Hidden Gems of
Though it may still suffer with an image problem, the future looks bright for the city that offers a United Nations of down-to-earth foods, bustling art centers, and a soon-to-be revitalized waterfront with the best river vistas in
My father always used to get a kick out of people who refused to admit they lived in
A lifelong resident of Yonkers and employee of Con Ed for more than 40 years, Pop came home from work one day in stitches. The reason? A very “swellegant” matron called in frantically because her stove wasn’t working. The address she gave was technically in
“Lady,” he replied, “if you had just told me
Pop has been gone for more than 10 years, but it’s remarkable how similar the situation remains today.” Folks in
So if there ever was a city suffering from an image problem, it’s my hometown. But, boy, just you wait. Upwardly mobile Manhattanites are now flocking here in droves, and about the only bad thing about our city nowadays is that there are practically no homes available for sale.
Abit of history first. About 20 years after Peter Minuit bought Manhattan Island, Adrian Van der Donck was given the Nepperhaem colony from the Dutch West India Company, and he built one of the first sawmills (does the name Saw Mill River Road ring any bells?) in the New World. Van der Donck was called Djonk Herr (Dutch for young gentleman), and his terrain Djonk Herr’s land. Thus
You bet there is. So fasten your seatbelts for this whirlwind tour of the city that Gene Krupa and Art Carney used to call home.
The big buzz these days radiates from the city’s whopping Waterfront Development Project, where the best vistas of the mighty
, a stone’s throw away from diva Mary J. Blige’s former digs on
. One of the reasons for the trip was to check out as many books as I could carry home from the old Carnegie Public Library on the corner of Nepperhan and South Broadway.
I’m sure Mary J. would be as surprised as I was to see the new, state-of-the-art, 75,000-square-foot Riverfront Library at
Next on the list of waterfront happening spots is the Philipsburgh Performing Arts Center, a 5,400-square-foot space where FDR once spoke and which used to be a tony dance hall in the 1920s. It’s my bet for the best shot at restoring
Jim Pinto, the dynamic young head of the waterfront project, is working to get a Barnes and Noble here. “This downtown project is jump-starting everything else,” says the Yonkers Economic Development office’s financial visionary Ed Sheeran, who is optimistic Peter Kelly, our favorite Yonkers-born chef, will be bringing his primo cuisine riverside soon. Caught pre-dinner rush the other day at his landmark Xaviar’s restaurant in Piermont, Kelly declared: “I’ve been waiting to open a place in my home town for ten to fifteen years, and now is definitely the right time. We’ll be moving our new restaurant, which will have an emphasis on
, not far away, I’m really excited about this.”
Now, for the movie thing: If you were wandering around lower
Farther down the street, there’s Untermeyer Park, home of the Yonkers Philharmonic Orchestra, a 65-piece semi-pro ensemble that plays five times a year, and the Yonkers Shakespeare Festival, a summer delight for locals hankering for a dose of the Bard under the trees. Next season’s productions include As You Like It and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Keep heading south on Broadway and you’ll find historic Philipse Manor Hall, one of the county’s oldest surviving structures dating from 1682, a Georgian mansion that’s open April through October for weekly tours, concerts and kids’ programs.
Down toward the river, there’s the
If nature’s your thing, we’ve also got the
, offering a series of tours, walks and lectures on the river’s flora and fauna. According to head educator Cynthia Fowx, it’s a hoot to watch the grade-schoolers dredging the
And if it’s nature of the equine variety you’re after, visit Yonkers Raceway, a harness track since WWII, now owned by the Rooney brothers of Pittsburgh Steelers fame, and offering simulcasting from thoroughbred races throughout the U.S. (The Raceway will feature video lottery machines in a few months.)
What to do with your winning jackpot? Walk around the corner to Mitchel’s Antiques and pamper yourself with one of his clocks, cute antique dolls, Tiffany lamps, or pieces of sailing memorabilia. Or if you’ve just bet the farm and lost, across the street from the track at 521 Central Park Avenue is Katie’s Cottage, a shebeen (Gaelic for a really grungy bar), where on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights a woman from the ould sod will tell your fortune with tea leaves. Hey, didn’t she say Dr. Piper in the fifth at
By now you’re hungry, and probably thirsty, too. Not to worry. You’ve come to the right place for high quality, reasonably priced grub and grog.
On the run and want to pick up something to nosh on at home?
For Arabic delights, try Daily Pita on South Broadway for some crispy, fresh-from-the-oven pitas and baba ghanoush or hummus for a healthy snack. Sprinkle some zataar (a blend of sumac, cumin and other spices) over it all and you’ll find out why the imam swooned.
