it’s a combination of broiled pork chop, sausage pudding, tomato, onion, and Irish bacon ($14.95). At any hour, it’s pure Ireland with a gaggle of transplants in lilting accents filling the seats around you.
A section of the menu at Murphy’s (355 Kear St, Yorktown Heights 914-962-1800; murphysyorktown.com) is devoted to “Home-Style Irish” fare and includes shepherd’s pie (13.95), fish and chips ($13.95), braised lamb shank ($17.95), and the old country classic, bangers and mash ($15.95): Irish Sausage, sautéed onions and peppers, and a side of mashed potatoes. It’s not the prettiest dish—liquid-y gravy and a mound of meat—but it’s tasty, traditional, and filling.
There’s a festive atmosphere to Rory Dolan’s Restaurant, Bar & Caterers (890 McLean Ave, Yonkers 914-776-2946; rory dolans.com), where there always seems to be a game on, a party taking place in one of the many rooms, or simply a large group of gatherers celebrating with a pint. Among the Irish specialties that will have you thinking there’s someone’s grandmother in the back stirring up a pot of memories: Irish smoked salmon (flown in from Ireland) served with house-made brown bread, capers, onions, and fresh homemade coleslaw ($10.50). Equally popular: lamb stew ($14.50), featuring chunks of lean lamb and a medley of fresh veggies, such as onions and turnips, on a bed of mashed potatoes, and the ever-famous corned beef and cabbage, sold almost every day during the countdown to St. Paddy’s Day.
You gotta love a place with Irish music playing continuously in the background—with live acts also on the books—and the word “Sláinte” (the Irish equivalent of “cheers”) as its motto. But even more than that, you gotta love a place that reverently embraces Ireland’s most popular import: beer. Those lucky enough to reserve the corner table for eight at The Quiet Man Public House (15 N Division St, Peekskill 914-930-8230; thequietmanpublichouse.com) can pull imperial pints of Guinness in 20-ounce pours (as opposed to the usual American 16 ounces). There’s also plenty of Smithwick’s and Harp Lager (and Guinness) at the bar along with a range of other choices. And to pair with those mighty draughts, dig into the meaty shepherd’s pie, which arrives at your table a perfect golden brown. Also highly recommended: the light and crispy fish and chips served with a sharp malt vinegar.
Food writer Jeanne Muchnick—make that O’Muchnick, in honor of St. Paddy’s Day—is a big fan of Irish soda bread, shepherd’s pie, scones, tea, and beer.