Headed to Westchester County? Here’s where to eat and drink and what to see and do.
It’s officially fall! Well, let’s face it. Fall truly began for the tri-state area when the apple orchards announced that the picking season had begun. Thus, while everyone ventures up to the Hudson Valley to go gather apples to their heart’s delight, the suburbs right above New York City definitely also see more folks along the way.
My sister and I have marveled and chuckled at the fact that lower Westchester County, which was once the pinnacle of quiet family suburbia that was just soccer games and the mall on weekends, is now a place our friends are telling us their co-workers are doing day-trips and weekends to. The growing number of people taking the train up to get their wings at Candlelight Inn in Scarsdale and coming in herds to hit up Main Street in Tarrytown were a bit mind-blowing. Our sleepy childhood ‘burbs now a getaway for folks? Was definitely a head-scratcher, but one we couldn’t deny was happening.
Though it’s not too unbelievable. People are coming up here not just to check out Kykuit or Kensico Dam Plaza. There are now many more food options to choose from, and a fantastic rise of community farmers’ markets in addition to long-standing, independently-owned businesses.
When I grew up, the kids in town dreamed of one day having a McDonald’s or a large franchise, but it’s become a proud badge to have many local businesses around, many of which have stood the test of time, but plenty of which are pretty new.
These are some of my all-time favorites, with a few newer delights mixed in. So, the next time you find yourself needing to get away from the city for the day, keep these places in mind.
Not to be confused with Ardsley-on-Hudson, I grew up in this teeny place (technically a village) that measures nearly one-square mile long and was founded in the late 1800s.
Though small, there are definitely two notable places I will always mention to anyone passing through—places that, frankly, still hold presence and memory to plenty of folks who were (or were acquainted with) Ardsley residents.
Riviera Bakehouse (“the whimsical bakehouse”) does indeed live up to its tagline and their baked goods will remain the talk of your parties for years to come. If you’re from the area, you’ve most likely seen or had one of their glossy fruit tarts or a signature, bright-stylized birthday cake.
My personal favorites still run in their classic selections of cakes, pies, cookies, tarts, breads, and treats. Though the line can often wrap around the store on the holidays and weekends, the staff is always on their toes and ready to help. My cousin, 25 years after his first bite, still proclaims their carrot cake his favorite and will make the effort to pick one up whenever he finds himself near the area.
Nestled in the Ardsley Square, L’inizio is a spot from husband-and-wife team Scott and Heather Fratangelo, both alums of NYC’s Union Square Cafe. Though a small space, it’s definitely made its waves with offerings of fresh, farm-to-table, Italian-inspired dishes and Heather Fratangelo’s superb desserts!
The historic river towns along the Hudson have definitely gotten more press and word-of-mouth praise these past few years, Irvington being one of them. One can seek out the bronze statue of Rip Van Winkle, have the Sleepy Hollow experience at Washington Irving’s Sunnyside, check out a performance at Irvington Town Hall Theater, and of course, walk along Scenic Hudson Park right off the Metro North train station.
A local gem that has shown itself to be a favorite is the Irvington Delight Market, a family business that was once a deli, now serving Middle Eastern food with love: fresh hummus, kebabs, shawarma, stuffed pies, and incredible stuffed grape leaves (which owner Amal Suleiman picks fresh from her yard).
There is one place in town that remains our family favorite for those special occasions: Red Hat on the River, a renovated factory transformed into a bistro serving up French and New-American fare, showing off river views through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Whether enjoying the moules frites or lamb shank from their beautiful dining room, or up on the roof for cocktails, it’s a place that’s kept us coming back for many years of happy dinners.
Neighboring along the river nearby is Hastings-on-Hudson, with many new great places to eat in their downtown area.
My personal favorite would be Saint George Bistro, an intimate space offering up French cuisine both classic and new. Once a space occupied by the former Buffet de la Gare, it has an atmosphere that is cozy, charming, and unpretentious. Menu offerings of French wines and cheeses, oysters mignonette, escargot, coq au vin, and duck definitely set the tone for one’s joie de vivre.
