The Business Lunch Is Back
A Meal, A Deal, and Maybe A Martini
Photography by Andre Baranowski
Okay, so the three-martini lunch may exist these days only on Mad Men. But the power lunch? That’s here to stay.
Power Lunch. The phrase conjures ’80s-era images of Gordon Gekko types, tearing through steaks and adversaries with equal, bloodthirsty verve. Though the prefix “power” may have faded with the fashion for gooey hair gel, high flyers in business still need to entertain their clients—often during working meals, and often over lunch. Even shared internally, lunches can be a great tool for your business. Use celebratory meals for team-building; nothing builds morale like breaking bread together.
So what are your best strategies? The key to a smart business lunch is not to waste opportunities. Make sure the restaurant that you choose not only works for lunch but works for your business. Whether wooing a potential client or celebrating an important deal, we’ll tell you where to book the smartest business lunches in the county.
hot table, hopping food town
THE NEW GUY IN TOWN: Moderne Barn's sweeping, dramatic space lends an air of gravitas to any business lunch.
430 Bedford Rd, Armonk (914) 730-0001
Armonk’s dining scene has become Westchester’s newest foodie destination, with high-profile debuts from Maialino alum Steven Paul Mancini (Restaurant North) and Blue Hill at Stone Barns’s Derek Todd (Wine Geeks of Armonk). Topping them all for size and grandeur is the 200-seat Moderne Barn; it was launched by the Livanos Restaurant Group, the royal restaurant family behind Manhattan’s Molyvos, Abbocato, and Oceana.
Moderne Barn is a perfect fit when it comes to the particular needs of business lunches. Not only is it close to numerous office parks—with lots of parking and spiffy service—but its soaring, bi-level space is designed to impress. Look for walnut-paneled barrel vaults strung with expansive rustic chandeliers, and a roomy wine selection accessed via a treacherous-looking catwalk. (The 900 bottles are visible in chic, glass-enclosed alcoves over the bar.) For drama, Roberto Dutesco’s large, black-and-white photos of wild horses practically sizzle—this is a décor that celebrates rusticity with a modern edge.
Along with impressive digs, business lunches require flexible menus. Moderne Barn offers an ideal mix of international comfort foods, including steak, pizza, pasta, and seafood. (The Livanos family also owns Westchester standby City Limits Diner.) Look for "Barn chopped salad" (with black ceci beans, chickpeas, cucumbers, olives, pistachios, and blue cheese), or fresh lump crab cakes (with watercress and whole-grain mustard aioli). In fact, you can even relax with a midday “Barn burger” (bacon, Gruyère cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato, and pickles served with sea-salt fries with fresh herbs), but this sucker is juicy, so remember to tuck away that tie!
wow an out-of-town client
Ritz-Carlton, Westchester, 1 Renaissance Sq (914) 761-4242
This plush, modernist palace, perched high on the 42nd floor of the Ritz-Carlton towers, offers panoramic, Sound-to-Hudson views, partnered with sophisticated dining. The icing on the cake is that, with the Ritz-Carlton just downstairs, 42 also offers the convenience of a top-flight hotel.
Chef Anthony Goncalves’s high-flying menu is designed to impress, with considered dips into molecular gastronomy that include tiny spheres of ginger juice that mimic caviar. Though serious about its food, 42 is a popular pick for working lunches, as it has a dedicated, on-staff business liaison to facilitate your working needs. According to Goncalves, “It’s a program that really works well for companies: their assistants can coordinate with our contact to make detailed reservations. They give us notes about meeting timetables, and, in some cases, pre-order meals. That way, we can have an incredible lunch ready to go exactly when they sit down.”
Though its menu spans the world, Goncalves notes 42’s grilled menu is popular for working lunches—“it’s about keeping it healthy, lean, and nourishing for what’s always a busy day.” Drinks depend on whether dealmaking or entertaining is in order, but Goncalves finds the cult wines of California are always popular at 42. “Anything from Colgin, Bryant Family, Bond. When celebrating, it’s first growth from France. But, then again, given their workdays, sometimes it’s iced tea, too.”
get down to business
FROM HOARDING GREENBACKS TO SERVING GREENS: Frankie's and Johnnie's soaring space nicely complements big steaks and big business.
