Westchester Restaurants with Nostalgic Ambience
These throwback restaurants serve up the past, time and time again.
A blast from the past—filet mignon over julienned veggies topped with tarragon butter from Carlo’s in Yonkers
The older I get, the more I long for certain parts of my youth. Which is why, as much as I love dining at trendy newcomers (hello, Bistro Latino in Tuckahoe), I’m also a sucker for throwback eateries that make you feel like you’re 16 again. You know what I’m talking about: places that, despite a possible Facebook page or Twitter feed, are still stuck in the past. Same 1970s-era (or older) décor. Same cholesterol-be-damned, carb-loaded portions. And, in some cases, same cracks in the kitchen door and jiggly handles on bathroom stalls. To me, visiting these old-timers is akin to slipping on my favorite ratty sweatshirt. In other words, they may not be pretty, but nothing feels more like home.
The live, tableside accordion music on Friday and Saturday nights at Augie’s Restaurant & Pub (2417 Boston Post Rd, Larchmont 914-834-3800; augiesitalian.com) is the first clue you’ve traveled back in time. The second: the signature doggie bags many patrons carry on their way out. It’s definitely nostalgia overload at the 20-plus-year-old family restaurant, where every Sunday is “dinner at Mama’s”—meatballs and Italian sausage with Sunday gravy and your choice of pasta ($23 for two; $12 for every additional person).
For those who’ve moved beyond Westchester’s borders, it’s nice to know everything’s still the same at Carlo’s Restaurant (668 Tuckahoe Rd, Yonkers 914-793-1458; carlosrestaurant.net). In business since 1976, this traditional favorite does a mean homemade lasagna ($11.99), veal Siciliana with eggplant ($15.99), and filet mignon with tarragon butter ($24), though it’s that old neighborhood feeling and warm welcome from gregarious owner Pete Severino that make the trek worth it. (PS: There’s lots, too, for the bambini in your group, including a 12-inch personal pizza for $8.)
A photo of Paradise Restaurant taken in 1968
It doesn’t get more mom and pop than 42-year-old Francesco’s (600 Mamaroneck Ave, White Plains 914-946-3359). This neighborhood gathering spot, which, when full, looks like a circa-1970 scene straight out of Central Casting, remains as homey as ever, thanks to its aging but cozy décor (e.g., wood-paneled walls, cozy booths, and tight seating) as well as its solid Italian fare, like mussels marinara ($11.95) and sausage and peppers ($17.95). Whether you were last here 20 years ago or just a few days ago, you’ll find not much has changed—which is exactly why we love it. Try the chicken Francese ($19.95), which can easily feed two (nothing here is portion-controlled), or the seafood scapara ($26.95), a gorgeous assortment of shrimp, clams, mussels, and calamari in a spicy brown sauce.
The words “cholesterol” and “carbs” are unknown terms at Giulio’s Restaurant (53 Park Hill Ave, Yonkers 914-375-1043), a traditional Southern Italian eatery that’s been serving large-enough-for-two entrées for 26 years (we’re not counting the six years it was in another location just up the street). Among the must-tries: chicken scarpariello ($16.50) with cherry peppers and onions in a white gravy, and Giulio’s zuppa di pesce ($19.50), a seafood medley of mussels, clams, scallops, and calamari in your choice of a marinara or fra diavolo sauce with either pasta, potato croquettes, or green beans on the side.
The 1961 menu from Paradise lists lobster tails or a steak at $4. Good deal
Gus’s Franklin Park Restaurant (126 Halstead Ave, Harrison 914-835-9804; gusseafood.com) has been serving Westchester residents for eight decades. Even better: it’s still run by the grandson of Gus Kneuer, who took over the place in 1931 (his photo still hangs over the cash register). The blackboard menu is rich on seafood and light on fancy accoutrements. In other words, expect your lobster entrée to come with a tin-foil-enclosed baked potato and a plastic cup of sour cream. No complaints, though; with a lobster tank next door (the restaurant also owns the adjacent seafood shop), the seafood is fresh, fresh, fresh, with steamed or broiled lobster on almost everyone’s plate. Just as in-demand: the broiled red snapper, fried clams, and broiled or blackened swordfish (all market price), though, honestly, we’re also just as happy with a beer and the raw bar sampler.
Open since 1947, La Manda’s (251 Tarrytown Rd, White Plains 914-684-9228) is a family-run Neapolitan staple known for its oversized entrées, fair prices (e.g., pasta dishes range from $12 to $16), and Old World ambience. One bite into your chicken scarparo ($15), eggplant rollatine ($15), or veal Sorrentino ($19), and you’ll feel like your Italian grandmother has cooked her flavorful specialties just for you. PS: It’s cash only and doesn’t take reservations. Its no-frills décor shows its age (think knotty pine paneling, Formica tables, paper placemats with a map of Italy, and a pizza oven that dates to the ’30s). And yes, for those who haven’t visited in a spell, there’s still the infamous crack in the window on the door leading into the kitchen that’s been there forever.
