Restaurant Review: Croton Creek Steakhouse
Dining well-done at Croton Creek Steakhouse and Wine Bar in Croton Falls
A Steakhouse, Well Done
Croton Falls beefs up its dining scene with this inviting new entry.
Chances are, if you don’t live in Croton Falls, you probably don’t visit the hamlet much. This town holds no upscale tchotchke stores, no multiplexes, no supermarkets—there isn’t even a ubiquitous Starbucks. It’s as though this quaint little eddy has avoided all the trends that swept the rest of the county—and that’s its charm. Like many of the old towns further upstate—which Croton Falls resembles—its main streets are blissfully devoid of corporate logos shouting Cold Stone Creamery, Ann Taylor, and The Gap—at least for the moment. With Croton Creek Steakhouse and Wine Bar, there’s a new reason to visit this under-the-radar Westchester nook. And once people see the town’s attractive, vacant architecture, real estate interest is sure to follow—which may be more curse than blessing for its current residents.
Croton Creek makes the most of its peculiar setting. Located in an L-shaped space that formerly housed a bar (and strip club), the restaurant retains some of the property’s original charm. You’ll find a long wall of bare brick and carved corbels that once ornamented the oak bar have been re-purposed as candle shelves. Two bas-relief medallions featuring female heads, also pulled from the carved bar, have been reinstated at the end of the narrow long dining room. White-clothed tables are made casual with brown paper toppers, and candles flicker throughout the space. It’s a thoughtful re-casting of charming old space: stylish, yet relaxed enough for blue jeans.
Servings are large, but don’t skip appetizers at Croton Creek Steakhouse. On our first visit, lobster chowder got my attention: this heady, café au lait-colored soup was rich and almost gumbo-like, thickened as it was with a nutty, well-browned roux. On another visit, the requisite fried calamari were a revelation, and reminded us of the excellent version served at Union Square Cafe. Light, crisp, and slightly gritty with cornmeal (and containing the barest hint of heat), the supporting coating let the tender, mildly flavored rings speak for themselves.
I’m always surprised to see fresh tomatoes on menus during the months from October through July, as tomatoes are rarely worth eating during this period. Yet my early June tomato-and-gorgonzola salad was perfect. The watery acid of the ripe tomatoes made a perfect foil for the salty, strong, palate-coating cheese. Plus, these chunks of no-doubt-expensive yellow and red tomatoes mean that the price of the dish was reflected in its ingredients.
Service at Croton Creek is attentive and earnest. One mark of a good restaurant is not avoiding every problem (which is impossible), but handling problems with grace and efficiency. On one visit, my partner’s Captain Lawrence beer seemed flat. When we inquired, our waiter told us that’s how this locally-brewed beer is made, but he’d be happy to get us another maker if we’d prefer. On another visit, my partner’s (the same poor guy) organic Pinot Noir had tuned vinegary in the bottle. In that case, the bartender confirmed the problem, apologized, and returned instantly with a glass from a fresh bottle.
The few grave missteps that occurred at Croton Creek were frustrating, given the pleasant experience we’d had thus far. My $47 aged T-bone steak (ordered medium-rare) arrived raw on the inside. Worse, it hadn’t been adequately trimmed, so that my first bite was of a big, thick tag of silver-skin gristle. Our short ribs, otherwise tasty, were also badly butchered; they were studded with three hidden, razor-sharp bone splinters.
We fared much better with a bison rib-eye, which arrived perfectly cooked, tender, and full of deep, beefy flavor. Even though Croton Creek is a steakhouse, my favorite main was actually a Kobe burger: piled high with cheese, bacon, frizzled onions, and a slab of tomato, this huge, very drippy sandwich was delicious, if challenging to eat. Plus, it was an entrée and arrived accompanied by a huge stack of fries and a tasty green salad.
One thing that’s always annoyed me about steakhouses is the upsell factor. Blame my Scottish heritage, but it bothers me that you have to buy your sides separately. Croton Creek goes one better than the usual “Do-you-want-fries-with-that?” check-padding at steakhouses: it offers both sauces and “toppers” (mostly compound butters) for a supplementary price. The theory is that diners can order a few mix-and-match compliments to their steak, at $3 a pop, or even order a sampler for the table to share. I find this egregious. Sauce should be included in the price of the dish. It does, however, ameliorate the major downside of steak dinners: this is a monolithic meal, packed with many bites that all taste the same. An assortment of sauces can keep each bite of steak interesting. Trying a few, we liked our salty Stilton and chive butter but were left cold by a gloppy shallot/red-wine reduction and a pink, but flavorless, lobster butter.
It’s wise to save room for dessert at Croton Creek. Our firm, vanilla-scented bread pudding was warm and delightful, like a slice of gooey, aromatic cake. We also liked our crème brûlée, which could have been silkier but arrived extravagantly studded with vanilla seeds and capped by a thick, pleasantly bittersweet shell. In short, with Croton Creek Steakhouse in town, it’s worth getting to Croton Falls before Ann Taylor and Cold Stone Creamery do.
Croton Creek Steakhouse and Wine Bar
4 W Cross St, Croton Falls
Hours: lunch Mon to Sat 11:30-3 pm;
dinner Mon to Thurs 5:30-10 pm,
Fri and Sat 5:30-11 pm, late-night tasting menu
Fri and Sat 11 pm-1 am
Appetizers: $8-$16; entrees: $16-$30;
steaks: $24-$48; sides: $8-$10; desserts: $8
★★★★—Outstanding ★★★—Very Good