Best of the Decade
Distilling 10 years of Best of Westchester issues into a must-have guide to everything stupendous, supreme, sublime, sophisticated, and superlative in the county. Our Best of the Best of Westchester.
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One decade. Ten years of tireless research, experimentation, and reporting. Year after year, we scout out the most superlative offerings in Westchester County for our annual “Best of Westchester” issue. Now, we’ve undertaken the enormous task of reviewing all of our previous editors' picks, distilling them down to the absolutely essential—the most stupendous, the most stunning, the most delicious, the most thrilling, the most dazzling—to bring you the “Best of the Decade.” Think of it as the Best of the Best of Westchester.
Food & Dining
If there's one thing you can say about the county—it's that we eat well, thanks to these local restaurants.
It’s hard to find truly authentic Chinese food in Westchester. We’re grateful to Aberdeen for saving us from the sugary Americanized dishes with its traditional Cantonese fare. (It serves some great Sichuan plates, too.) Aberdeen has turned dim sum from something that should only be done in New York City’s Chinatown to a local must.
Photo coutesy of Bedford Post Inn/Quentin Bacon
Bedford Post Inn
If there’s one thing we love, it’s to have options, and the Bedford Post Inn is really two restaurants in one. The Barn is a casual, no-tablecloths affair when you want just a quick (but delicious) breakfast or lunch and—or perhaps we should say, “especially”—some sweets to go. The Farmhouse is really more of a showcase for an ingredient-driven, innovative New American menu. Trust us, once you get a forkful, you’ll want to a skip the à la carte options for the five-course tasting menu. And, okay, fine, we’d be lying if we said we weren’t excited about the restaurant’s other dish, too—co-owner Richard Gere, who often can be spotted among the diners.
Photo by Cathy Pinsky
(914) 930 1880
At Birdsall House, two super-hot trends are united in a single restaurant: craft beer and locavorian cuisine. In fact, Birdsall takes it one more step—its taps feature locavorian beer (most of the brews are sourced from within a day’s drive). Yet our favorite hipster hang—full of plaid shirts and guys with facial hair—also serves some thoughtful, Hudson Valley cuisine. Look beyond Birdsall’s checked linoleum and high, wooden beer pews for locally raised produce whipped into hearty, yet elevated, fare. Sláinte!
Photo courtesy of Blue Hill at Stone Barns/Jonathan Young
Blue Hill at Stone Barns
This American icon put Westchester on the culinary map, drawing foodie pilgrims from every corner of the world. They come to experience the perfect synthesis of restaurant and farm, the seamless uniting of ethical foodways and finesse. No other American restaurant can boast the beauty of a Rockefeller estate, complete with rolling pastures and heritage-breed livestock. Sure, a meal at Blue Hill is an investment, but the takeaway is priceless: you’ll learn how scumptious locally raised food can be.
Buffet de la Gare
Hastings on Hudson
Mais, oui! If you’re looking for a Paris sojourn on a staycation budget, stop into Hastings-on-Hudson’s intimate French bijou. With its tin ceilings, candles, and plenty of glinting mirrors, you’ll think you’ve stepped onto the Belle Époque Rive Gauche. Yet instead of absinthe and Gauloises, all you scent is luscious cassoulet, prepared with love by the expert hands of Chef Gwenael Goulet.
Captain Lawrence Brewery
Move over, Brooklyn—your brewery has nothing on ours. (Especially when you consider that many of the Brooklyn Brewery’s beers are actually made in—gasp!—Utica.) The Captain Lawrence Brewery’s six year-round and 11 seasonal brews all come straight from Pleasantville. And they’re good enough to be served in restaurants like BLT, Crabtree’s Kittle House, and Peter Pratt’s Inn. What’s even better is the way brewer Scott Vaccaro gets the community excited about his creations. Need proof? Try one of the (free) weekend brewery tours, beer dinners, or tastings he hosts around town.