Frankie and Johnnie’s Steakhouse
77 Purchase St, Rye (914) 925-3900
This old-school steakhouse still retains some of its speakeasy charm; its sister restaurant in Manhattan was once an illegal, Prohibition-era drink spot. Today, this clubby offshoot takes its Rye space from a stately, Purchase Street bank—and its soaring, bi-level dining room practically reeks with the smell of money.
Expect a rolled-sleeve power scene, with local politicians and business people loosening their ties. You’ll find large tables of male-tending groups tucking into stellar, dry-aged sirloin steaks, washing down their lunches with a heady brew of dealing and drinking. While call brands and classic cocktails are popular with this crowd, Frankie and Johnnie’s wine list is roomy, and offers some fabulous bottles for clinching the deal.
CLASSIC & CENTRAL; Mulino's swanky interior offers a great backdrop for dotting the i's and crossing the t's on a big deal.
99 Court St, White Plains (914) 761-1818
Not all of your contacts may be up for molecular gastronomy, which is why classic spots like Mulino’s are popular for business lunches. This centrally located, upscale Italian offers all the comfort of white tablecloths, while its formally attired waiters have the nearly psychic grace of old pros. Mulino’s is the perfect place to entertain in old-school style.
Its winningly familiar but elegant Italian menu raises this restaurant above the “red-sauce Italian” fray. It’s a political and power scene already famous for its pasta, yet it also offers fabulous carnivorous mains like rack of lamb, filet mignon, and double-cut veal chop with prosciutto, herbs, and brandy sauce. Crowd-pleasing desserts like tiramisu and cannoli don’t hurt Mulino’s, either.
As may be expected in such a temple to the Boot, Mulino’s wine list is roomy and tending toward Italian picks. And don’t forget, while lingering over biscotti, it pours a roomy lineup of cognacs and grappas, too.
reward your best performer
71 Water Grant St, Yonkers (914) 359-1111
No restaurant in our roundup has the fame of X2O, where Chef Peter Kelly is a Westchester hero, and his restaurants are a byword for the best. Kelly’s regular appearances on television, along with his winning turn on Iron Chef, leave him a local foodie star garnering a rare thumbs-up from Anthony Bourdain. If you’re looking to reward a valued worker with a meal that means more than just lunch, grab the corner table at X2O and prepare to celebrate with a memorable spread
Kelly’s on-trend cuisine always reflects major culinary fashions, with the best of locally raised, seasonal Hudson Valley produce (including spirits, beer, and wine) being his personal crusade. But, though trend-conscious, Chef Kelly has a firm footing in classic cuisine: look for massive cowboy ribeyes with gorgeous brown sugar/cayenne crusts and perfect sauce Béarnaise. Meanwhile, more adventurous palates might opt for Kelly’s miraculous slow-poached hen’s egg. It’s dotted with American sturgeon caviar, and—via the molecular gastronomy gadget of an immersion circulator—Kelly creates yolk and white united by a single, creamy mouthfeel.
As befits Westchester’s “Most Popular” restaurant (according to the most recent Zagat Guide), X2O is happy to accommodate any special needs that your business may have, including providing large tables or working within a short time frame.
dressed-down atmosphere, serious star power
A RICHARD GERE PRODUCTION: With its casual elegance and homey charm, the Barn at Bedford Post offers a more relaxed setting for a business meal.
The Barn at Bedford Post
945 Old Post Rd (914) 234-7800
Not all of today’s business is conducted in the world of suits and ties. If your business style is more shorts and laptop, a working lunch at Bedford Post might work for you.
This casually elegant two-restaurant complex is part-owned by actor Richard Gere, who appears often at the restaurant to spread his relaxed charm. (Neighbor Martha Stewart is a regular, too.) Though its menu is always ambitious, the Barn is Bedford Post’s least formal venue, with the more elegant Farmhouse taking over service for dinner. Yet lunches at the Barn still offer inspired nods to Italy, which are always geared toward lighter, modern tastes. Expect food that celebrates the season and the land, with much of Lewis’s ingredients locally sourced.
