Photography by Andre Baranowski
A is for Apple…not!
We admit it—there was a time when Westchester’s dining scene merited the grammar-school treatment, but these days, in Westchester, the letter A can stand for anything. Absinthe, Albóndigas, Amaranth, or Antipasti…to be enjoyed on Tarry Lodge’s anticipated roof deck with Chefs Mario Batali and Andy Nusser.
Looking for dreamy dishes, hot chefs, and heavenly cocktails? Look no further—we’ve got them all, from A to Z.
Antipasti and Andy
Westchester’s newest culinary celebrity, Chef Andy Nusser of Tarry Lodge (a Hastings-on-Hudson resident, with wife Patty and their two children) is slinging rustic wood-fired pizzas and Italocentric small plates in a lovingly renovated Port Chester landmark. Look for easy prices and intense flavors, making profuse ordering a downright obligation. Though the selection is wide, favorite starters like Nusser’s melting, white cloud of whipped baccala Mantecato, or the pork-worshipping Tarry carne mista (a massive wooden paddle of hams and salume) keep us clicking Open Table with baited breath, desperate to snag a spot. And just think…it’s only going to get more popular with the opening of Tarry Lodge’s roof deck.
âž¤ Tarry Lodge
18 Mill St, Port Chester (914) 939-3111
We admit there was a moment when every Podunk town had a brew-pub, slinging watery, manifestly “micro-brewed” suds that usually paled next to larger brews like Anchor Steam. Don’t be put off by the busted trend. Pleasantville’s Scott Vaccaro is gaining national acclaim with complex, sophisticated beers whose charms exceed their immediate surroundings. Available at Captain Lawrence’s Castleton Street brewery, Whole Foods Market, Blue Hill at Stone Barns (and New York City foodie meccas, Gramercy Tavern, the Spotted Pig, and Fette Sau), Captain Lawrence beer is a big, bold jewel in Westchester’s glittering food crown.
âž¤ Captain Lawrence Brewing Company
99 Castleton St, Pleasantville (914) 741-BEER
Celebrity Cowboy Ribeye
Booyah! In your face! Iron Chef challenger—and winner—Chef Peter Kelly is putting his triumphant, Flintstonian ode to steer on X2O’s regular menu. Kelly’s massive beefy/buttery steak has a built-in bony handle: it’s just the thing to grip as you bask in Hudson-side views of Manhattan and the Tappan Zee Bridge (while, of course, dipping into X2O’s amazing wine cellar). And just in case you haven’t heard, X2O was named Westchester/Hudson Valley’s Most Popular Restaurant by the Zagat Survey 2009/10—though, still unaffected by fame, Chef Kelly often greets diners in person.
âž¤ X2O Xaviars on the Hudson
71 Water Grant St, Yonkers (914) 965-1111
These warm, golden circles of deep-fried deliciousness arrive tossed in a velvety pool of creamy glaze, slapped with an almost-too-much blizzard of confectioner’s sugar. And just when you think that this locavorian bar and grill, co-owned by David Starkey of Dobbs Ferry’s Tomatillo, has fallen overboard on the sugar ship, dips of nearly uncooked apricot jam and intense chocolate sauce snap all that sweetness back into balance.
âž¤ Sweet Grass Grill
24 Main St, Tarrytown (914) 631-0000
Port Chester’s modest, flat-screen dominated, lino-clad nook is revered among foodies for stick-to-your ribs Colombian comfort food. Yet, while arepas con carne desmechada—think Colombian-style pulled pork—beckon, it’s the beef empanadas at Asi that keep us coming back for more. These soulful, house-made beef pastries are fried to order, with a crisp, deliciously greasy corn crust that yields an onion-y, potato-y filling. Hot and hearty, it’s heaven in a meat pie—and all for just $1.25 each.
âž¤ Asi Es Colombia Bakery and Restaurant
174 N Main St, Port Chester (914) 934-7675
Frugal Fish and Chips
Okay…get over it. It’s deep-fried fish and potatoes, and there isn’t even a table at which you can sit. Yet, despite its challenges, this family-owned fish-fry has fans raving about never-frozen, fried-to-order whiting fillets clothed in a clean-tasting, bread-crumb coating. Grab an order to go—complete with dips of creamy tartar sauce—and make your way over to the Hudson Riverside. It’s a seafood feast with a glorious water view, and all for only six-and-a-half clams.