To say that the Candlelight has developed a following for its wings is to make an egregious understatement. From the sweet teriyaki to the tear-up-if-you-smell-'em Chernobyl hot wings, Candlelight wings are more of an obsession. Local college students have confided (or is it declared loudly?) they crave the plump little treats more than a home-cooked meal. High school students make late-night take-out runs, and barflies and families alike pack the dining room (and it’s not for the décor). It’s no surprise, then, that the bar goes through 6,000 to 7,000 pounds of its wings every week. We could go for a pound or two right now.
Chutney Masala Indian Bistro
This isn’t your mother’s curry house. Gone is the kitschy sitar-and-sari shtick of endless South Asian spots—Chef Navjot Arora’s Indian restaurant alludes to his Punjab roots with style. Its brick walls are lined with Raj-era photos, which perfectly illustrate the confluence of British and Indian cultures. Similarly, Arora’s menu makes thoughtful dips into Western culture (like gin-perfumed cocktails). We especially love summer evenings at Chutney Masala, when Arora takes his tandoor oven outside and demonstrates his fierce tandoor skills by the Hudson.
City Limits Diner
White Plains (914) 686-9000
Stamford, CT (203) 348-7000
If your idea of diners is stainless-steel lunch counters and greasy spoons, then you will marvel at City Limits, Westchester’s favorite family restaurant. Imagine a bogglingly democratic menu that offers something for everyone in your family, where house-made pastas yield to steaks, great seafood, sandwiches, wraps, burgers and house-baked desserts. (In fact, even in the back of the house, City Limits is a family affair: not only are its owners the famed Livanos family, but Tracy Kamperdyk Assue flips pastries while her husband, Peter Assue, mans the pans.) Plus, its cool, '50s inflected décor and Atomic Age color scheme manages to be fun without ever feeling hokey.
Crabtree’s Kittle House
The country house that Crabtree’s Kittle House inhabits is more than 200 years old, and the Crabtree family has been serving some of the best progressive American cuisine in it since 1981—and things have kept on improving since then. (We adore the airy lightness in the new, spruced-up dining room.) County oenophiles know it as home to the most extensive wine list around—try 6,000 bottles, out of 65,000 in the cellar—which is varied and impressive enough to have earned the restaurant the Wine Spectator Grand Award and Award of Great Distinction.
We’re distrustful of people who claim not to like chocolate, and we’d bet that one of Angela Ingrao’s guilty-pleasure-worthy chocolate barks can make converts out of them. She starts with Belgian chocolate (dark, milk, or white) and mixes in a host of other tasty (and, often, surprising) add-ins: marshmallow and graham crackers, sea salt and lavender, chipotle and cayenne peppers, or gummy bears. Her mixtures can satisfy a sweet tooth, a spicy tooth, a sour tooth, and pretty much any other taste sensation you may crave.
Coffee Labs Roasters
Starbucks: The Brand officially jumped the shark when it opened more outlets than there are U.S. mailboxes. We, in Westchester, would rather get our caffeine fix from Coffee Labs Roasters, because—unlike Starbucks—this Tarrytown nook roasts its beans onsite. In fact, it’s so dug into the neighborhood that the shop actually nourishes our soil—Coffee Labs Roasters composts its coffee grounds at the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, plus it runs on 100 percent renewable energy. Coffee Labs offers a water bowl for dogs outside and, often, live music—and who wants ubiquity when there’s uniqueness in Tarrytown?
Stripped down and focused, Dave DiBari is Westchester’s answer to David Chang, where the aesthetics of great cooking and good value outweigh the usual front-of-house frippery. The Cookery’s workers wear mechanics’ uniforms, tables are bare, and napkins are kitchen towels, yet the innate quality of DiBari’s craftsmanship makes the Cookery’s excellence shine through. While we’re fans of DiBari’s house-made pastas—and his grandmother’s Easter pie is a cult among local chefs—we’ll always keep an eye out for DiBari’s puckish fried calves’ brains, deep-fried duck tongues, and crisp veal tails. If anyone can make a silk purse out of these sows’ ears, it’s gotta be Dave DiBari.
Eastchester Fish Gourmet
There’s only one word you want to hear in regard to a fish market: fresh. Eastchester Fish Gourmet? The freshest. Staffers travel to the New Fulton Fish Market every day and select fish from the recent catch, which they filet in-house for maximum freshness. And, if you don’t want to broil your own fish, they do a pretty great job of cooking it, too. Try the garlic-laden tagliatelle, or the surprisingly greaseless fish ’n’ chips.
