Editors' Picks   Readers' Picks

Editors’ Picks 2013: The Best Food & Drink in Westchester

Westchester Magazine’s editorial staff picks the county’s best spots for fine dining, wine, food, and more.



Best of Westchester Editors' Pick
Food & Drink Index

 

photo courtesy of slovenia vodka

Liquor Launch | Slovenia Vodka
sloveniavodka.com
Straight out of Slovenia, these tall, square bottles deliver the smoothest, most refined vodka you will ever taste. But neutrality isn’t the key to Slovenia’s deliciousness—this spirit also bears a fragrant hint of field from a late-distillation dose of Slovenian buckwheat and winter wheat. The vodka launched in April in a star-studded party hosted by Slovenia Vodka’s trio of representatives: Chef Peter Kelly, actor Bill Murray, and dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov. We’ve never been prouder to call Chef Kelly our own.

 

 

 

 

 

 
photo by andre baranowskiArtisan Spirits | R-Bar at Bistro Rollin
142 Fifth Ave, Pelham
(914) 633-0780; bistrorollin.com
There’s great history—not to mention great taste—behind the malt whiskeys, bourbons, bitters, vodkas, and gins at Bistro Rollin, where Co-Owner and R-Bar Mixologist Paul Bratone loves supporting local distillers. To that end, you’ll find nearly two dozen spirits hailing from Port Chester, Brooklyn, Long Island, and more. Many are made in the classic fashion for a truly unique taste. Definitely something to drink to!

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 photo by andre baranowski

Cinnamon Rolls | Baked by Susan
163 Grand St, Croton-on-Hudson
(914) 862-0874; bakedbysusan.com
These hand-made, hand-rolled cinnamon rolls are not for lightweights. They are dense, rich, made with “lot and lots of butter,” and topped with a cream-cheese icing. And, speaking of weight, we asked owner Susan O’Keefe to weigh one of these babies and it tipped the scales at a whopping six ounces. But seriously, if you are shopping around for cinnamon rolls, we really doubt you are counting calories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

photo courtesy of cathy’s biscotti

Biscotti | Cathy’s Biscotti
(914) 761-0440; cathysbiscotti.com
Cathy of Cathy’s Biscotti may not be native to Italy, but she sure knows her biscotti. Buttery, crunchy (but not hard), and chock-full of superior ingredients like Madagascar Bourbon vanilla, pure citrus oils, and Callebaut cocoa and bittersweet chocolate, her 11 biscotti varieties are baked in small batches resulting in a handcrafted look and feel. And while she doesn’t have a retail shop (she bakes out of a White Plains commercial kitchen), a 10-ounce bag of six biscotti ($11.95) can be purchased at any of the dozens of County stores listed on her site. Among the flavors are orange almond, lemon pistachio, and dark chocolate chip, but our fave: the espresso and cinnamon-scented cappuccino with chocolate and roasted almonds. Match with a steaming cup of your best java and dunk away. 
 

 

 
 

photo by andre baranowski

Chicken Scarparo | La Manda’s Restaurant
251 Tarrytown Rd, White Plains
(914) 684-9228; lamandas.com
Since 1947, this old-school restaurant has been dishing out huge portions at reasonable prices. But what draws our taste buds back again and again is the signature dish, chicken Scarparo. Whether you order it on or off the bone, the garlic, white wine, butter, and vinegar sauce (heat level amendable) will have you so addicted, on each return visit you’ll be hard-pressed to try anything else on the menu. And don’t forget to order the dish with a side of linguine in the same sauce. 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

photo courtesy of havana central

Urban Outpost | Havana Central 
238 Market St (at Ridge Hill), Yonkers
(914) 423-5500; havanacentral.com
Westchester’s discriminating diners don’t normally get excited about the opening of a restaurant with a branch in Times Square. But when the ceviche, pollo al ajillo (chicken in garlic sauce), ropa vieja (shredded beef in tomato sauce served with molasses-y rice and beans), and tostones are as savory and delicious as they are at Havana Central at Ridge Hill, we take notice. Besides, ours is only the fourth spot open as of this writing, which makes us pretty special. Add in mojitos, frequent live music, and late dining hours at the 1950s Havana-style spot, and we’re happy to say, “Welcome to the ’burbs.”
 
 

photo courtesy of table local market

Locavorian Caterer | Table Local Market
11 Babbit Rd, Bedford Hills
(914) 241-0269; tablelocalmarket.com
County locals like Martha Stewart and Jean-Georges Vongerichten love the offerings at Table Local Market, and the market’s catering arm delivers on the use of local, sustainable ingredients and sheer magnitude of menu. The seven-page Spring and Summer 2013 catering menu boasts classic small bites like BLT sliders with chipotle aioli and mini panini with house-made ham, ramp aioli, and ramp greens. Upscale artisan cheese and charcuterie boards; kale salad; and roasted, marinated, grass-fed leg of lamb are other offerings we love.