âž¤ Lonnie’s Fish and Chips
172 N Highland Ave, Ossining (914) 432-7260
Glamorous Golden Tomato Gazpacho With Lobster
Iron Horse Grill’s chef/owner Phil McGrath serves up a summer vacation in a bowl with this cooling nod to August’s bounty that begins with roasted golden tomatoes. For luxury—and a bit of protein—he adds chunks of juicy lobster, making this sippable, summery sojourn one of our favorite edible staycations.
âž¤ Iron Horse Grill
20 Wheeler Ave Pleasantville (914) 741-0717
Historic Hot Dogs
At the risk of stating the obvious, we’ll keep it succinct. Walter’s. 1928. Chinese-style roadside architecture. Greasy, buttery, split-and-griddled weenies. Icon. Be prepared to wait…and give up on the calorie-count: calculators don’t go that high.
âž¤ Walter’s Hot Dogs
937 Palmer Ave, Mamaroneck
Cheapskate gourmets unite for Bengal Tiger’s ode to subcontinental excess. This mile-long, ever-changing lunch buffet of biryanis, tikka masalas, dosas, naans, and kulchas wins our hearts for a good-value feast. And lest you think that we’re blinded by a bargain, foodies take note: Bengal Tiger has been Westchester’s go-to Indian since 1975, and it’s still the short-odds favorite.
âž¤ Bengal Tiger
144 E Post Rd, White Plains (914) 948-5191
Jubiloso Jamon Iberico
Peniche, White Plains’s chic Spanish grotto, carries the pig products that get foodies panting. Look for silky legs of heady jamon Iberico, aged two years and lovingly sliced before your eyes on a flame-red Berkel slicer. Or hold out for the Beluga of swine, super-elite Jamon Iberico de Belotta—a heritage-breed Cerdo Negro (“black pig”), carefully raised on forest-floor forage, then finished strictly on acorns. After drying for three years, this high-end jamon yields melting fat and subtly nutty flesh. Admittedly, we’re porkophiles…but this is our idea of the lap of luxury.
âž¤ Peniche Tapas Restaurant
175 Main St, White Plains (914) 421-5012
Killer Kobe (and Wagyu That Wows)
The soaring, light-filled space under the Ritz-Carlton tower is the pied-à-terre of a carnivore Olympian, Executive Chef Laurent Tourondel. His paean to the hoof begins with elite, branded steaks—and includes a $26-per-ounce Japanese Kobe strip steak (each ounce yielding two bites), a miracle of marbling that results from beer diets, and fat-distributing massages. Of course, if your tastes run to lesser labels, you’ll find American Wagyu ribeye at $92 per 12-ounce steak—and don’t forget Chef de Cuisine Scott Drozd’s daily blackboard menu for up-to-the-minute seasonal specials.
âž¤ BLT Steak
221 Main St, White Plains (914) 467-5500
Lavish, Latte-Laden Lasagna
Taking a page from the dairy-filled cooking of his ancestral Marche, Italy, ex-Babbo and ex-Zuppa Chef Dave DiBari’s lasagna eschews tomato ragu for the milk-based besciamella (Italian bechamel) of the North. At his new Dobbs Ferry spot (which he opened with Zuppa’s frontman Michael O’Neill), DiBari offers creamy, ricotta-dotted, house-rolled pasta sheets, layered with a forest of fragrant wild mushrooms. Subtly golden and pearly white, DiBari’s lasagna is a creamy revelation—making all those red-sauced foil trays of your youth seem vulgar by comparison.
âž¤ The Cookery
39 Chestnut St, Dobbs Ferry (914) 305-2336
Mondays and Magret
The Kittle House has scores of fan favorites—like its dreamy “steak and eggs,” which, despite its diner-ish name, is actually discs of buttery filet mignon gilded by an oozing duck’s egg. Yet among tony plates of foie gras, lobster rolls, Kanpachi crudo, and Australian lamb chops, we’re most smitten by the Kittle House’s delicious duck duo. A classic pairing of magret and confit, the ho-hum gets hit out of the park when the rare breast arrives with confit dumplings, cipollini onions, maiitaki mushrooms, and darkly fruity preserved Bing cherry broth. Traditional yet trendy, terrestrial yet elegant, it’s just what you’d expect from this food-and-wine-centric country retreat. What’s better? Mondays bring jaw-dropping wine bargains as the Kittle House makes room in its Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning cellar.