If you came to Paradise Restaurant (135 Broadway Ave, Verplanck 914-736-3334; paradiseverplanck.com) with your parents years ago, you’ll love coming back—and this time bringing your kids. The 65-year-old family-run eatery is still as unpretentious as ever, filled with people who seem to know each other and who welcome you with open arms if they don’t. The Italian eatery is known for its thin-crust pizza (small costs $11.50, large $13.50), the crust and sauce of which are made here. Its pastas (spinach stuffed shells and lasagna, $15 for each) and homemade cream puffs ($5) also delight the tables filled with multiple generations, making this the spot for that all-in-the-family feeling. Don’t leave without asking to see the menu from 1961, when spaghetti with meatballs cost $2, steak was $4, and a cheese pizza (pie, not slice) was $1.50.
The aromas of simmering sauces, bubbling pizzas, and sizzling sausages (a must on top of your pizza) make a visit to Solano’s Lincoln Lounge (209 Stevens Ave, Mount Vernon 914-664-9747), which is usually referred to simply as Lincoln Lounge, both a trip down Memory Lane as well as a gastronomic experience worth repeating. Yes, it looks a bit like a dive from the outside, and yes, the interior is a quirky hodgepodge of Christmas lights and vintage paraphernalia (including an old menu from when it opened in 1950), but it’s that kitschy ambience—as well as its famous rectangular pan pizza—that so endears us. Longtime regulars know the restaurant’s other secret: as good as the pastas and pizza are, it’s the porterhouse steak ($28.95) and the three-inch shell steak for two with french-fried onions on top ($49.95) that are the true winners.
Ribs and wings define Sherwood’s Restaurant and Bar-B-Q (2136 Boston Post Rd, Larchmont 914-833-3317; sherwoodsrestaurant.com), a slightly worn-around-the-edges but still-loveable pub known for its appropriately sloppy (but delicious) barbecue slathered with sauce. In business since 1989, its comfort-food-driven lineup attracts legions of iron-stomached fans craving a rib-sticking feast. The restaurant’s famous wings are $11 for a bowl of 15, $7 for a plate of eight. Rib options include Bertha’s baby backs ($16 per rack, $22 for a rack-and-a-half), Memphis dry-rub ($16 per rack, $22 for a rack-and-a-half), and the B-B-Q combo ($20 for a quarter chicken and ribs).
There’s a definite old-school vibe to Roma Restaurant (29 Columbus Ave, Tuckahoe 914-961-3175; romarestaurantinc.com), a classic red-sauce Italian restaurant with a down-home attitude. Open since 1931, it’s still run by the same family. And, as with the other restaurants mentioned here, you don’t come for the décor—you come for the food, a diverse menu of pastas and entrées. My fave? The razor-thin pizza, available by the pie, not by the slice (a large plain is $12.50). I also love the individual splits of wine ($5), those small ones you’re usually served on airplanes. It only adds to the place’s retro feel, circa 1979.
Many a diner has celebrated at least one lifetime event over Wiener schnitzel and homemade spaetzle at The Travelers Rest (Rte 100, Ossining 914-941-7744; thetravelersrest.com). Dating back to 1876—this quaint former coach stop, with its Hungarian and American creations, remains among Westchester’s most classic restaurants. There, amidst heavy paneling and high, leather-like booths, you’ll find the same iconic fare of your youth. New on the menu: a “Restaurant Week” special that is running all year. This is a four-course dinner, with a choice of at least l2 different entrées, a salad, appetizer or soup, potato, vegetable, dessert, and coffee for $29.95 (offered every day except Saturday and holidays). Perennial favorites include the beef Wellington and sauerbraten.
Where some see an aging restaurant in Tony’s Steak and Seafood (524 Warburton Ave, Hastings-on-Hudson 914-478-2260; tonyssteakandseafoodrestaurant.com), we see a charming ode to the past that makes us feel forever young. Ever-popular dishes at this almost 26-year-old mainstay include such Portuguese specialties as mariscada, ($26.95), the Portuguese version of French bouillabaisse, which arrives at your table with what feels like another meal: a potato, salad, and a vegetable. Just as filling and authentic: Tony’s paella ($26.95), which is slow-simmered with smoky Portuguese sausage, saffron rice, and steamed clams. A favorite among regulars: the simple but addictive Portuguese chicken ($19), which, according to Tony’s wife Maria, has lots of customers asking for the recipe. For something really interesting, try Tony’s Special ($25), a shell steak in a lemon-wine sauce with shrimp, scallops, and clams on top.
It’s not easy to run a business, especially in the 24/7 world of restaurants, which is why we applaud—and bid a fond farewell to—Off Broadway Restaurant (17 Ashford Ave, Dobbs Ferry 914-693-6170). The all-American eatery, which had been in the neighborhood for 25 years, will soon become a Walgreens.