If Eastern European food is more your thing, stop at Yonkers Misarnia on Lockwood Avenue, or the Polish Deli on Nepperhan, for a stupefying array of kielbasa and smoked meats and your choice of meat, cheese, mushroom or, the number one seller, potato pierogi. Traditional fried dough cookies and crusciki from the legendary White Eagle Bakery are a perfect dessert. But I’d mosey over to the corner of Nepperhan and Elm Street to the decidedly downscale ABC Polish Deli, where they don’t speak too much English, but if you point at that huge, pillowy, golden brown thing dusted with powdered sugar, they’ll give you a paczki, the most delicious donut you’ve ever eaten, filled with enough gooey strawberry jam to squirt out onto your Armani jacket when you bite in. You did remember to wear Armani, didn’t you?
If it’s salsa you’re craving, try La Fonda Poblana on
for Mexican staples like pork tacos with green sauce or pozole, a hominy stew that’s warm and satisfying. A few blocks away, you’ll find the home of the best NoMi (North of Miami) Cuban sandwich at Panchitos on South Broadway, where any of the daily specials are dirt cheap and come with a mountain of rice and sweetly tender, fried plantains. Doggie bags are a must.
Also on South Broadway is Silvio’s, offering a super kid-friendly ambiance and humongous portions of classic crowd-pleasers like lasagna and spaghetti; call (914) 476-2000 to see when it is having its next Murder Mystery Night.
Lovers of Portuguese fare will find hearty dishes at
, where the specials are a Flintstone-sized steak topped with prosciutto and fried egg, pork with clams, and codfish with egg extravaganzas. For dessert, Cafe Porto, where you can sit and enjoy traditional Portuguese egg and coconut pastries, is a must.
Since pizza wars are common in our county,
If it’s a little more luxe you’re looking for, there’s Ricky’s Seafood Restaurant, where Mark Fonte, a CIA-trained chef, offers a classy martini shrimp with orzo and tomato, a bouillabaisse that’s renowned, a Napoleon of vegetables, and a simple but elegant crÃ¨me brÃ»lÃ©e. Also in the cozy but swanky category is the softly lit, hard-to-find La Lanterna on Gray Oaks Avenue (it’s right by the Saw Mill Parkway), where you may see a few local politicians dealmaking while enjoying the house favorite, cavatelli, or the gargantuan veal chop.
The hardest choice for me on my birthday is deciding between Tombolino and Valentino’s restaurants, both landmarks in
Wander first to the Shamrock Gift Shop, where you can buy a silver or gold Claddagh ring (an ancient Celtic symbol of love) for your sweetie or richly embroidered Irish linens for your table. A block away, you’ll find the Bodhran Pub (a fave spot for lovers of traditional Irish music), Heritage (the best for Irish football), and Kelly’s Pub (big with the younger crowd, featuring hipster NYC acts like The Nerds). Rory Dolan’s is probably the best known and most presentable of the lot. But I’d try The Hibernian or Granuaile for a pint of Guinness.
A stone’s throw from
Society at (914) 965-0401.
So, move over
Maria Bennett is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Daily News, Journal News and the Utne Reader. She was born in
â€¢ Fr. Divine Mansion
369 Park Hill Avenue
â€¢ Philipsburg Performing
2-8 Hudson Street
â€¢ Philipse Manor
99 Warburton Avenue
â€¢ The Alder Manor (
Irish Cultural Center)
1061 North Broadway
â€¢ Beczak Environmental
35 Alexander Street
511 Warburton Avenue
â€¢ Riverfront Library
One Larkin Center
945 North Broadway
Yonkers & Central Park Avenues
â€¢ ABC Polish Deli
â€¢ Daily Pita
538 South Broadway
â€¢ JB & Sons, Ltd.
â€¢ Mitchel’s Antiques
800 Yonkers Avenue
â€¢ Polish Deli
225 Nepperhan Avenue
â€¢ Shamrock Gift Shop
39 Lockwood Avenue
â€¢ Bodhran Pub
850 McLean Avenue
790 McLean Avenue
960 McLean Avenue
â€¢ Katie’s Cottage
521 Central Park Avenue
â€¢ Kelly’s Pub
942 McLean Avenue
â€¢ Rory Dolan’s Bar & Restaurant
â€¢ The Hibernian
641 McLean Avenue
â€¢ CafÃ© Porto
837 Midland Avenue
â€¢ Dom & Vinnie’s
351 Saw Mill River Road