 

 

 

 

 
 

photo by andre baranowski

Old-School Diner | Mont Olympos
1 Fort Hill Rd, Yonkers
(914) 961-4677; montolymposdiner.com
Shining like a beacon high above Central Avenue, this bustling Yonkers landmark has been welcoming patrons—many of them regulars—for years. Sure, it has all the menu staples you’d expect at a good full-service diner: non-stop hot coffee from attentive (but not hovering) waitstaff; hearty breakfasts served all day; big, juicy burgers; and hot and cold sandwiches. But what keeps Mont Olympos busy from 7 am until 1 am seven days a week is its delicious, restaurant-quality entrées, including a large selection of broiled and fried seafood, tasty chicken dishes, Greek and Italian specialties, and soups (the matzoball is especially delicious!) so big and brimming you can eat them as a meal. Then there are the three spacious dining rooms, the cozy lighting, the lightning-fast service, the friendly welcomes, the ample parking lot—oh yeah, and the desserts. The sweet and creamy rice pudding, the huge hamentashen, the strudels, the cakes…be right back!  
 

 

 
 

photo by andre baranowski

Menu Presentation | Coriander Modern indian
154 Larchmont Ave, Larchmont
(914) 235-0134; corianderny.com
For those who’ve ever stared hard at a menu, wishing it would come to life and show a visual of what a specific dish looked like, there is an iPad waiting for you at Coriander, where making decisions—and having fun in the process—is part of what makes this modern Indian restaurant so distinctive. Just be warned: The iPad menus have become so popular, you might have to share.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Open, Already!

Tongues wagging, we can’t wait to lift a knife and fork at these four restaurants. 

Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Restaurant
258 Westchester Ave, Pound Ridge
We have been trying our best to contain our excitement since Waccabuc resident Jean-Georges Vongerichten announced the purchase of the Inn at Pound Ridge in the fall of 2011. The latest buzz is that we can expect an opening closer to the fall of 2013. Danish architect Thomas Juul-Hansen has been recruited to redesign the landmark building, which dates back to 1833. Hopefully, our wait will be over before its bicentennial! 
 

RiverMarket Bar & Kitchen
Hudson Harbor, 41 Hudson View Way, Tarrytown
Our latest intelligence indicates that this River Town venture, from the owners of Crabtree’s Kittle House, will debut this summer. The restaurant will be LEED-certified, and also include a farmers’ market and a wine and spirits store featuring organic, local wines and liquors. Considering it was originally slated for fall 2012, here’s hoping this new timeframe is accurate.
 

Seahorse SEAFOOD SHACK
30 Wheeler Ave, Pleasantville
Located at the former location of Pony Express (it moved across the street), Seahorse Seafood Shack is expected to open in July. Though primarily a take-out joint, the restaurant will be a cross between a London fish-and-chips eatery, a New England seafood shack, and a grilled-fish restaurant, according to Chef/Owner Philip McGrath. Eighteen seats and outdoor dining will be available for those who like their fish-fry eat-in style.
 

Zeppoleme 
321 N Main St, Port Chester
zeppoleme.com
Marc Tessitore, owner of nessa in Port Chester, is taking one of his most popular menu items, the zeppole, and creating an entire café around it, set to open this summer. Tessitore plans to offer both sweet and savory zeppoles, lightly fried and served with various sauces, as well as salads, soups, panini, and wine. Marc, you had us at “lightly fried.”

 

 

Twist on a Classic

Traditional eaters need not apply for these creative spins on archetypal eats.

Pepper Margarita | Lola’s Mexican Kitchen
169 E Post Rd, White Plains 
(914) 358-4939; lolaswhiteplains.com
Like it hot (but not overbearingly so)? This massive (16-ounce) Margarita is made with Tanteo Jalapeño tequila, giving it just enough kick to surprise and satisfy your taste buds; of course, the chili salt on the rim and jalapeño garnish also help.

Pancakes | The Barn at Bedford Post
954 Old Post Rd, Bedford 
(914) 234-7800; bedfordpostinn.com
The Dutch Pancake at The Barn at Bedford Post tastes like no other pancake we’ve eaten. It’s crisp around the edges, yet fluffy inside. The secret? It’s not cooked on the griddle but baked in a pan or skillet until the batter sets, which makes the outside quite crispy. And don’t worry that there’s just one. Served with candied pecans, powdered sugar, and New York maple syrup, it’s plenty. And plenty good.

Garden Veggie Rueben | Pumpernickel 
925 Saw Mill River Rd, Ardsley
(914) 479-5370; pumpernickelrestaurantardsley.com
Vegetarian takes on classic meat-based dishes usually result in wan facsimiles. Here is an exception to the rule: the colorful, bursting-with-veggies (roasted zucchini, squash, and red peppers), open-face Rueben sandwich at Pumpernickel. The house-made slaw is what elevates this sandwich into the “Best” category—a combo of crunchy jicama and sweet Bosc pear. Take that, carnivores!

