Insider's Guide

Westchester Magazine has been dishing about the county for more than a decade now, so we know more than our share of insider secrets about how to best navigate the dining, shopping, and overall living-in-the-county scene. So here we tell you how to nab a table when no one else can, dine at the finest restaurants at a fraction of the cost, score tickets for sold-out concerts, get your hair cut and colored (for free), find the easiest DMV for road tests, and much more.



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Illustrations by Kim Rosen

[food]

Sample Westchester’s Best Dishes Without Spending a Fortune

Dylan Lounge at X2O

Four of our top, high-end restaurateurs hedge their bets by offering dual hi-lo eateries, which spread out their price points and draw from two distinct crowds. Casual, child-friendly Blue Hill Café (open until 4:30 pm) uses the same farm-to-table ingredients as haute, haute, haute Blue Hill at Stone Barns (bluehillfarm.com), and its soups, sandwiches, and scones are prepared by the same stellar staff. Dylan’s Lounge counters X2O’s river view with an absorbing city- and shore-scape, while offering casual, chic cocktails, and sushi—although X2O’s menu is also available à la carte (xaviars.com). Casually priced Bellota at Restaurant 42 (42therestaurant.com) offers the same panoramic view from the top of the Ritz-Carlton towers in White Plains, but its gentle prices and approachable tapas feel like a gateway to the higher-end venue. Also look for Bedford Post’s Barn's (bedfordpostinn.com) pared-down, more casual take on the Farmhouse’s elegant menu.

Another tactic worth mentioning: Hudson Valley Restaurant Week. It’s offered every spring and fall and runs for two weeks. That means, for one full month out of 12, lunches cost around $20 and dinners $28. Many of Westchester’s most popular restaurants—Harvest on Hudson (harvest 2000.com), X2O, Moderne Barn (modernebarn.com)—participate.

Photo by Paul Johnson

Bedford Post's Barn

Photo by Paul Johnson

Moderne Barn

 

Be the First to Know What’s on the Menu

Savvy restaurants use Facebook for super-targeted marketing. In fact, many restaurants restrict the information available on their websites, preferring to channel inquiries to their Facebook page. Why? Facebook and Twitter send up-to-the-minute alerts to “friends” and “followers,” often sending news of special events and seasonal menu changes directly to hand-held devices. If you want to know about The Cookery’s Industry Night (where you could find duck tongues, veal brains, and its fabled chicken-skin “Cheetos”), simply “like” or “friend” the restaurant (thecookeryrestaurant.com). That also goes for alerts on Juniper’s pop-up dinners (juniperhastings.com, and the availability of Restaurant North’s (restaurantnorth.com) evanescent soft-shell crabs.

Go on a Real Dining Adventure

Check out Yonkers for a cornucopia of authentic foods: cerviche at Chim Pum Calloa, Patacon misto at Stefy’s Restaurant (stefysrestaurant.com), goat tacos at La Fonda Poblano el Mexicano, even fertilized Filipino eggs at Cartimar Filipino Market. Or, take a food crawl in Port Chester, home to a lively world of Latin American restaurants: look for Salvadoran pupusa at Rinconcito Migueleño (118 Westchester Ave), Peruvian grilled chicken that easily beat supermarket rotisserie at Misti Pollo al la Brasa (110 N Main St, 914-939-9437), soulful Mexican carnitas at Los Gemelos Restaurant & Tortilleria where they actually manufacture tortillas for other restaurants (167 Westchester Ave, 914-934-0372), and a rainbow of Mexican ice pops at Paleteria Fernandez (33 N Main St, 914-939-3694). Early risers can find massive, meaty breakfasts and arepas at Asi Es Columbia (172 N Main Street, 914-934-7675) and if you can get there early, warm, cinnamony churros at Uruguay Bakery (204 Westchester Ave, 914-937-4322) along the triangle formed by Main Street and Westchester Avenue.