Emma’s Ale House
Emma’s has everything you could want in a cozy Irish pub/restaurant. There’s the dark wood and clubby feel. There are comforting dishes, like chicken pot pie and beef stew. There are sliders, too—five different kinds, that you can mix and match in perfect trios. And, best of all, the Irish heritage of Emma’s isn’t the only thing that’s green. Emma’s Ale House has been certified green by the Green Restaurant Association.
Never before did we imagine shopping in 75,000 square feet of groceries. We never thought we could look upon a wall of 200 kinds of olive oil. Fairway wows us with sheer volume and range. The butchers work onsite, ensuring you access to almost any cut from nose to tail. And you can find your basic Kellogg’s cereals and Tropicana OJ across the aisle from organic, specialty, and altogether fancier items on your list. It’s as if your local A&P and Whole Foods somehow set up shop within each other—eliminating the need to go to either of them.
Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana
No more pilgrimages to New Haven for Frank Pepe’s famous pies. We snagged Frank Pepe’s first non-Connecticut location, and the flavor has lost nothing in the border crossing. The pizzeria packs much flavor into its yeast dough through its two, white-tiled, coal-fired ovens, which cook pizzas at temperatures of 700°F. Now that’s a hot—if oddly shaped—slice.
One of the biggest changes the county has seen in the past decade is unmistakable from 287: we now have a skyline. And, sitting atop that skyline, on the top floor of the tony Ritz-Carlton, Westchester, is restaurant 42. But the bird’s-eye view of Westchester and beyond is hardly the only draw here. Chef Anthony Goncalves peppers his menu with a mix of new and classic dishes, staying true to his Iberian roots. Hotel dining has never been
Frankie & Johnnie’s
Separately, throughout the years, this magazine has bestowed honors upon Frankie & Johnnie’s for its porterhouse (2007), its ribeye (2008), and its sirloin steak (2009). Suffice it to say, the meat is good. Real good. Dry-aged cuts come cut and seared to perfection and with a bottle of house-made steak sauce so tasty you can buy it and bring it home with you.
Greyston was founded by Buddhists, not bakers. Its motto is: “We don’t hire people to bake brownies; we bake brownies to hire people.” Well, either way, its brownies are scrumptious. It turns out you don’t have to go to a highfalutin culinary school to create heavenly confections. The proof is in Greyston’s goodies. Rich, moist, and chewy, the “Do-Goodie” brownies are made from all-natural ingredients and have no preservatives, and choppers are really superfluous—the darn things melt in your mouth. Is it any wonder that Ben & Jerry’s uses Greyston’s brownies in its Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream?
Night owls on the county’s Sound Shore side don’t need us to enumerate Hubba’s good points. They already know. But for those of you who haven’t yet had the good fortune to be clued into its advantages: we’ll start with the great hours, especially if you’re a barfly. Hubba is open until 4 am on weekdays and 5 am on weekends. But you don’t have to be a night owl to appreciate what it is slinging: chili. Bowls of chili, chili fries, chili dogs, and at prices you’ll be able to afford with what’s left in your wallet after a long night.
Iron Horse Grill
Who doesn’t love chef and restaurateur Phil McGrath? Unlike many top-notch chefs, McGrath doesn’t hide behind a kitchen door or run around town like a food celebrity. He’s in his kitchen—cooking. And before, after, and during, he’s yakking—with you, your neighbors, patrons at the bar. He loves to talk, and he loves to cook. And boy, are we the better off for it. Ever tasted his timbale of peaky toe crab? Let’s just say, we go nearly deaf hearing its constant praises being sung by satisfied diners.
One of the county’s oldest pizzerias—Johnny’s opened in 1947—is also one of its best. The crust on Johnny’s pizzas is crispy and thin-to-perfection, and not overpowered with sauce and cheese; all the ingredients sit in a delicate balance. You can’t get individual slices here, but, after tasting the pies, you wouldn’t want to.