 

 

Pasta Perfection 

Dishes an Italian grandma would be jealous of 

Fettuccine Carbonara - Sal’s Pizza & Pasta
201 Marble Ave, Pleasantville
(914) 769-1199; salspizzaplace.com
Where can you go for great fettuccine carbonara? To a pricey Little Italy restaurant with a big name—or to Sal’s Pizza & Pasta, a bright, cheerful pizzeria/restaurant located on busy Marble Avenue in Pleasantville. There, you’ll find mouthwatering, perfectly al dente fettuccine tossed in a homemade sauce that’s just the right combo of creamy, cheesy, and bacon-y, yet somehow not too heavy or gooey. “All our ingredients are very fresh, and it makes a big difference,” says owner Danny Giardullo, who opened the shop in 2010. “We also use both bacon and prosciutto, as well as imported Parmigiano-Reggiano.” No wonder the bustling, 35-seat eatery has become such a favorite with locals. 

Mafalde Lungo with White Clam Sauce - Savona
2 Chase Rd, Scarsdale
(914) 798-0550; savonarestaurant.com
We love Savona for its simplicity: It’s New Italian cuisine that’s classy but not over-complicated. And the seasonal mafalde lungo is no exception. The wide, wavy pasta, which carries a heavier body than your typical linguine, is served with a delicious, garlicky clam sauce. An essential? Have bread handy for any leftover sauce.

 

 

Slice Into It

Call it wheel, ’za, or a plain ol’ pie, here’s some of the best the County has to offer. 

The Cookery’s DoughNation
thecookerysdoughnation.com
Chef David DiBari’s stated goal of making “progress toward greater simplicity” has achieved its ultimate high-water mark. Imagine a restaurant with no décor, no waiters, no tables, no plates, and no sommelier—just excellent wood-fired pizzas, handed directly from cook to diner while still fragrant and bubbling from the oven. On the pies, look for the house-made sausages, pomodoro sauce, and buttery, hand-stretched mozzarella that makes The Cookery so beloved by locals.

[Grilled Pizzas] 
Coals
35 N Main St, Port Chester
(914) 305-3220; coalspizza.com
Everything about Coals is original, from its hand-shaped, oblong pizzas grilled over an open flame, to the colorful plates the thin-crusted beauties arrive on, to the names the pizzas are given (hello, “Dean Martin!”), to the craft-beer suggestions for each menu item, including dessert.

Yes We Know It’s a Chain But…
Roasted Cauliflower Pizza at Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza
264 Main St, White Plains  
(914) 358-9702; acfp.com/locations/new-york
Cauliflower doesn’t excite diners; many consider it bland and forgettable, a color-free broccoli of sorts. Well, haters, bite into one slice of the roasted cauliflower pie at Anthony’s, and you’ll look at the mercilessly maligned veggie in a new light. Salty in a good way, the pie features tender, roasted cauliflower pieces; Romano and mozzarella cheeses; and is topped with olive oil, garlic, and breadcrumbs. To use a bit of sophisticated foodie speak—this pie is freakin’ gosh-darn delicious!

[Pizza Specials] 
Burrata
425 White Plains Rd, Eastchester
(914) 337-3700; burratapizza.com
Burrata’s claim to fame might be its featured creamy mozzarella curds and the blackened wood-fired crusts from a Stefano Ferrara Forni oven, but what we really love are the weekly blackboard pizza specials. For example, the prosciutto and fig pizza topped with smoked mozzarella and arugula. The only downside: These special pies come and go too quickly. 

 

 

Restaurant Rebirths

These five restaurants has been remodeled, revamped, and redone—for the better.

Alvin & Friends 
14 Memorial Hwy, New Rochelle
(914) 654-6549; alvinandfriendsrestaurant.com
The communal table in the bar area had us at “Hello.” Just when we thought Alvin & Friends couldn’t get better, it has. Aside from an expanded menu (Lunch! Bar bites!), there’s now more space between tables, a private dining room, and sidewalk dining.

City Limits Diner
200 Central Ave, White Plains  
(914) 686-9000; citylimitsdiner.com
It still has one of the best breakfasts around, along with a menu that makes decisions difficult, but now, instead of that retro ’50s look, the newly redesigned City Limits has a swanky new bar, and a décor that screams California modern.

Modern Restaurant & Lounge
310 Huguenot St, New Rochelle
(914) 633-9479; modernrestaurant.com
What had been a tucked-away pizza parlor with a staunchly loyal clientele is now a massive, light-filled restaurant with a bar and lounge area, catering room, and separate area for takeout orders. What hasn’t changed: the mouthwatering pies.

Peekskill Brewery
47-53 S Water St, Peekskill
(914) 734-2337; peekskillbrewery.wordpress.com
Hats off to PB for taking what had already been a nice space/vibe and moving it down the street: same artisan pub grub, same fresh brewed-on-the-premises beer, but now in a soaring new space that makes the place shine as bright as its huge, stainless-steel beer vats. 

Racanelli’s New York Italian
851 Central Ave, Scarsdale
(914) 472-1032; racanellisnewyorkitalian.com
Goodbye, outmoded Pizza & Brew; hello to an airier, more contemporary dining experience, complete with an all-white Italian marble bar, custom-made booths, designer cocktails, and a kitchen that churns out artisan pizzas and lighter pasta options.