Drink Your Favorite Wines—Without Paying an Extra Dime

A number of our favorite spots either don’t have a liquor license or allow customers to bring their own bottles. And there is no corkage fee on (Your) Wine Wednesdays at Plates (121 Myrtle Blvd, Larchmont, 914-834-1244, platesonthepark.com. Ocean House (Croton-on-Hudson), Juniper (Hastings-on-Hudson), Shiraz (Elmsford), Masala Kraft Café (Hartsdale), Café Tandoor (Tarrytown), Conte’s Fishmarket (Mount Kisco), and Docas (Ossining) also allow you to BYO.
Moderne barn photo by Paul Johnson; Bedford Post's barn photo by Paul Johnson

Stock Your Kitchen With Professional Cookware—On the Cheap

You may not find the latest Food Network culinary tools at Harris Restaurant Supply (25 Abendroth Ave, Port Chester 914-937-0404; hrs-foodservice.com), a wholesale showroom open to the public, but you will find indestructible professional cookware designed with function first in mind—cookware that’s easy to wash, and cheap enough to buy by the score: 40-quart stockpots, 30-quart stainless bowls, re-usable silicone pads, flat-packed parchment paper, and every other tool or accessory you could want to turn your kitchen into a four-star eatery.

Get Top-Notch Organic Groceries For Much, Much Less

This may hearken back to those crunchy granola days in the ’70s when every hip (and hippie) area had its own food co-op. You remember: you'd join up and everyone would chip in with the work to save on overhead. Guess what? Food co-ops are back. The Raw Life Food Co-op (913 South St, Peekskill 914-257-7112; rawlife.memberlodge.org) is a nonprofit organic produce and grocery co-op that offers food priced 30 to 40 percent less than in retail stores. Members are required to work at least three hours every four weeks.

Surprise Dining

Once a month, self-taught chef David Leveen leaves his day job as owner of a digital photography company and transforms Grouchy Gabe’s deli in Croton-on-Hudson into Skillet (skilletgoodness.com). All the food is served family-style in—you guessed it—cast-iron skillets. The menu changes each month, the price for skillets is $30 to $35, and reservations are a good idea as it sells out. Remember to BYOB.

Snag a Table in the Hottest Restaurants

Restaurant North photo by Eric Issac

We’re lucky here in Westchester: we don’t have to avoid weekends to sample a chef’s food like the poor souls in New York City, when, according to Anthony Bourdain, hordes of food rubes from the suburbs (that would be us) clamor for safe old standbys like short ribs, filet mignon, and molten chocolate cake. Not true—our tastes are more evolved than AB gives us credit for. But it is true that making weekend reservations at the hottest eatery du jour can be tricky, so we suggest that you be flexible. Maybe you can’t get that coveted 8 pm slot on a Saturday, but you might get in at 9:30 and most certainly will be able to find a time during the week (and, if you call on the day of that 9:30 reservation, you might find a cancellation that shifts you earlier). Restaurant North in Armonk (restaurant north.com) and Tarry Lodge in Port Chester (tarry lodge.com) serve their entire menus at the bar—and sometimes eating there can be more fun than sitting at a table. Sometimes it pays to just show up; some restaurants (Tarry Lodge, for one) try to accommodate their customers by reserving a few seats for walk-ins.

 

Bag the Best Prix-Fixe Deals

Photo by Rana Faure

Crabtree's Kittle House

Okay, you've got casual covered, but what do you do about fine dining the 11 months that restaurant week isn't running (see page 68)? We've got two words for you: prix fixe.

Perhaps the best prix-fixe deal in town is X2O Xaviars on the Hudson’s elegant $38 Sunday brunch, which starts with muffins, breads, and hearty passed dishes like baby lamb chops and wild mushroom ravioli. Pace yourself: this is followed by two savory courses (maybe shellfish chowder followed by poached eggs with creamed spinach or whole roasted New York sirloin with coconut shrimp); dessert (we recommend the chocolate callebaut cake, strawberry parfait, and warm bananas Foster); and vast amounts of unlimited Champagne—the real stuff, not the lower-priced Kava or Prosecco. Tuesday through Friday weekday lunches offer a similar deal, minus the Champagne and passed dishes, for $25 (71 Water Grant St, Yonkers 914-965-1111; xaviars.com).