Kam sen Asian Market
In need of XO sauce? Lotus-seed-paste cakes? Marinated duck feet? Lychee ice cream? Bubble tea? Kam Sen has all of these—and it boasts 30,000 items in total—with groceries that cater to Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, Korean, Thai, Indian, and Filipino cuisines. There are racks, boxes, stacks, and bins full of beans, vegetables, fruits, and fish. Or, you can take the easy way, and get prepared meals of dumplings, buns, and sushi.
The Kneaded Bread
Jeffrey and Jennifer Kohn’s Port Chester bakery is artisanal in more than just name. The Kohns use a 13-year-old yeast “mother” and scour the country for carefully sourced grains. Their French-inflected breads, muffins, rolls, and pastries are handcrafted daily and displayed in luscious variety behind glass on wide marble counters. (It’s a good thing, too, because there are plenty of salivating folks with their faces pressed against the barrier.) We love to stop in for rich hot chocolate—frothed in the cappuccino machine and perfect to pair with tender brioche—though fans mob here daily for egg-salad sammies and archetypical American moist yellow cupcakes. French, American—either way, The Kneaded Bread is divine.
Mount Kisco (914) 242-8965
Tarrytown (914) 524-9687
Lefteris doesn’t have diners. It has devotees. Be it the tangy dressing on the (huge) Greek salads, the creamy house-made hummus, or the tzatziki-spiked gyros served on warm pitas, dishes across the menu have fans who say that Lefteris’s creations are simply the best they’ve ever had. (No wonder it started bottling its famous Aegean salad dressing and selling it solo.) Plus, unlike other popular Westchester hotspots, Lefteris is not the place people go to see and be seen, so you don’t have to feel sheepish walking in even in your rattiest jeans. (And, if you are, there’s always takeout—the dining room is perpetually packed, anyway.)
We adore fine French cuisine, but we love it even more when it loosens up a little. This year, La Panetière opened up its Provence-inspired menu to more than just the special-occasion diner, with a $35 prix-fixe dinner and new bar menu. And the positively best thing about La Panetière is that you can now bring it home for your own parties. The restaurant won a Best of Westchester award this year for its new catering service, which skips stuffy mainstays for more offbeat creations like citrus-infused spinach-and-leek dumplings.
La Tulipe Desserts
When Chelsea Clinton needed a gluten-free wedding cake for her Rhinebeck wedding, she went to the same place we would for expertly created, refined desserts: La Tulipe Desserts in Mount Kisco. (It was reported that the Clinton cake was decked out in 1,000 sugar flowers.) But we’d skip all the tiers and sugar flowers for a bite of the Chocolate Extreme Cake: a glistening dome of chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, and chocolate ganache. If that sounds too decadently intense, you can always pick up a tasty cookie or macaron for the road.
The Little Mexican Café
Don’t let the diminutive name fool you—there are some big flavors going on at this authentic Mexican restaurant. We go there to enjoy guacamole made tableside while perusing the list of tacos—though, in the end, we always end up choosing the roasted pork and pineapple. What you won’t find at the Little Mexican Café are big egos. There are no affectations here—the wooden counter is worn, the pool table is used, and those tacos…only two bucks a pop.
Longford’s Own-Made Ice Cream
Larchmont (914) 834-0207
Old Greenwich, CT (203) 637-0480
Rye (914) 967-3797
Keep your Cold Stone. To heck with your Häagen-Dazs. The richest, creamiest ice cream we’ve ever tasted is concocted right in Port Chester. Unlike those mass-produced brands, Longford’s makes its ice cream and sorbet in small batches, with seasonal ingredients and dairy high in butterfat to ensure the silky texture that calls out to us on summer nights.
Lulu’s Cake Boutique
Lulu owner Jay Muse could quite possibly be the county’s best asset. There’s nothing he can’t bake—and absurdly well—from fun two-hands-required whoopie pies to tiered, Vera Wang-inspired wedding cakes that are so artful they’re almost a shame to cut into. With his soon-to-open venture in Tarrytown, he’s working on revolutionizing the county cupcake. His creations have graced magazine pages, his bakery’s been featured on the Food Network, and his sweets have been touted by big-name celebs. Even his Twitter feed (@everythinglulu) is highly entertaining (and can sometimes get you discounts on those whoopie pies). But none of that would matter if the sweets didn’t taste so darn good—which, thankfully, they do. Muse uses the freshest and, when possible, organic ingredients and builds from there, baking treats that will leave you scrounging for the crumbs after the last forkful.