 

 

Welcome Additions to the Neighborhood 

A quartet of newcomers makes these respective hoods that much, well, hoodier. 

Little Crêpe Street
29 Main St, Mount Kisco
(914) 242-0200
The latest “Little” shop from Bonnie Saran of Little Kabab Station and Little Spice Bazaar, this 22-seat crêperie offers French-style delights filled with traditional ingredients and local produce, along with espresso and cappuccino and fantastic salads. Try its popular campfire crêpes with homemade marshmallows, chocolate sauce, and graham crackers. Feeling savory? Go for the asparagus and sherried mushrooms variety. 

Topps Wine and Liquor
98 Pondfield Rd, Bronxville
(914) 337-5090; toppswine.com
Sure, there are French and Italian wines, frequent live piano music, and elegant tastings every Friday at Topps Wine and Liquor (owned by the same couple who run the popular Topps Bakery two doors down). But anyone can come in to play the piano, the vibe is far from frou-frou, and if you’re looking for hipster-esque bearded men to help you choose just the right aperitivi for your guests, this is the place to go, too. It’s haute-meets-cool, and it’s exactly what Bronxville needed. 

Purdy’s Farmer & the Fish
100 Titicus Rd, North Salem
(914) 617-8380; farmerandthefish.com
This popular new seafood restaurant situated on the 22-acre Purdy Land Trust grows more than three-quarters of its veggies and herbs on its adjacent farm. New England sensibility reigns supreme, with fish and chips, Nova Scotia halibut, and lobster boils, along with a well-stocked raw bar. Prices remain reasonable for a seafood restaurant, an added bonus.

Tagine Restaurant & Wine Bar
120 Grand St, Croton-on-Hudson
(914) 827-9393; taginenewyork.com
The fact that a restaurant was opening in Croton’s upper village—and was not a pizza place—was good news. The fact that it would serve French brasserie fare with a Moroccan twist, have a bar with wine on tap, and be owned by Craig Purdy and Jonathan Pratt of ümami café and Peter Pratt’s Inn fame was stand-on-your-roof-and-shout-type news. Bienvenue, Tagine.

 

 

Beet Salad | Hudson at Haymount House
25 Studio Hill Rd, Briarcliff Manor
(914) 502-0080
haymounthouseny.com
The baby beet salad at Hudson at Haymount House delivers exceptional flavor with tender Satur Farms beets accompanied by goat cheese, grapefruit confit, and roasted walnuts. Enjoy with a glass of wine or a Haymount Gimlet while taking in the spectacular sunset Hudson River views through the restaurant’s large windows. 

 

Baguette | June & Ho
70 Purchase St, Rye
(914) 967-1900
Locals hit June & Ho at lunch hour for prime sandwiches, salads, and produce and grocery items. But what really makes the lunch is the fantastic brick-oven-baked bread—specifically, the crunchy baguettes. They have just the right amount of crackling crust, yielding to soft, flavorful dough, fluffy and fantastic. Sandwich time? Try it with fresh turkey, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and black pepper.

 

$10 and Under Cocktails | Gleason’s
911 South St, Peekskill
(914) 402-1950
gleasonspeekskill.com
Think about it: What kind of cocktail does $10 usually buy you? Generally, we’re talking artificially colored, bottom-shelf schnapps mixed with some scary, no-name spirits. At Gleason’s, your hard-earned Hamilton goes to carefully designed drinks that use local, small-batch-distilled spirits whipped with bitters and sodas crafted by Peekskill’s skilled barman, Jason Schuler.

 

Calzone | Catania’s Pizza
2260 Central Ave, Yonkers
(914) 779-5105
Take everything you thought you knew about calzones and throw it out the window. Then head up (or down) to a nondescript little shopping center in Yonkers where the mouthwatering aromas of garlic, marinara, and simmering ground beef will lure you in to Catania’s. “Calzone” at Catania’s is not the warmed-over half-moon- or burrito-shaped mass of often stale or overcooked dough filled with rubbery, tasteless mystery meat or cheese that you so often find in pizzerias. Catania’s calzones come in three varieties—ricotta, meatball, and veal and peppers—and are smallish, square, heavenly pillows offresh, puffy dough filled with fresher-than-fresh ingredients. They’re made throughout the day in “sheets” of 12, which are separated with a ravioli cutter. Smaller (20 per sheet) calzones are available by order. Best. Calzones. Anywhere.

 

Chicken Wraps | On the Way Cafe
34 Ridgeland Ter, Rye
(914) 921-2233; onthewaycaferye.com
The problem with most wraps is that the wrap itself is boring—or worse, gummy. Not the case with those made by Joseph Mortelliti, executive chef/co-owner of On the Way Cafe. He makes his “wraps” (actually, homemade bread similar to pizza dough) daily, rolled out and grilled to order. The grilled chicken wrap is especially delectable: Inside is chicken that’s been marinated in olive oil, turmeric, and other spices, plus mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette and a chive aioli on the side.

