Take It to the Limit
Homespun or haute? City Limits tries, and mostly succeeds, on both fronts.
“Man shall not live by bread alone.” That’s what Saint Matthew tells us in the New Testament. Evidently, Saint Matthew never ate at City Limits Diner.
The diner’s house-made breads are a marvel to behold. Moist cornbread is superb; the pane di casa is as crusty and delicious as what you’ll find at the best Italian bakeries; a seven-grain walnut bread is a hearty, nutty pleasure. And it doesn’t matter that the butter here isn’t the best European variety; with bread this exceptional, there’s no need to spread anything on it.
The breadbasket is the first indicator of this diner’s mission: to elevate classic diner fare. That’s no surprise considering that it’s owned by the Livanos family, the restaurateurs behind Mediterranean wonder Cafe MezÃ© in Hartsdale and Manhattan winners Abboccato, Molyvos, and Oceana. There are currently three City Limits locations: inside The Westchester mall in White Plains; in Stamford, Connecticut; and the flagship White Plains location—the one that is well on its way to becoming an unofficial landmark (situated at the crossroads of southern Westchester, the intersection of Central Avenue and White Plains Road).
A wondrously fluffy tzatziki, the classic Greek yogurt dip rife with fresh dill, garlic, and tiny cucumbers, drew the most swipes with fresh-cut vegetables and warm pita on a starter Middle Eastern vegetarian sampler plate, after which mounds of eggplant spread and garlicky hummus were consumed almost as enthusiastically. The coriander-cured salmon tostadas are another winning starter. On a recent visit, the salmon, cured in-house, was fresh, silky, and glistening atop cracker rounds with crabmeat, guacamole, and a mango salsa. But one of the discs came with a glitch—specifically, an unwelcome crab shell. One unexpected crunch could be overlooked, but another shell appeared later the same evening in a crab-cake entrÃ©e.
Fortunately, nothing unexpected arrived in a hunky salad of spinach and endive, piquant with blue-veined Roquefort and sweet from toasted
A teepee of crispy pork ribs was tender but lacked an adequate coating of the promised ancho glaze, and an order of dumplings came soggy and discolored, having been left to steam too long.
Ordering a steak at a diner is almost always a bad idea; not the case at City Limits. A line of Cedar River Farms beef is offered, and the succulent 14-ounce rib-eye my dining companion ordered had her warding off my trespassing fork. The accompanying onion-and-pepper steak fries sounded better than they tasted, but with a steak this perfect, the side dish is an afterthought.
Other solid entrÃ©es: a grilled shrimp wrap layered with creamy avocado and that wonderful tzatziki, served with crisp greens and addictive vegetable chips; a turkey dinner special with a tangy, garnet-colored, whole-cranberry sauce and chestnut stuffing that made me long for another helping.
If you’re a frugal diner, you should know that one of City Limits’ superlative choices is also one of its least expensive: the BLT, with crispy bacon, rosemary-flecked foccacia, fresh lettuce and tomato, and a creamy horseradish mayo ($5.75).
A good Maryland crab cake was heavy on the fresh crab and light on breadcrumbs and other fillers. Too bad it came atop a mound of bland Chinese vegetables. In fact, Chinese items seem to be a weak point here. The plate of udon noodle stir-fry with chicken, for instance, was a heaping mess of overcooked, limp noodles and stir-fry vegetables besieged by chili oil.
The in-house bakery yields mixed results when it comes to sweets. A butterscotch bread pudding, nestled on a sugary checkerboard-patterned sauce, was scrumptious. Falling short of scrumptious was a brownie cheesecake square; both parts were equally rich, and lighter versions of one or both would have made a better whole. A crÃ¨me brÃ»lÃ©e was substandard, suffering from an uneven torching and a loose interior, as was a beautifully presented chocolate-mousse torte that was weak on flavor.
Considering the volume—near 10,000 diners a week—you can expect the occasional service hiccup (a dropped tray of utensils at the busing station one evening, multiple requests for missing silverware or water on another), but if a poll were taken to name the official county restaurant
of Westchester, my guess is we Westchesterites would pick City Limits Diner, a beloved classic that everyone knows, everyone enjoys more or less, and where everyone can usually count on a good meal—whether comforting or creative.
CITY LIMITS DINER
200 Central Ave., White Plains
Sun. to Thurs., 8 am-11 pm
Fri. to Sat., 8 am-midnight