Looking for a view while you lunch on lobster club sandwiches and sip iced tea? Food (and a chilled glass of Chardonnay) tastes better with a side of fresh air. Whether escaping a stuffy office or stepping out on a warm summer night, you’ll find dozens of Westchester restaurants at the ready with alfresco seating and more importantly, a scenic view. There are the well-known stalwarts: Harvest on Hudson in Hastings, Half Moon in Dobbs Ferry, and Monteverde in Cortlandt Manor, with their gorgeous panoramas of the river; Ebb Tide and F.I.S.H. in Port Chester with their nautical, New England vistas. But what about the lesser-known ones? Places where you can eat under a canopy of stars or munch on calamari on an airy patio?
The thing about outdoor dining is, you can have spectacular scenery, but that doesn’t mean you will always have decent food to go with it. Often, the view trumps the meal: after all, it’s what you’re paying for. We deserve both, so we scoured the county looking for spots that come with a dose of scenery, the freshest summer dishes, and alfresco dining for as long as the weather permits.
The theme is nautical at this aptly named newcomer situated between a marina and a boat club. Expect a simple menu at The Boathouse (4 or 6 Westerly Rd, Ossining, 914-923-6466): salads, chicken, shrimp, and a delicious New England-style clam chowder, but, for us, it’s the views and the unpretentious atmosphere that have us returning. The setting is peaceful and pretty, making it easy to embrace the summer vibe as you sip a cold Corona and munch on fried calamari. The outdoor service is decidedly unhurried, offering time to unwind.
Don’t be fooled by the rough exterior of Dudley’s (94 Hudson Park Rd, New Rochelle 914-235-4445); it looks like a biker bar from the outside. Walk through the back, though, and you’ll find a gem: a long plank of a restaurant with picnic tables right on the New Rochelle Municipal Marina. Sure, it’s a no-frills burger-and-a-beer kind of place, but the view alone (gorgeous yachts, ducks yapping below, folks fishing not far away) makes it a great escape. Order the beer bucket (five beers for the price of four) and a lobster tail and we swear you’ll feel far away.
At first glance, Iannelli’s (359 Mamaroneck Ave, White Plains 914-683-1313) looks like your average pizza joint with its displays of assorted pies, a bustling pizza oven, and a register in front. But head upstairs to the second floor rooftop terrace, and you’ll feel like you’re in a treehouse hideaway overlooking the city. For those of us of a certain age (meaning we like to hear our conversations with our meals), it’s a more mature alternative to the White Plains watering holes down the block where rowdy crowds spill onto the street. Up here, away from the exhaust and the elements, you’ll find your own “Tarhead Beach,” where gorgeous white platters of shrimp fra diavolo, baked ziti Siciliana, and Iannelli’s famous combo of chicken parmigiana, ravioli, meat lasagna, and eggplant rollatini are served alongside generous pours of Merlot.
At Le Fontane (137 Rte 100, Katonah 914-232-9619), on the corner of Routes 100 and 139, you’ll find not only a gorgeous garden terrace with the feel of a spa oasis, but also a classic Italian experience: a small gem along the Somers/Katonah border. The two brothers who own this eatery specialize in authentic Southern Italian cuisine and believe in what their website boasts as “harvesting good taste.” Try the bruschetta amore (toasted homemade bread with arugula, mozzarella, and tomato) or one of the many homemade pastas (we like the handkerchief-shaped pasta with artichokes and pesto) with one of their recommended wines. Even in the sizzling heat, the umbrella-laden patio, with shady trees, and live music on select evenings, is cool and comfortable, with a view that will have you returning summer after summer.
Molly Spillane’s (211 Mamaroneck Ave, Mamaroneck 914-899-3130) has a few outdoor dining options: the sidewalk tables in the front, or the quieter, backyard patio location, complete with outdoor fireplace and, come fall, heat lamps, extending the alfresco dining season. At its heart, Molly, sister to Mickey in Eastchester, is a sports bar. Inside, there are TVs blaring every kind of game imaginable, which works out nicely if you have a kid (or a husband) who needs to hear what’s going on at all times, as you’re never too far away from the action. As for the menu, you’ll find lot of salads (we like the light and tasty pear salad with candy roasted walnuts, Gorgonzola, and black olives), bar snacks, and burgers.
A bocce court introduced this spring has added a fun vibe to the already cool Nessa (325 N Main St, Port Chester 914-939-0119), the popular—some would say sultry—restaurant across from the old Life Savers building in Port Chester. This slightly-off-the-beaten-track bistro, close to the Connecticut border, features an inviting side patio set back from the street, with assorted greenery and wrought-iron tables. We like its family vibe (it’s owned by a father and his two sons); it’s not unusual to see people table-hopping, air-kissing, and taking their quartinos of Chianti to the back to watch the bocce action. The newly introduced Sunday brunch also makes it easy for those with children, as the kids are easily entertained by the Old-World game (while you sip your mimosa and nibble on truffle egg toast or potato pancakes with spiced apples, whipped ricotta, and acacia honey).