 

Classic Chinese Dish | General Chan’s Chicken at Sichuan Pavilion
480 Westchester Ave, Port Chester
(914) 939-8889
thesichuanpavilion.com
From the exterior, Sichuan Pavilion looks like your typical corner Chinese restaurant. But there’s nothing typical about its standout dish, a take on the ubiquitous General Tso’s chicken. This sauteéd masterwork ($15.50) uses dark meat (“white meat is more likely to dry out,” says owner Ricky Chan) and upgrades the veggies beyond just broccoli with colorful red bell peppers, sugar snap peas, and celery. Qing Dynasty General Tso Tsung-t,ang would be proud of this version of his namesake dish.     

 

Classic Italian Dish | Sunday Sauce for Two at Racanelli’s New York Italian 
851 Central Ave, Scarsdale
(914) 472-1032
racanellisnewyorkitalian.com
The hearty, homespun Italian-American gorge-fest known as Sunday sauce (or Sunday “gravy,” if you’re Neapolitan or Sicilian) is a ritual consisting of mamas, nonnas, extended family, and overflowing serving dishes of homemade food, usually after church service. The Sunday Sauce for Two at Racanelli’s is an homage to the custom: a sizable plain white boat of a serving dish brimming with red-sauced al dente rigatoni, meatballs, beef braciole, sausage, short ribs, and grilled slices of garlic bread. It’s $36 and, with no surcharge for sharing, you may want to invite Uncle Sal and Cousin Antonella to help you wipe the delicious dish clean.  

 

Cookie | Almond Pillows at By the Way Bakery
574 Warburton Ave
Hastings-on-Hudson
(914) 478-0555; btwbakery.com
Often, the simplest recipes are the best, and the almond pillow cookies at By the Way Bakery attest to this decree. Similar to the French macaron, these crunchy-on-the-outside, slightly moist-on-the-inside treats made up primarily of egg whites, almond paste, and sugar (this is a gluten- and dairy-free bakery, so no butter or flour) will have you instantly hooked. Hopefully, your fix won’t come early in the week; the bakery is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. 

 

Custom Treat | sb cookie bar at Sherry B Dessert Studio 
65 King St, Chappaqua  
(914) 238-8300; sherryb.com
Yes, Exec Chef and Owner Sherry Blockinger has a fancy culinary background (she’s a graduate of both the French Culinary Institute—now the International Culinary Center —and Institute of Culinary Education), but don’t think her confections are all pomp and circumstance. Take her simple yet exceptional sb cookie bar ($5-$6): This DIY cookie sandwich has you choosing from eight cookie flavors and nine fillings. Double chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies with peanut butter fluff filling or chocolate chunk and toffee crunch cookies with dark chocolate ice cream inside? Whatever combo you decide, after a few bites, you’ll think it’s too rich to eat yourself, but then a moment later, you’ll notice you’ve gobbled the entire thing—and that you’re smiling. 

 

Donuts | Ossining Bakery
50 N Highland Ave, Ossining
(914) 941-2654 
If you are driving by Ossining Bakery, you will likely miss it. With its faded, unassuming awning and located on a busy road, it blends into the background. But if you are walking past this diamond in the rough and the door should happen to open, you will stop dead in your tracks. It smells like the bakeries of your youth: buttery, yeasty, and sweet. And that’s exactly how the fresh and surprisingly light donuts taste, too. At $9 for a baker’s dozen, they are a steal. 

 

Fresh Mozzarella | Avitabile Brothers
1016 McLean Ave, Yonkers
(914) 237-2389
Reminiscent of the Arthur Avenue delis, Avitabile Brothers features hanging salumi and cheeses, racks of Italian bread, and sandwiches made to order. But one of its biggest draws is its plump, house-made mozzarella, lightly salted and best eaten with crusty Italian bread. 

 

Hummus Selection | Taiim Cellar 
11 Boniface Cir, Scarsdale
(914) 723-6900; taiimcellar.com
Do any of us even remember when hummus was an afterthought to serve with crudités at a cocktail party? Now this creamy chickpea dish is a star, and nowhere is that more evident than at this cozy Middle Eastern wine bar where the hummus is made fresh daily and comes in 12 varieties including truffle oil, fresh basil, and spiced cilantro. Served with warm pita bread and paired with a glass of Israeli Chardonnay, its pure heaven. 

 

Ice Cream | Local
75 S Greeley Ave, Chappaqua
(914) 238-0698; chappaqualocal.com 
We love that this simple sandwich and ice cream parlor celebrates the fact that Westchester County lies snuggled under excellent pastureland just to the north. Look for all-natural SoCo Creamery from Great Barrington, Massachusetts, to join New York’s own Ronnybrook Farm Dairy ice cream. Best still, Local makes its own toppings, so that any gilding of caramel, fudge, or fruit sauces are just as fresh as what lies underneath.  