Lusardi’s is an Italian restaurant for people who love Italian food. There’s no heavy red-sauce, no fusion, no strange ingredients like veal cheeks or duck tongue, to pretenses towards staying on the cutting edge—just timeless Northern Italian dishes presented elegantly. Just the way we like them.
Mint Premium Foods
For those grab-and-go lunches and dinners, Mint owner Hassan Jarane has you covered. If you haven’t already heard about his rotisserie chicken, you probably haven’t lived near Tarrytown long enough—it’s a nightly sellout. The Moroccan-born Jarane is also praised for his worldly selection of cheeses—there are about 40 to 45 to choose from on a single day. We say go for the truffled pecorino.
Mulino’s of Westchester
We’re not the biggest fans of Mulino’s restaurant—you are. Readers of Westchester Magazine have bestowed Best of Westchester awards on the Italian mainstay a whopping seven years in a row. (Distinctions have included “Best Italian Restaurant,” “Best Service,” and “Best Waitstaff.”) And, who could blame you, with such excellent versions of traditional Northern Italian cuisine on the menu? Of course, we have our own favorite dish, the nodino di vitello valdostana, a dense, rich, double-cut veal chop stuffed with proscuitto, herbs, and grated Parmesan braised in a brandy, shitake mushroom, and pea cream sauce. Molto bene.
Ocean House Oyster Bar & Grill
There’s a reason diners queue up for a table in this 19-seat, no-reservations restaurant. (For starters, the New England clam chowder rivals anything you could find in actual New England.) Chef Brian Galvin seeks out the best fish he can find, including both common favorites and lesser-known varieties, and brings out their flavors in simple, unfussy presentations. Ditto for the oysters: leave your yen for the same-old Bluepoints at home and take in his selection of East and West Coast bivalves that may not have name recognition but sure taste good.
Yes, this 200-acre farm can bring you all of the delights of fresh, locally grown produce: tomatoes, apples, peaches, plums, squash, and corn. But we’d be lying if we said that was the main reason we stop by on a crisp fall afternoon. We go for the unhealthy stuff: the cider doughnuts, served warm. Kids love Outhouse Orchards, too, taking part in pumpkin- and apple-picking as well as the fun hayrides.
Spain was fabulous way before Gwinnie and Mario traversed it, and Peniche was there to show Westchester the way. Expect chic, young crowds and sexy flavors, like super-expensive jamon de Belotta paired with vintage Madeira. Madeira, you say, isn’t that in Portugal? The good news is that Peniche covers the whole Iberian Peninsula, and all with incredible style.
Peter Pratt’s Inn
No other restaurant in Westchester has been able to integrate the old with the new as well as Peter Pratt’s Inn. The old: the building’s foundation dates back to 1780, and the dining room still gives off that cozy Colonial vibe. And the tradition of serving the Pratt family’s regional American cuisine goes back to the mid-’60s. But what’s just as exciting is chef/owner Jonathan Pratt’s ability to look forward. He’s converted his kitchen to one that cooks locally grown food in efficient appliances—even his truck runs on veggie oil. And, even better for us, he started Table Local Market to support sustainable farming—and give us access to fresh produce.
You don’t always want a refined burger, made with a specialty blend of Waygu beef. Sometimes you want a fat, juicy burger, and you want it with giant onion rings, and you want to wash it down with a beer. Piper’s Kilt—an Eastchester institution—caters to all of these whims, with a relaxed, pubby atmosphere full of folks who won’t judge you for craving ground chuck over Kobe beef.
