Best Hip Restaurants
Eat! See! And Be Seen! We hit the streets to find the hippest scenes for late summer nights of dining, drinking, and whatever-ing.
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Photography by Andre Baranowski
So close to Williamsburg, and yet so far. Or so the thinking goes. New Yorkers, and even county residents, forget that Westchester is a hotbed of cool. Our borders spawned P. Diddy and Mary J. Blige, while the Rolling Stones recorded Their Satanic Majesties Request in Mount Vernon. In fact, bleary Anita Pallenberg—that blonde icon of 1960s cool—lived in a mansion in South Salem with “elegantly wasted” Keith Richards. And Bud Cort, the sweetly sinister star of the early-'70s cult film Harold and Maude, was born in New Rochelle and grew to creepy manhood in Rye.
But what’s cool about Westchester today, you might ask?
We’ll show you. We took a tour of our hippest dining and drinking spots, so squeeze on those skinny jeans, and oil up those tats. Slide your feet into those retro Adidas Sambas—and don’t forget your ironic, stingy-brim hat. Come with us as we find Westchester’s locus of cool.
Peniche's stylish dining room is indicative of its trendy tapas menu.
175 Main St, White Plains (914) 421-5012
Peniche is urbane, chic, and stylish—but then, it already had us at wine and jámon Ibérico di bellota.
This casual eatery by Restaurant 42’s Anthony Goncalves has its feet planted firmly in the sunny Iberian Peninsula. But unlike the other restaurants to jump on the Spanish bandwagon, Peniche’s rootsy dishes speak loudly of Goncalves’s Portuguese background. Look for a wide array of sexy tapas that simultaneously evoke the cool Pyrenees and the sunny coast of Portugal.
Though you’ll find exquisite baby lamb chops and seared foie gras, we love Peniche best when it delivers Iberia straight to the table. Look for pricey legs of jamon serrano sliced before your eyes on gleaming Berkel slicers, or a stunning sausage and cheese selection that only compels more sips of rioja. And, with a kitchen that (on weekends) stays open 'til 11, it’s easy to keep on ordering—though the wise save room for one more glass of Madeira.
A starter charcuterie and cheese plate at Birdsall House to go with hoisting cult microbrews.
970 Main St, Peekskill (914) 930-1880
Since its quiet opening in 2007, Blind Tiger Ale House has become the Manhattan Mecca for beer drinkers in an island of brew bars. Its curatorial draft list (that includes hand-pulled cask beers) wins the hearts of beer-loving hipsters—who are way too cool to drink in frat bars. The big news for Westchester is that Tim Reinke of the Blind Tiger is joining John Sharp to bring their brand of beer-geek-chic to Peekskill.
Birdsall House, brainchild of Peekskillian Sharp and Beacon, New York, native Reinke, not only packs loads of locavorian beer cred (with most of its brews being regionally, if not locally sourced), but its menu also flaunts the paradox of hipster cool. It is both veggie-friendly and pork-loving. Look for stellar beer-pairing dishes like vegetarian fritto misto, in which mixed fried vegetables and leek offer a sophisticated upgrade from chicken wings. For lighter tastes, the trendy ingredient du jour—deep-fried hen’s egg and lush, soft-boiled duck eggs—grace salads of crisp greens that bespeak Chef Matt Hutchins time at Chez Panisse.
Meanwhile, carnivores can tuck into fabulous Hemlock Hill burgers, ground from ethically raised cows sourced a few miles away in Cortlandt. Also look for creative charcuterie and locavorian cheese boards, all perfect to fuel an evening spent hoisting cult microbrews.
Bring hip friends to share the skirt steak at Don Coqui.
115 Cedar St, New Rochelle (914) 637-3737
Jimmy Rodriguez’s happy restaurant/nightclub is a wonder of local congregation. Whether midweek, or rainy, or in the pit of economic collapse, crowds still throng to Don Coqui for its vibe. There’s always a party at Don Coqui, and we always feel lucky to be invited.
Formerly MacMenamin’s Grill and Chefworks, the ex-plastic factory has been treated to a breath of fresh air with billowy white curtains and loads of milky paint. The result is an open space that elegantly celebrates its industrial past (while also subtly evoking a Caribbean breeze). Massive portions are Don Coqui’s shtick but, miraculously, they don’t overwhelm your appetite. Instead, these enormous plates feel like a winking grandmother ladling on piles of her home-cooked treats. Look for Chef Stephanie Landis’s pernil (the up-and-coming cult pork among foodies), whose mellow, juicy sweetness is given a textural snap by crunchy fried yuca slices. Arroz con pollo is properly soulful, while bright calamari salad makes a refreshing starter.
Best of all, after lining your ribs with uptown takes on Puerto Rican home food, you can dance all night to Don Coqui’s fabulous sound system. Young, old, black, white, everyone’s here…and here to party. Slake your thirst with mango mojitos or chill out in Don Coqui’s cozy, sofa-lined lounge. Plan to stay at least until 4 am (though on weekends, just remember, Don Coqui’s kitchen closes at the crack of 1 am).
Cool Leftovers: check out more photos from this month’s cool restaurants in our web-exclusive gallery below.