 

Inventive Bartender | Emilio Ugarte at Crabtree’s Kittle House
11 Kittle Rd, Chappaqua
(914) 666-8044; kittlehouse.com
Like the actor who wants to direct, Emilio Ugarte, the bartender at The Tap Room (he plans to move to the Kittle House’s owners’ new venture Rivermarket), has hopes of one day being a chef. So the Peruvian native and avid Food Network devotee pours his passion for food into inventive cocktails that stir the senses (pun intended). His drinks have become so popular, “Emilio’s Newest Creation” graces the ever-changing cocktail menu.  We suggest the New Fashioned (a slightly sweeter, smoother take on an Old Fashioned) or the Romero (Greenhook Gin, Velvet Falernum liqueur, homemade rosemary bitters, and fresh lime juice topped off by an egg-white foam and sprig of rosemary).

 

Jerk Chicken | Neil’s Cafe
534 North Ave, New Rochelle 
(914) 355-5857
When you think of jerk chicken, fiery Scotch bonnet chiles come to mind—but what you might not realize is that, in great jerk chicken, vinegary tang is nearly as important as the heat. At modest Neil’s Café, you’ll find mouthwateringly tangy/hot jerk chicken. It’s the perfect excuse for another bottle of Red Stripe.  

 

Meatballs | Moscato
874 Scarsdale Ave, Scarsdale
(914) 723-5700
moscatorestaurant.com
The meatballs at Moscato are everything good meatballs should be: charred to perfection on the outside, but juicy on the inside, and flavorful without being overly salty. Try them as part of the bucatini con polpette (bucatini pasta with veal meatballs in a pomodoro sauce). 

 

Muffin | Nutella Banana Muffin at Cooked & Co.
128 Garth Rd, Scarsdale
(914) 205-3939; cookedandco.com
Oh divine Nutella banana muffin, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways: The velvety Nutella filling that oozes out of the center, the crumbly hazelnut crump top, and the moist banana flavor. It’s quite simply one hell of a sugar rush. Just don’t blame us when you suddenly need to drive out of your way to get one…or two. Available in large ($4.50) and mini ($2.50).

 

New Neighborhood Restaurant | Italian Kitchen
698 Saw Mill River Rd, Ardsley
(914) 693-5400; ik-ny.com
Here’s what we love about Italian Kitchen: Critical darling (and winner of Food & Wine magazine’s coveted Best New Chef Award in 2005) Shea Gallante easily could have printed money in a 200-seat pasta shop with a four-deep bar scene. Instead, the celebrity chef of Manhattan’s vaunted Cru and Ciano opened a tiny Ardsley restaurant without a bar in which he serves his elegant takes on rustic Italian cuisine with exactly zero hype. Don’t miss IK’s stunning bargain lunch that features three courses for just $19.99.

 

New Restaurant | MP Taverna
1 Bridge St, Irvington
(914) 231-7854; michaelpsilakis.com
He’s won just about every award a chef can win, and that includes (in just one stellar year) Food & Wine’s Best New Chef and Bon Appetit’s Chef of the Year in 2008. Michael Psilakis’ Manhattan restaurant, Anthos, was nominated for a James Beard Award in the category of Best New Restaurant, and he was also named Chef of the Year by Esquire. But so what? What has Psilakis done lately? It just turns out, his Irvington branch of MP Taverna comes pretty close to flawless.

 

New Thai | Durian
147 Chatsworth Ave, Larchmont
(914) 833-1900; durianthai.com
The number of Thai restaurants now nearly rivals that of pizzerias and Chinese joints in American towns, but, the sad fact is, something must have gotten lost in translation. While dishes in Thailand are often sparklingly sour, crunchy, and tart, most of the Thai food that we see on these shores is oily, sugary sweet, and gloopy. Larchmont’s Durian is hoping to change all of that with bright, natural flavors and off the-beaten-path proteins like Thai blood sausages. We’re fans! (See our three-star review of Durian on page 140.)

 

Nibble | Crispy Eggplant Chips at Polpettina
102 Fisher Ave, Eastchester
(914) 961-0061; polpettina.com
For those eggplant naysayers—which previously included us—rejoice! The eggplant at this locally sourced gem of a restaurant is like nothing you’ve ever experienced. What look like potato chips are actually ultra-thin slices of eggplant, lightly floured, then flash-fried and sprinkled with sea salt and drizzled with wildflower honey from an Upstate Farms in Buffalo.

 

Off-the-Menu Dinners | Park 143 Bistro
143 Parkway Rd, Bronxville
(914) 337-5100; 143parkbistro.com
What makes the off-the-menu, multi-course monthly wine dinners ($65) so special at this small-plates bistro are the plethora of creative plates full of local ingredients and artfully presented by Executive Chef Jason Holmberg (former sous chef at Manhattan’s Picholine). Previous dinners have featured dishes such as seared duck breast with Pinot Noir gel; toasted flour taglierini with goat-cheese mousse; and veal osso buco in a tuna sauce. Amiable host and TK-year industry vet Wayne Chessler and knowledge reps from Kobrand Wine & Spirits complete a splendid dining experience.   