Q Restaurant and Bar
Q is as close as Westchester comes to a communal backyard, where everyone hunkers on picnic benches and dives elbow-deep into Americana fare. Texas brisket, St. Louis ribs, and succulent Carolina pulled pork, all cooked to low and slow perfection in a garage-sized Southern Pride. 'Cue geeks admire perfect purple smoke rings, though that’s strictly for connoisseurs—we just love Q’s classic flavors, roomy sides of mac 'n' cheese, and crisp, house-made slaw. Best thing? There’s bourbon and Mason jars of sweet tea and not one single mosquito to ruin your down-home evening.
Rainbeau Ridge Farm
Mark and Lisa Schwartz were once just like us, going about their suburban lives. Then, they decided to buy the farm—literally—and we get to experience the benefits of their hard work in the form of Rainbeau Ridge’s award-winning, locally made cheeses. (Our favorite: the ChevreLait goat’s milk cheese.) And, should you want to follow in their footsteps, the farm now hosts classes for kids and adults in cooking, canning, baking, and other seasonal chores.
Red Hat on the River
Yes, the food is good, with French bistro staples like steak frites, mussels, and ratatouille. But it’s the “on the River” part that really kills. The restaurant sits Hudson-side on the formerly industrial Bridge Street in Irvington, and it takes every advantage of its waterfront view. Come warmer months, you can dine outside on ground level—or skip the entrées and opt for grabbing a drink on the 50-seat rooftop cocktail bar.
If there’s one reason to head just past the main drag in Ardsley, it’s the sweets offered at this “whimsical bakehouse,” as its cookbook is called. The muffins, scones, lemon bars, cookies, and rugelach—all made from scratch without preservatives—are reasons to stop in every day. But the shop really shines with its special-occasion cakes. The bakers can make intricate designs, cakes in the shape of other objects (like a 3D Coke can), and the coolest, most colorful, off-kilter tiered cakes that look like they came straight out of the Mad Hatter’s tea party.
Rafael Palomino is the area’s authority when it comes to Nuevo Latino cooking and, at his Port Chester restaurant, his dishes span Latin American cuisines through Mexico, Peru, Spain, Portugal, Ecuador, Argentina, and his native Colombia, among others. We keep returning for his spicy ceviches—and his drinks, which include the best Capirinha that can be found at a Westchester bar.
The Star Diner doesn’t have free Wi-Fi—in fact, it doesn’t have a website. You can’t get yellowfin tuna salad here, and the coffee is not from Stumptown Roasters. That’s what’s so great about it—it’s a diner for diner lovers, not gourmands. It’s where you go when you want to sidle up to a stool in front of a shiny counter and order no-frills eggs, toast, and pancakes—at any time of the day and at throwback prices (we’re talking $3.50 for a cheeseburger).
Sure, the barn-like supermarket—perched on a hill overlooking the Thruway—may seem like a huge carnival, with all the bells and whistles like costumed characters roaming the aisles. But, once you look past the gimmicks, you’ll realize Stew Leonard’s offers a carefully selected stock of 2,000 items, each one specially chosen for freshness, quality, and value. In other words, you come here for the food, not the animatronics. Plus, it stays true to its dairy-store roots, selling the best super-fatted, pasteurized heavy cream we could find in the area. Tip: not only has the store been lauded in our pages as a great place to shop, but it also landed on our list of the top 10 places to work in Westchester.
Crazy, man! Sushi Mike’s is no hushed temple to raw fish—it’s an all out sushi party where anything goes. Look for Chef Mike Suzuki’s Out of Control Roll (spicy tuna, avocado and topped with eel and scallions) or his huge kitchen sink affair, the awesome Fantastic Roll (white seaweed, tuna, yellowtail, salmon, cucumber, avocado, Japanese mayonnaise, and flying fish roe). Given its theme of ocean-going excess, this joint is usually mobbed with lines snaking out the door. Nevertheless, your wait is appreciated—Mike himself serves freebie rolls to fans on the queue.
Photo byJohn Fortunato
You’ll find no Out of Control Rolls at reverent Sushi Nanase—Yoshimichi Takeda takes his sushi seriously. And this former chef at Masa and Nobu is about as controlling of his diner as his kitchen. Don’t try to walk in without a reservation (you’ll be turned away), don’t order the omakase unless you’ve pre-ordered (you’ll be refused), and don’t be the 21st at lunch (because he’ll only take 20). Still, we shut up and just obey all of Takeda’s rules, because this temple to sushi is the best Westchester’s got.
Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali: the duo who launched Tarry Lodge
Photo by Kelly Cambell
Though Tarry Fine Foods and Tarry Wines are now grabbing the headlines, the dynamic duo of Bastianich and Batali launched their Westchester empire at Tarry Lodge. We love these folks for their la dolce vita one-stop shopping: we’ll hit Tarry Lodge for fabulous wine, baccala and guanciale and sunnyside-egg pizza, then walk off the calories (and pick up dessert) at Tarry Fine Foods. To soothe us afterward, we’ll tuck into a nightcap from Tarry Wines—it’s a Bastianich/Batali-led Italian tour, and right here in Port Chester.
Tomatillo makes us forget the greasy burritos oozing with cheese and preservative-laden meat we can get at any Mexican joint. You can actually taste the freshness in Chef David Starkey’s “Mexchester” cuisine, made with organic produce from Stone Barns and other Hudson Valley farms. Think of burritos and enchiladas positively stuffed with fresh spinach, grilled Portobello mushrooms, or skirt steak. Just remember to save room for the cilantro ice cream.
Walter’s Hot Dogs
What is Walter’s secret? There’s got to be a reason he’s been able to lure customers to his roadside pagoda for one of his split dogs since 1919. There’s just something about his proportions of beef, pork, and veal, some addictive ingredient in his secret sauce, or something about the way he blends mustard and relish that rival any hot dog put forth by any hotshot chef in the biz. (Danny Meyer’s Chicago dogs at Shake Shack have nothing on Walter’s.) Even the venerated Gourmet rated Walter’s the best hot dog in the country—something every Mamaroneck resident already knew.
Photo by Andre Baranowsky
The Willett House
This is the best kind of throwback steakhouse, with a clubby feel to the dining room—which is housed in a 19th-century granary building—and huge cuts of aged prime beef that could feed up to four people. (Yes, there is a porterhouse for four on the menu.) Fine, there are chicken and seafood dishes, too, including Maine lobster, but those don’t have the same appeal as sitting down with a big glass of wine and a perfectly cooked steak.
X2O Xaviars on the Hudson
When X2O opened in 2007, after years and years of baited-breath anticipation, all we could think was: Hallelujah! (We even put über-chef Peter Kelly on the cover of the magazine.) Finally, we could dine out on Kelly’s unparalleled cuisine without having to cross the county border—or the Tappan Zee Bridge. And Kelly did not disappoint. Not one bit. Jutting out into the Hudson River from the historic Yonkers Pier, nearly every table can take in a stunning view—even the ladies’ bathroom looks out onto the George Washington Bridge. The menu features his world-class, high-Zagat-scoring cuisine, a seasonal mix of classic French technique with global embellishments, and just-plain-fun food, like retro butterscotch pudding. And, for a more casual vibe, there’s always the restaurant’s Dylan Lounge, which serves up the finest sushi and sashimi.
There’s one word for Zephs' restaurant: homey. This isn’t the place to find a sleek, loud dining room and a menu stuffed with dishes of the moment. Instead, expect a cozy, downplayed dining room with global, seasonal food that makes you feel comforted—and full. Think hearty cassoulet, Moroccan lamb spices, and a duck confit that’s inspired a fiercely loyal following for 20 years.
Zachys Wine & Liquor
In the county, wine has been synonymous with Zachys. After all, if the Mets’s Citifield trusts Zachys to run their high-end wine program, you should be able to pop into the store and walk out with a bottle of something, too. Oenophiles consider the Zachys website to be a reliable source for wine information, and newbies like stopping in the store for tastings, classes, and other events.
Zuppa deserves credit for recognizing Yonkers’s up-and-coming potential early, and being one of the first institutions to pioneer its revitalizing waterfront. And, it did so with style, serving contemporary Italian cuisine (now courtesy of Executive Chef Daniel Van Etten) in an appropriately urbane setting, bringing in the city cool by hosting live jazz musicians on weekends.