On The Waterfront
Down the switchback bankside streets, across the train tracks and—in one case—past the ugly tennis bubbles, there’s a revolution going on: Westchester diners are reconnecting with the Hudson River.
Oh, the Hudson had always beckoned, with its majestic scale and awe-inspiring vistas.Just ask Frederick Edwin Church (of Olana and the Hudson River School) or any of those turn-of-the-century robber barons who sited their “We’ve Arrived” estates high on the bluffs overlooking the mighty river: think Lyndhurst, Kykuit, or Axe Castle (now Castle on the Hudson). But those heavenly heights weren’t a manifestation of Olympian aims; it was more a matter of smell. The Hudson’s riverside was no place to live.
We forget now that the Hudson was the main thoroughfare between the Atlantic Coast and the Erie Canal—and, beyond that, the vast expanse of the West. With such ship-friendly shores, the Hudson’s banks were studded with industry, which used the mighty waterway as a shipping channel (and, to be honest, as a sewer). For at least a century, the great river’s banks were, both literally and figuratively, on the wrong side of the tracks. It was where the poor people lived and the smokestacks belched.
But, while economists bemoan the flight of American industry, in Westchester, that cloud has a silver lining. As factories leave, vast swaths of bankside real estate open up—for parks, for riverview housing, and best of all, for restaurants. The last eight years have seen a boom in riverside dining as restaurateurs scramble for spots alongside one of Westchester’s most awe-inspiring natural features.
While all are different, these new riverfront restaurants share a few unifying qualities: all have stunning views, all offer multiple menus (to capture multiple crowds), and all promote buzzing bar scenes. Below, we’ve gathered our favorite bankside pioneers—but don’t expect the list to end here. Look for dazzling new Hudson-side restaurants coming soon to Tarrytown and Ossining.
X2O Xaviars on THE Hudson
and The Dylan Lounge
71 Water Grant St, Yonkers (914) 965-1111 xaviars.com
IF THE HUDSON HAS A PERSONAL CHEF, then surely it’s Peter Kelly. Kelly was born in Yonkers, and his career has always hugged the mighty river’s banks, from his first high school restaurant job in Cold Spring, to the venues that made his name, Xaviars and Freelance Café. His latest venture, X20 and The Dylan Lounge, is his greatest triumph yet—at once one of Westchester’s finest restaurants and an opportunity for Yonkers to turn an eyesore into an ornament.
The century-old steel Yonkers Municipal Pier, once used by the defunct Hudson River Day Liner, juts into the river downhill from the Yonkers train station. For decades, this rusted, forgotten, derelict hulk—defaced by a huge white sign announcing “Yonkers”— lurked at the water’s edge, menacing and unattractive. Kelly alone saw the white elephant as an opportunity and, in partnership with the city, transformed the rusted pier into the city’s most glittering jewel. X20 (and its sushi bar-cum-cocktail spot, The Dylan Lounge) now looks like a gleaming riverboat, docked alongside Yonkers’ newly revived waterfront.
Tables at X20 and The Dylan Lounge may be hard to snag, so book ahead. At The Dylan Lounge, we delighted in Kelly’s beautiful take on sushi—like his quivering Maine scallop tartare with black truffles and Hawaiian red salt—made all-the-more enjoyable by the panoramic views of a reinvigorated Yonkers. At X20, which faces the river and the Palisades beyond, the views are even better: look north to the Tappan Zee and south to the lights of Manhattan.
There are so many great dishes at X20, but our current favorites include Kelly’s fun grilled starter of pink and juicy breast of quail with crispy leg “pops” (with romesco, Arthur Avenue pancetta, and toasted Parmigiano polenta) and his salad of chilled jumbo asparagus and crispy poached egg (with morels, truffle emulsion, and toasted Marcona almonds). Meanwhile, our favorite warm weather mains include a succulent brioche and leek crusted halibut with mousseline potatoes (and fava beans, chanterelle mushrooms, and corn shoots), and pan-seared duck breast with coriander salt, green onion spätzle, red swiss chard, and preserved kumquats. X20’s brunch is rapidly becoming a Westchester must, and don’t skip dessert, either—we’re fools for Kelly’s homey Bushmill’s whiskey-and-butterscotch pudding.