While the Barn offers classic carnivore dishes like the Painted Hills burger, with cheddar, bacon, and onion mostarda, it’s also extremely vegetarian-friendly with a wealth of exciting, non-meat options. Also look for a brief but well-edited wine list and an exciting cocktail program that shakes on-trend mixology with locavorian ingredients.
seduce with luxury
Equus at Castle on the Hudson
400 Benedict Ave, Tarrytown (914) 631-3646
As you might expect from looking at the hilltop castle and former private estate, Equus at the Castle offers the absolute lap of Westchester luxury. Its crenellated ramparts perch high over Tarrytown and offer views that extend to the Hudson and beyond to the Palisades. In fine weather, drinks can be shared on Equus’s quiet terrace, while, in winter, multiple fireplaces showcase the Castle’s original, historic detail. This is the spot to impress in baronial style.
Equus’s French-inspired menu is lavish with high-toned foodstuffs, offering foie gras, oysters, and game executed with Chef David Haviland’s award-winning finesse. While its dining room is no longer jackets-only (though the garment is suggested), Equus is still a formal affair, giving lunch the impact of an evening meal.
Best of all, the Castle offers plush rooms for visiting business associates, and features several available private meeting rooms underneath the same striking roof. And, as an added benefit, Equus recreates the same elegance for breakfast meetings.
closed rooms, serious wine
Crabtree’s Kittle House
11 Kittle Rd, Chappaqua (914) 666-8044
The Kittle House’s wine cellar is fabled among oenophiles and has earned this intimate Westchester landmark its own Wine Spectator Grand Award. (Its coveted, super-elite award is one of only 72 given worldwide.) Not to be outshone, the Kittle House’s kitchen is also getting national notice, having just been named one of Food and Wine’s top wine-pairing meccas. Best of all, the Kittle House never forgets where it came from. You’ll find its menu rooted in the very soil of the Hudson Valley.
But, besides an incredible wine list and skillful food pairings, the Kittle House offers the option of separate rooms for business dining. The intimate downstairs Wine Tasting Room seats up to 12 and overlooks the riches of the cellar (sadly behind glass). The larger upstairs Rose Room can work for groups of up to 40. Also, in fine weather, the Kittle House’s garden is lovely, but, with serious wine and pretty views, we can’t vouch for all that you’ll get done.
uncork a few after the deal
18 Mill St, Port Chester (914) 939-3111
This latest offshoot of the team behind Babbo and Del Posto brings the star power of Mario Batali and Joseph Bastianich to the ‘burbs. Chef/Owner Andy Nusser, who hails from the team’s Casa Mono in Manhattan, offers a trattoria menu that’s geared for every palate. But it’s Greenwich, Connecticut, resident Joe Bastianich who brings serious oenophilia to Port Chester.
Wine merchant, author, winemaker, and restaurateur, this multiple James Beard Award winner is the man to trust with your celebration. His deep and thoughtful wine list reads like a monumen t to Italian winemaking, with a bottle list whose prices run from $25 to more than $600. If Bastianich is not in the house, you’ll usually find co-owner Nancy Selzer, whose sommelier chops are also impressive (she’s been awarded at the Copa de Jerez International Competition for her skill). In short, Tarry Lodge is a perfect place to clink a few glasses.
While its wine is serious, its democratic menu also has crowds raving with stellar pizzas, pastas, and mains. Be warned, though: with such bounty (and such a seductive wine list), you might find your celebratory lunch morphing inevitably into dinner.
power lunch checklist: the basics
While cuisine, service, and décor are the usual restaurant-world trinity, business lunches have their own special needs. Don’t overlook these details when placing your next reservation.
✔ Restaurants with small, private rooms are ideal for business meals.
✔ A personal contact at the restaurant is preferable for facilitating working needs.
✔ The venue should be proximate to office and/or lodging.
✔ Convenient parking, swift service, and no table waits are key concerns.
✔ Menu flexibility for dietary needs is an absolute necessity.
✔ Low music and bright lights are better attuned to workday meals.
Julia Sexton is a restaurant critic and food writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times and in the Boston Globe. Check out her CRMA award-winning dining blog, Eat. Drink. Blog. at westchestermagazine.com