Iron Horse Grill has three dinner options daily: the theater menu includes a salad or the soup of the day, an entrée such as the prosciutto-wrapped breast of organic chicken or the Georges Bank cod, plus dessert and coffee for $38. For $49, seared day-boat scallops and timbale of peaky toe crab are added to the first-course selections; main courses include Za'atar-dusted swordfish and thyme-rubbed rack of lamb; desserts include chocolate marquis and passionfruit-blackberry tart. A five-course chef’s tasting menu is available for $69 (20 Wheeler Ave, Pleasantville 914-741-0717; ironhorsegrill.com).

From 5 until 7 on Sunday through Friday evenings, you can pick any two-course meal (appetizer/entrée, entrée/dessert, or appetizer/dessert) for $30 at Plates. We’re talking appetizers like fried rock shrimp, pulled-pork sliders, or a charcuterie plate. Entrées include pan-roasted chicken breast, rib-eye steak, duck, and roasted salmon; desserts include our favorite, the giant Ring Ding, as well as warm country donuts and apple crisp (121 Myrtle Blvd, Larchmont 914-834-1244; platesonthepark.com).

Equus at Castle on Hudson

At Crabtree’s Kittle House, the $24 three-course lunch starts with savories like butternut squash soup, Caesar salad, or crab cake, and is followed by John Boy Farm’s chicken breast or pan-seared Norwegian salmon. For dessert, choose three-chocolate terrine with dried cherry sauce or vanilla crème brûlée (11 Kittle Rd, Chappaqua 914-666-8044; kittlehouse.com).

Lunch like royalty at Equus at Castle on the Hudson for just $38 with such delectable offerings as maple-cured wild salmon, rainbow trout, or Berkshire pork loin, and desserts such as almond-crusted blood-orange mousse, flourless chocolate torte, and apple spice cake (400 Benedict Ave, Tarrytown 914-631-3646; castle onthehudson.com).

For Francophiles, La Panetière offers a lavish $25 three-course prix-fixe lunch with entrées like beef bordelaise and cannelloni of duck confit. Dessert choices include warm chocolate fondant with raspberry ice cream or chilled lemon parfait with fresh pineapple. Bon appetite! (530 Milton Rd, Rye 914-967-8140; lapanetiere.com).

Indulge in escargot and mussel soup for starters at the $36 lunch at La Crémaillère. Entrées include roasted chicken and Scottish smoked salmon; desserts, ice creams and sorbets, crème brûlée, and chocolate soufflé cake (46 Bedford-Banksville Rd, Bedford 914-234-9647; cremaillere.com).

Le Château has a $46 dinner deal that includes Caesar or mesclun salad or French onion soup, followed by salmon, hanger steak, medallion of pork, or chicken breast. Flourless chocolate cake, Key lime and raspberry tart, or crème brûlée with coffee or tea round
out the menu (1410 Rte 35, South Salem 914-533-6631; le
chateauny.com).

Italophiles will love The Cookery’s, $21 three-course lunch with offerings like a crostino of fresh ricotta. End on a sweet note with sticky pumpkin tortina with warm pumpkin cake, cinnamon gelato, and figs (39 Chestnut St, Dobbs Ferry 914-305-2336; thecookeryrestaurant.com).

On a more casual (read: "less expensive") note

Share a tray and a pitcher at bartaco

It’s not exactly a prix-fixe deal, but a deal it is at bartaco. If you’ve got more friends than money, order a large tray (feeds three or four) of tacos, guacamole, tamales, and sides like grilled corn, chipotle slaw, and crispy cucumber salad, and a pitcher of margaritas (eight glasses) for $48. The place is chic, hip, and reasonably priced—even if you want to go à la carte (1 Willett Ave, Port Chester 914-937-8226; bartaco.com).

You can’t beat Turkish Meze’s weekday lunch deal of $9.95 for a two-course meal (regular price for the char-grilled salmon is $19.95; vegetable casserole $15.95). One caveat: it’s cash only (409 Mount Pleasant Ave, Mamaroneck 914-777-3042).

Start with a salad of organic mixed field greens followed by handmade ricotta gnocchi or chicken scarpariello, then dessert at Trevi for $21 (11 Taylor Sq, West Harrison 914-949-5810).

Lunch at Harvest on Hudson is just $17.95 for such choices as a burger, rustic pizza, or house-made pasta like tagliatelle primavera (1 River St, Hastings-on-Hudson 914-478-2800; harvest2000.com).