 

Old-Time Butcher | Crisfield’s Meat Market
61 Purchase St, Rye
(914) 967-0152 
Long-time Rye staple Crisfield’s is the definition of butchery, with an impressive variety of meats and a staff to take you through each cut in-depth. Among its many specialties: German sausages, organic turkey and pulled pork, and the venerable “superblend burger” (ground rib-eye, skirt, New York strip, filet, and brisket steaks), trimmed and ground on-site.  

 

Pie | Apple Crumb at Galloway’s Country Kitchen
69 Harney Rd, Scarsdale
(914) 725-4074 
The cupboard-sized space—in an unassuming spot tucked between White Plains Road and Scarsdale’s village proper—isn’t the only reason the line can stretch down the sidewalk at this half-century-old bakery, open only Firday through Sunday. Pick up a hot-from-the-oven, all-American apple crumb, made with green New York State apples and brown sugar and cinnamon when you want to be the best-loved guest at the barbecue, win favor with difficult neighbors—even sweeten up the in-laws. 

 

Yes We Know It’s a Chain But… | Popovers
BLT Steak
221 Main St, White Plains
(914) 467-5500; bltsteak.com
The inside scoop on this elusive yet oh-so-yummy muffin-shaped quick bread? BLT is tops when it comes to popovers. Its perfectly executed popovers are golden and flaky on the outside and yield to a just-right warm, soft, buttery inside—think croissants on steroids. And not only are they served in unlimited quantity with dinner, they are presented with a printed recipe so you can bake up a batch at home. Baking not your thing? They’re also available for take-out during dinner at $2.50 each.

 

Paella | Sala on Hudson 
44 Maple St, Croton-on-Hudson
(914) 862-4100; salaonhudson.com
The essentials that go into making a good paella (medium-grain rice that absorbs liquid well; a wide, shallow skillet ensuring rice that cooks in a thin layer; a proper sofrito or sauté of aromatics) are met expertly by Chef Greg Johnson at this newish Spanish tapas restaurant. The $19-per-person (a minimum of two people per order) dish comes either with seafood or chicken; we suggest the former—rice in a blazing skillet with onion, olives, and teaming with cockles, calamari, shrimp, and mussels. The best part is scraping up the socarrat (the delicious caramelized layer of rice on pan’s bottom).  

 

Quick Bite | Blackboard Pizza & Kitchen
628 North Ave, New Rochelle 
(914) 654-8400
blackboardpizzashop.com
A Best of Westchester for a pizza, pasta, and sandwich place frequented by students from nearby Iona College? Absolutely, mainly due to Chef Vincent Gentile, French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center) alum, whose create-your-own pasta/sandwich offerings and gourmet pizzas taste light years beyond the typical college slice-shop fare. Try the focaccia pizza with a balsamic- and EVOO-infused crust and topped with plum tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and fresh mozzarella. You may want to enroll in a continuing ed class just to be nearby. 

 

Salads | Bradley’s Desserts & Café
2 Chatsworth Ave, Larchmont
(914) 833-1095
Bradley’s could have but one salad on its menu and we’d still be excited about it, because this little café is one of very few to do a Greek salad properly. That means no lettuce (really!), and a dressing of pure extra-virgin olive oil, served with delicious TK bread. But it has many salads to choose from, including one with pineapple, Brie, and herbs. Plus those greens allow room for a dessert of heart-stopping flourless chocolate cake.

 

Salumi | Tarry Market
179 N Main St, Port Chester
(914) 253-5680; tarrymarket.com
This is salumi as only Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich can do. The selection includes jamón ibérico, prosciutto San Daniele, and salami Toscano and salami Calabrese, among a host of other cured beauties. Having a party? The platters (one choice selection by Batali’s father Armandino) are so beautifully displayed, you’ll want to take pics before diving in. 

 

Seasonal Dining Series | Global Grilling Series at The Farmhouse at Bedford Post
954 Old Post Rd, Bedford
(914) 234-7800
bedfordpostinn.com/farmhouse
Launched in March, this semimonthly dining series will dazzle even the most discerning foodie—especially those gourmands who love their locally sourced veggies and meats grilled over wood and charcoal. The four-course, $55 prix-fixe menus are designed by Chef Jeremy McMillan and inspired by different world regions, from the Basque Country (ragu of grilled peppers, onions, and fennel with smoked duck egg) to Tuscany (spit-roasted Hudson Valley rabbit) to Argentina (carbonada or beef stew served in a charred squash). For an additional $35, cocktails and wines are paired with the meal. 

 

Rib Eye | Benjamin SteakHouse
610 W Hartsdale Ave, White Plains
(914) 428-6868
benjaminsteakhouse.com
There are numerous reasons why Benjamin does steak so well. Among them: dry-aged USDA prime cuts with glorious meat-to-fat ratios, which Chef Arturo McLeod learned the importance of from one of the best (prior to Benjamin, he was at Peter Luger in Brooklyn for 20 years). Our fav is the 28-oz rib-eye, a juicy cut with a gorgeous crisscross sear. And no need for any steak sauce or butter (and certainly no ketchup)! Why mess with perfection? 