The history behind The Olde Stone Mill (2 Scarsdale Rd, Tuckahoe, 914-771-7661) should be enough to entice you. After all, this circa-1800s building started as a cotton mill, and remains remarkably unaltered, despite its transformations over the years to a rubber plant (it produced rubber rain coats for World War I soldiers) and later, to pharmaceutical manufacturing. That ancient charm is still here but with a lively bar scene (there’s a martini lounge with a happy hour that features ladies’ half-price drinks and complimentary snacks), a warmly lit dining room and, our favorite space of all: the wide front veranda, where a handful of tables seat assorted couples, gal pals, and small groups. It’s the perfect vantage point for getting away from it all, listening to nature, and lingering over the chef’s own recipe of spicy calamari.
Tucked behind the dining room, the back patio at Opus 465 (465 Main St, Armonk 914-273-4676) practically doubles the restaurant’s first-floor seating. It’s covered and shady here, adding to the feeling of secrecy and offering an easy distraction from the summer’s humidity. Start with an icy beer and an individual pizza (delicate crust and gourmet toppings are a specialty), but you can go upscale with littleneck clams steamed in a butter-and-garlic broth with diced tomatoes and Parmesan crostini. The wide array of salads make for the ideal summer meal. On weekend nights, there is live music. Our favorite regular: Larchmont resident Michael Nappi.
Alfresco diners at Red Hat on the River can choose either drinks on the rooftop deck or the ground-level patio.
Kick back with the crispy Peaky Toe crab cake (with wasabi and lime rémoulade sauce) and a cold glass of Riesling and take in the sweeping, nothing-but-water-between-you-and-the-Hudson view at Red Hat on the River (1 Bridge St, Irvington 914-591-5888), one of the best scenes in the county. There are plenty of simple seafood preparations here to whet your summer appetite (think warm grilled shrimp and house-cured wild salmon), light and refined fare that’s an ideal match for the breezy vibe. We also like the choice of venues: an upstairs lounge in which you can enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail, sit on cushioned sofas, and enjoy the “wow” rooftop view (as in, “Wow, I feel like I’m on a tropical vacation”), or the large patio that virtually hugs the Hudson. Either way, you won’t be disappointed.
You’ll feel like you’ve found an authentic roadside jerk shack when you walk into Ripe Kitchen & Bar (151 W Sandford Blvd, Mount Vernon 914-665-7689)—though, first, you’ll have to find it. There’s no sign outside and directions on the restaurant’s website instruct you to “look for the little house with the colorful Japanese paper lanterns in the windows.” If it’s a weekend night, the clue might be the lively music, or the smell of grilled meat wafting through the air. Weather permitting, there is often a reggae band jamming on the back patio, right next to a giant grill that churns out spicy rubs of steak and chicken. This is where you want to sit with a frosty Red Stripe and a plate of wood-smoked jerk chicken. The service is relaxed, the menu is small and fun (though be warned: it’s cash only) and the seafood linguine (called “rasta pasta”) and the Big-Ass Jerk Rib-Eye Steak that playfully dares you to finish it all (and compares it to a meal Fred Flintstone would eat) makes it feel like you’re sitting in a neighbor’s backyard with no worries, Mon.
The stone courtyard at Scalini Osteria—are you in Bronxville, or Tuscany?
A casual, European atmosphere beckons diners at Scalini Osteria (65 Pondfield Rd, Bronxville 914-337-4935) with its cozy stone courtyard and oodles of charm. Here, climbing vines cling to the walls and the smell of fresh flowers puts you in happy “I’m glad it’s summer” mood. Add golden Tuscan bread, a homemade pasta dish, and a bottle of vino, and you’ll want to linger for hours, watch dusk turn into dark, and soak up the relaxing ambience. The whole scene is romantic enough for a cozy dinner à deux, but there’s plenty of space for larger groups to relax as well (just make a reservation and ask for this space). Appetizers on the Tuscan-focused menu are portioned to share and change seasonally: the formaggi misti cheese plate trio (cow, sheep, goat) served with acacia honey, fig compote, and water crackers are a meal in itself. Plates are wisely offered in both full and smaller portions—a boon for those whose appetites wane as the weather warms.
Everything is pretty and charming at Vox Bar & Restaurant (721 Titicus Rd, North Salem 914-669-5450) where tempting platters of oysters and gorgeous views of the green lawn and fragrant gardens make you feel far, far away. Make a reservation at the stone terrace where the harvest from a small vegetable garden at the far end makes occasional appearances in the restaurant’s kitchen. Whimsically decorated with photos of film stars, movie posters and a popcorn machine at the bar, this French bistro, owned by Jean and Sophie Lebris, not only churns out sophisticated global cuisine (a mixture of French, Italian and African) but also has a wide assortment of fresh shellfish selections at the raw bar. Pick your passion: clams, shrimp, mussels, etc., then add a glass from the extensive wine list and—viola!—the perfect excuse to while away a summer day.
A View to Come
As of press time, plans weren’t firm for the rooftop deck at Tarry Lodge (18 Mill St, Port Chester 914-939-3111), but hopes are that it will be open later this summer, if not for a full bar menu than at least for cocktails. If it’s anything like the downstairs, you can be sure this place will be hopping, another coveted outdoor oasis for summer seekers looking for a bite and a view.
Writer Jeanne Muchnick is a self-professed alfresco hound who prefers the summer heat to an air-conditioned office any day. When she’s not at her computer, you can find her on the beach (though which Westchester beach is a secret she refuses to give away…at least until her next assignment).