1 High St, Dobbs Ferry (914) 693-4130 harvest2000.com
HALF MOON, OPENED BY THE FOLKS behind Harvest-on-Hudson, is the newest restaurant to hit the riverside, bringing a casual vibe—and price point—to the Hudson-side dining scene. The restaurant’s name comes from Henry Hudson’s ship, which first sailed the Hudson in 1609, and its stellar location comes courtesy of the now-defunct Chart House, where—according to an 1872 map of Dobbs Ferry—the Taylor and Pateman lumber and coal yard once operated.
Half Moon specializes in a globe-trotting take on comfort food. Look for addictive plancha-blistered shishito peppers (the perfect gritty-with-salt bar food), baskets of succulent and briny fried Ipswich belly clams, and lush duck tacos with chips and guacamole. Half Moon’s seafood a la plancha—that is, cooked on a flat griddle in the manner of the Spanish seaside—includes locally sourced skate wings with potatoes brava and addictively caramelized, plancha-seared endive.
While seafood is great at Half Moon (it comes from Montauk, where the Fort Pond Bay Company operates three more venues), fish phobes are also welcome: they’ll find juicy burgers, Momofuku-inspired pork buns, roasted prime rib, and brick-cooked chicken. Sampler dishes are a good option for groups. Look for Half Moon’s gigantic raw-bar-for-a crowd (at $95), or a “Montauk clam bake” (large $52, and larger, $105). These party-sized feasts include lobster, clams, sausage, mussels, corn, potatoes, chicken and shishito peppers—of course, the pitchers of beer and sangria come separately.
Don’t leave without the ultimate all-American dessert at Half Moon: a root-beer float made with boutique Saranac draft root beer and Harvest on Hudson’s house-made ice cream.
1 River St, Hastings-on-Hudson
(914) 478-2800; harvest2000.com
HARVEST-ON-HUDSON WAS THE FIRST riverside pioneer. According to an 1868 map of the area, the Hastings river frontage was home to several coal and lumber yards, a livery stables and the Hudson Sugar Refinery. Eight years ago, the Fort Pond Bay Company took its space from a Robison Oil truck depot and transformed an overgrown, industrial wasteland into a lush Mediterranean garden. Where ugly oil tankers once idled, rosemary and sage now bloom.
Harvest-on-Hudson makes the most of its glorious riverviews with some of the best alfresco dining in Westchester. A tall-growing geometric herb garden produces verdant, fragrant nooks for cocktails and small plates which, on cool nights, are warmed by personal, wood-burning stoves. (Harvest also cooks with its home-grown herbs and heirloom vegetables.) Meanwhile, diners can enjoy panoramic views of the Hudson from table-lined, lushly planted walkways that wrap around Harvest’s broad river frontage. As with most of the riverfront restaurants listed here, the views from Harvest-on-Hudson are astounding—particularly those of the regal, red sweep of the craggy Palisades.
Harvest’s democratic, pan-Mediterranean menu spans several cuisines, ranging from casual raw-bar standards, pizza, and tapas to more substantial mains like dry-rubbed porterhouse steak for two. On warm nights, we recommend starters of iced king crab legs with Ruby Red grapefruit and Prosecco granita. And try Harvest’s garden’s cooling heirloom tomato salad, which comes with shallots, kalamata
olives, tomato water, Santorini extra virgin olive oil, and oregano.