 

Side Dish | Quinoa Mix at Gaucho Grill
1 N Broadway, White Plains 
(914) 437-9966
gauchogrillnewyork.com    
Given the breadth of the menu at this big, brassy Argentinian steakhouse, it’s easy to miss one of the best dishes listed among one of nearly 20 sides: the quinoa mix with sautéed shiitake mushrooms and bits of fried plantains. The $8 dinner-only item is the perfect balance of sweet and savory, soft and crunchy. Pair it with a mixed grill ordered medium rare and you have a meal fit for a (South American) king.

 

Slurpy Snack | Soup Dumplings at Noodle+
245 Main St, White Plains
(914) 948-4950; noodle-plus.com 
The soup dumplings at Noodle+ are the perfect snack: We’re talking cheap, hand-folded treats that, when bitten, pour a magical mouthful of soup into your spoon.  We defy you not be charmed by the scores of tiny folds at each dumpling’s narrow neck—your measly $5.50 was never better spent. Confession: Our standing order is two stacked bamboo baskets holding six dumplings each.

 

Tableside Presentation | Pappardelle alla Emilio at La Catena Italian restaurant
871 Saw Mill River Rd, Ardsley
(914) 231-9260; lacatenaardsley.com 
Regardless of what side of the plate a diner falls on with tableside presentations (intrusive vs. enjoyable culinary theatrics), the pappardelle alla Emilio is a wonderfully rich dish to order. A 90- to 105-lb wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano, its center slightly scooped out, is rolled out before the table. A splash of Cognac and pillar of flame later, the server mixes into the wheel homemade pappardelle and porcini/shiitake mushrooms, simultaneously scraping down gobs of the melt-y Parm-Regg. And as delicious as this dish is, make sure to leave room for a house-made dessert—La Catena’s Napoleon, for example, just missed making this Best of list by a pasta strand.

 

Spice Shop | Spice Revolution
34 Cedar St, Dobbs Ferry
(914) 374-6576; spice-revolution.com
Variety is the order of the day at Spice Revolution, where owner Lindsay Fastiggi keeps an inventory of more than 500 spices “on tap,” and another 1,000 (that’s right) on order, most of which come directly from their country of origin. Hickory-smoked sea salt? Check. Harissa paste? You got it. In addition, Fastiggi stocks oils and vinegars, mortar and pestles, and 45 varieties of fair-trade chocolate bars, most of which are organic. 

 

Soups | Juniper
575 Warburton Ave
Hastings-on-Hudson
(914) 478-2542; juniperhastings.com
Soup is such a basic pleasure—so basic that it’s easy to overlook. But this is a guaranteed fact: You’ll never overlook the soup at Juniper. Though Juniper’s Chef Alex Sze denies any secrets (and we’ve prodded him many times), he whips up suspiciously divine magic every day with humble ingredients like kale and ham bones.  

 

Virtuous Dessert | Greek Yogurt at Lefteris Gyro
1 N Broadway, Tarrytown (914) 524-9687; 190 E Main St, Mount Kisco (914) 242-8965; 242 Market St, Westchester’s Ridge Hill, Yonkers
(914) 437-8490
lefterisgyro.com
This traditional treat might be from a different land of milk and honey, but it’s every bit as divine. For $4.95, add a cupful of this creamy, thick-as-soft-serve delight to your online order from one of three County-sprawling locations. Luscious yogurt is topped with a decadent crown of walnuts and honey, and the all-natural ingredients mean it’s good for your diet…at least more so than the baklava. 

 

Summer Roll | Saigonese
158 S Central Ave, Hartsdale
(914) 288-9088
We’re suckers for chewy, candy-like Vietnamese sausage; we snag them in any form, whenever we can. One of our favorite ways to get our Viet sausage fix is in Saigonese’s Exotic Saigon Roll, in which crunchy, sweet matchsticks of jicama counter the porky goodness of Vietnamese sausage. Also look for holy basil leaves, scrambled egg, and lettuce leaves, which are all perfectly visible through soft, transparent rice paper wrapper.

 

Whiskey Collaboration | The Captain Lawrence Brewing Company/StilltheOne Project
This is a big one. Westchester’s local hero and craft-beer phenom Scott Vaccaro has teamed up with Ed and Laura Tiedge of Still the One, the County’s only distillers. Their collaborative project, still unnamed, is a distillation of Captain Lawrence Freshchester Pale Ale. The whiskey will be aged for one year in charred new oak barrels before being made available in liquor stores at the end of 2013.   

 

Cadillac of Burgers 
The winning burger at Westchester Magazine’s second annual Burger & Beer Bash on June 6 was the French Cowboy burger from X2O Xaviars on the Hudson (71 Water Grant St, Yonkers 914-965-1111; xaviars.com). Congratulations to Chef Peter Kelly!  

 

Best Of Westchester Editors' Picks

Dining
The county's top for eating and drinking, from cocktails to calzones.
Fun & Leisure
Beer, hiking, music—the best places to just enjoy yourself.
Shopping
Your top spots to splurge in the county.
Health & Beauty
Spas, salons, and where to treat yourself.
Home
For Designers, DIYers, and those merely curious.
Kids
The top places to entertain and shop for the youngin's.