âž¤ Crabtree’s Kittle House
11 Kittle Rd, Chappaqua (914) 666-8044
The best sushi in Westchester is being rolled in a blah-looking box on Mamaroneck Avenue. Yet despite modest digs, sushi master Yoshimichi Takeda knows he’s the best. Acknowledged to be idiosyncratic—while a few claim he’s simply difficult—Takeda admits no walk-in diners, and his stellar omakase must be pre-ordered. Yet, flaming hoops and all, we’ll gladly jump ’em, because Takeda’s pristine fish is flown in daily, and, matched by mellow, house-brewed soy sauce, exotic greens, and garnishes, Nanase ensures a bankable payoff.
âž¤ Sushi Nanase
522 Mamaroneck Ave White Plains (914) 285-5351
Chef Brian Galvin is an admitted oyster obsessive who stocks his 19-seat Croton-on-Hudson nook with a dizzying array of boutique bivalves. While most rely on bog-standard bluepoints, at Ocean House, you’ll find beefy French belons, plus a multitude of East and West Coast slurpers, including Wellfleet (Cape Cod), Deer Creek (Washington State), Flower (Long Island), Saint Simon (Nova Scotia), Elkhorn (Washington State), Chincoteague (Virginia), Hammersley (Washington State), and Sister Point (Washington State). His selection changes, so bring an oyster atlas—and be prepared to wait. Or leave your cellphone at Ocean House’s door, and wait your turn while tippling down the street.
âž¤ Ocean House
49 N Riverside Ave, Croton-on-Hudson (914) 271-0702
Pilsners and Pub Grub
Gastropubs, that English restaurant trend marked by the gourmet-ification of modest pub eats, hit these shores big-time with the success of New York City’s Spotted Pig. (That’s April Bloomfield’s and Mario Batali’s tiny Village spot, known for cask-conditioned ales, kidneys, and dreamy, melting gnudi). Not lagging far behind, Tuckahoe’s Tap House offers 14 boutique draughts—paired with aspirational (yet still comforting) takes on “bacon popcorn,” burgers, and Berkshire pork chops.
âž¤ The Tap House
16 Depot Sq, Tuckahoe (914) 337-6941
Quesadilla With Lobster and Avocado
It’s tough to find bargain meals that also pass nutritional muster, but David Starkey’s locavorian Tomatillo offers Tex-Mex with a twist. Instead of grease-soaked burritos or mystery-meat tacos, you’ll find organic and locally raised options slung at an easy price. While everything’s good at this casual joint, we love Tomatllo’s quesadillas—massive tortilla discs stuffed with oozing cheese. To wash it all down, look for great $6 margaritas, so well priced that two (or three) are always an option.
13 Cedar St, Dobbs Ferry (914) 478-2300
Ravishing, Restrained Ravioli
Executive Chef Brian Lewis has several dishes that make our hearts go pitter-patter, like his triumvirate of Berkshire pork, in which jowl, loin, and belly are arrayed in perfect bites, or his rustic MacFarlane Farms pheasant, tempered by creamed, hand-peeled chestnuts. Topping them all is Lewis’s signature ravioli, in which he achieves deconstructed perfection: these sequential hand-rolled envelopes reveal sheep’s-milk ricotta, savory spinach, and a still-liquid egg yolk. Pure and minimal, this trio celebrates the modernist edict, “less is more.”
âž¤ Farmhouse at Bedford Post
954 Old Post Rd, Bedford (914) 234-7800
Snail-Approved Slow Food
Ever since Slow Food International set out to eradicate fast food, its snail logo endorsement has been a byword for culinary craftsmanship. But while many of the The Slow Food Guide to New York City inclusions feel like a mockery of the Italian original, farm-to-table icons like Blue Hill at Stone Barns demonstrate that even burger-happy Americans can Go Slow. When not foraging for your dinner, James Beard Award darling Chef Dan Barber (winner of 2009’s Outstanding Chef Award) is the soft-spoken figurehead for a movement in which politics and food unite.