Sultry nights call for light, flavorful mains like Harvest’s Montauk tilefish “acqua pazzo” (crazy water) with baby garden vegetables, fregola pasta, tarragon, and chives. Grilled honey/lavender glazed quail with grilled peaches, leeks, and scallions is also a great, dog-days-of-summer option. On cooler nights, we love Executive Chef Vincent Barcelona’s warming chiochiolli pasta, in which the shell pasta is coated in a tangy Gorgonzola sauce and studded with porky, spicy Italian sausage. And don’t miss dessert: Harvest-on Hudson’s gelati are all made in-house.
Red Hat on the River
1 Bridge St, Irvington-on-Hudson
(914) 591-5888; redhatbistro.com
PERHAPS THE MOST RECOGNIZABLY industrial location in this roundup, Red Hat on the River’s gorgeous 19th-century brick structure once housed the massive boiler for the Burnham & Lord conservatory factory. They’re the glass and steel works responsible for the vast, Crystal Palace-like greenhouses still seen in Lyndhurst and at the New York Botanical Garden.
Now the re-purposed, patina-rich brick complex—which still features the factory’s original outbuildings, hoists, and pulleys—achieves the perfect blend of industrial plus chic. Besides Red Hat on the River, the compound contains upscale housing, another restaurant (Restaurant One), and a health club, all capitalizing on the charms of Burnham and Lord’s historic site.
Moved from its original spot on Irvington’s Main Street, Red Hat on the River accentuates its new riverfront digs with a 65-seat outdoor dining patio and a 50-seat rooftop cocktail bar. While the no-reservation bankside patio offers great views north to the Tappan Zee and south to Manhattan, Red Hat on the Roof offers a novel, elevated perspective. Look for a cool vibe, loungey sectionals, and a chic rooftop garden. While the classic bistro fare at this always packed restaurant can be uneven, we’ve had success with a luxurious timbale of wasabi-spiked tuna tartare with creamy avocado, ginger, and lime-pickled daikon, a bowl of garlicky moules frites, and a great Red Hat burger with maple smoked cheddar cheese. Red Hat’s cocktails also are a treat—especially enjoyed alfresco. Our favorite is the crisp, summery take on the traditional martini, Red Hat’s Hendricks gin and cucumber.
28 Bear Mountain Bridge Rd, Cortlandt Manor
(914) 739-5000; monteverderestaurant.com
MONTEVERDE IS THE ONLY RIVERSIDE restaurant in our roundup that was in operation prior to 2000. But its former existence as a moribund “continental” restaurant says nothing of Monteverde today. With Richard Friedberg as owner and Executive Chef Neil Ferguson in the kitchen, the once forgettable Monteverde is one of the hottest tables in Westchester.
Besides Monteverde’s elegant Greek Revival architecture, the site has gently rolling lawns that meander in one of Westchester’s most glorious river views. With thoughtful planting—and the lure of Chef Ferguson’s menu—it’s easy to see why the New York Times rated Monteverde “Excellent” and why Gourmet Magazine named it one of the hottest restaurants in the country. Monteverde makes use of its views with banks of windows, and, in warm weather, two outdoor dining venues: a casual, small-plates bar and a reservation-only “chef’s garden,” with seating under a vintage grape arbor. All Ferguson’s menus showcase Hudson Valley ingredients.
We love Ferguson’s perfectly seared sea scallop with apple and ginger purée, or crisp-skinned duck with creamy fondant potato and bittersweet caramelized endive. Best of all, we love Ferguson’s tender filet mignon served with a heady, roasted marrow bone, sautéed wild mushrooms, and creamy potatoes rich with parsley. And what better way to end the meal at Monteverde than by enjoying a plate of Hudson Valley cheeses, outdoors overlooking the majestic river.
Julia Sexton is a Westchester-based food writer, restaurant critic and blogger. When not chained to her laptop, she can be found down by the river in Yonkers, knocking back Maine scallops with black truffles at the Dylan Lounge.
Diners enjoy fresh, locally sourced seafood with stunning river views at Half Moon.
Photography by Cathy Pinsky