âž¤ Blue Hill at Stone Barns
630 Bedford Rd, Pocantico Hills (914) 366-9600
It’s a fact: influxes of immigrants always improve food culture, and with a growing population of native Mexicanos, Westchester’s taco scene is hopping. While juicy carnitas tacos draw fans to Port Chester’s Los Gemellas Restaurant and Tortillera, we’re smitten by the al pastor available at New Rochelle’s Little Mexican Café. Imagine spice-slathered fillets of pork, slowly roasted under a dripping pineapple, then sliced into peppery red chunks, and rolled in a tender corn tortilla with diced onion and crisp cilantro. All you need now is a cool cerveza and perhaps an action-packed Robert Rodriguez flick.
âž¤ Little Mexican Café
581 Main St, New Rochelle (914) 636-3926
Ultimate Nebayaki Udon
Thick, meaty-textured, and bouncy, Sushi Mike’s udon noodles are our idea of comfort food, in which slurping is a necessity, and splashes only collateral damage. Think simmering dashi in an earthenware crockpot, piled with noodles, shrimp, chicken, vegetables, plus a gently poaching raw egg. Momofuku’s ramen might be more famous, but Mike’s nabeyaki udon whispers seduction: we’ll brave his Dobbs Ferry crowds whenever we need a warming hug.
âž¤ Sushi Mike’s
146 Main St, Dobbs Ferry (914) 591-0054
Chef Anthony Goncalves broke hearts when he suspended his beloved Trotters, but the move only made way for two fabulous new venues. Goncalves’s Peniche cranks out tapas and jamón, while 42 slings chic haute cuisine, matched with killer views. From caviar to kampachi, 42’s high-flying menu is meant to stun—and though the top of the Ritz-Carlton, Westchester, location (with Sound-to-Hudson panoramas) amps up the glamour, recent Trotters inclusions seduce stalwart mourners.
Ritz Carlton, Westchester, 1 Renaissance Sq, White Plains (914) 761-4242
Wicked, Wildean Wormwood
It has nothing to do with worms, though the herb was a medieval cure for intestinal parasites. It’s the thujone-containing botanical that forms the basis of absinthe—a reportedly hallucinogenic liquor that spawned decades of international furor. It was banned in the U.S. from 1915 until recently, but now five legal absinthes are available at Pour, and though their flavor might be a little musty for today’s palates, all the curlicued equipment (spoons, glasses, and fountains) feels decadently Blue Period.
241 Main St, Mount Kisco (914) 864-0606
X-cellent XO Sauce at Kam Sen
While the Chinese food malls of Flushing, Queens, have become a destination for intrepid foodies, Westchester’s own Kam Sen Market offers the stuff of Fushia Dunlop’s dreams. These vast subterranean aisles carry everything from XO Sauce to black bone chicken—and it’s all vibrating under shrill fluorescent lighting, accompanied by loud Chinese pop music. And when all those dizzying products begin to wear you down, there’s always Kam Sen’s prepared-food counter, where you can wash down cheap dumplings, char-siu pork, and scallion pancakes with cups of bubble tea.
âž¤ Kam Sen Market
22 Barker Ave, White Plains (914) 428-4500
Yummy Yellow Layer Cake
Near-decade-old starter, carefully-sourced grains, stone-ground whole wheat, yadda yadda. While Jennifer and Jeff Kohn’s artisanal bread is certainly fabulous, we confess a weakness for the bakery’s retro layer cakes. These giant pastel phenoms yield fat wedges of ultra-moist cake, whose forkfuls of fluffy buttercream still retain a touch of honest, sugary grit. Call us nostalgic, but these slices remind us of a Norman Rockwell childhood (that, in fact, we never had).
âž¤ The Kneaded Bread Bakery
181 N Main St, Port Chester (914) 937-9489
It seems like every chef we meet has been drilled in “media relations,” in which the ability to dish up “swap-outs” with a smile is bested only by telegenic charm. Throwback chef Vicky Zeph is a cook’s cook, from way back in the day, when chefs got behind the stove to prepare delicious food, and not to launch a career on The Food Network. Her gutsy, seasonal dishes—and divine house-made ice creams—make us happy that this treasure seems content with her modest 50-person dining room.
638 Central Ave, Peekskill (914) 736-2159
Julia Sexton is an award-winning Westchester-based food writer. She only had to sing the alphabet song 60 times during this story to figure out which letter went after which.