Ah, Tarrytown. I can’t even tell you the surprised looks my sister and I had when we saw groups of people moseying off the Metro North stop on the weekends. It’s definitely gone through its changes, and there’s definitely more than meets the eye. In the Pocantico Hills area of course, there is Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture and its location of Chef Dan Barber’s Blue Hill restaurant.
There’s the option to check out the beautiful works of Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall’s stained glass windows at Union Church.
And even more is moving in; Bravo’s “Top Chef” alum, Chef Dale Talde, recently opened his new restaurant in the area, Goosefeather.
There is actually much to note for Main Street in Tarrytown, which can be both buzzing and peaceful. One can check out the events going on at the historical Tarrytown Musical Hall, which still stands gorgeous since being built in the late 19th century and holds the history in its walls of many amazing, legendary performers past.
There are plenty of thrift stores and vintage shops to browse, including the Cherry Door Thrift Shop and Pretty Funny Vintage Shop. A Nu Toy Store is one of my personal favorites, full of cool vintage and new toys, trinkets, and games to check out. There’s even The Village Soccer Shop if you need to gather things for your sports needs.
A spot to definitely stop by is the Flying Fingers Yarn Shop, where those who knit, weave, and crochet will be in great company at the community knitting table inside. They also offer crafting classes conducted amid the shelves upon shelves of colorful yarn.
Despite popular opinion, I do believe in dessert before meals and Main Street Sweets could convert anyone else. A family-owned and operated ice cream parlor with many other things to satisfy one’s sweet tooth (baked goods and candy included), they offer tons of ice cream flavors made on-site and coffee drinks for those grown-ups who need caffeine more than sugar.
For your smoky barbecue fix, there’s Pik Nik BBQ. Owners Hassan and Alberta Jarane, who also own Mint Premium Foods right up the street, offer their customers southern barbecue the best way possible with as many ingredients from local sources as they can. The menu includes St. Louis-style ribs, smoked brisket, and chicken and waffles—and of course, all the classic favorite sides to choose from.
If you’re craving tacos, stop in to La Perla Poblanita. Chef and owner Manuel Flores is bringing the flavors of Puebla to Tarrytown, offering tortas, enchiladas, chilaquiles, and a range of tacos to choose from on the house-made maiz tortillas.
A healthy and delicious choice, Bibille is a Korean-fusion place specializing in serving build-your-own-bowl bibimbap (Korean rice bowls). Co-founders Joanne Moon, Giguan Moon, Junho Kim, and Joohyun Kang all come from different culinary and artistic backgrounds and bring different, healthy combinations to their customers highlighting fresh proteins, vegetables, rice, and sauces.
If you’re seeking weekend dim sum, head over to Hartsdale’s Central Seafood Restaurant on Central Avenue (go early on a Saturday). Find a table and eye the passing carts for all that one could crave: egg tarts, shu mai, pork buns, spare ribs, zongzi lotus-leaf wrapped rice, and more.
Related Reading: Falling in Love with Dim Sum
If you’re finding yourself hungry and needing to have a fix while getting some food shopping done for the week, know you’ll be covered at the K-Town Food Court in Hartsdale’s HMART.
Not only was this location of HMart a godsend when it opened in 2012 to Westchester folks who used to haul out to Queens and New Jersey for Asian ingredients, but this food court was also brought in to offer up great sit-down or on-the-go dishes. Whether choosing from a selection of Asian cuisine, or grabbing a treat from the Tous Les Jours bakery next to it, it is not to be missed.
You’ll find quality places for Japanese cuisine nearby the Hartsdale Metro North train station too.
Fujinoya offers up all the comforts with not only a sushi menu, but also tonkatsu, sukiyaki, ramen, soba, and udon noodle bowls. The place can fill up on a busy day; it is definitely an atmosphere inviting to locals and families in the area.
Related Reading: How to Make Your Own Sushi
Those who are exclusively seeking a quality sushi meal will no doubt find it at Azuma Sushi. Owner Tony Saegusa and Chef Yasu Izumiya adhere to a belief in no gimmicks, just fresh seafood, and it has been a staple in the Hartsdale community since 1983.
When I was growing up in Elmsford, a place that is surrounded by industrial parks and hotels, and just happens to be smack in the middle of Route 9A and connecting highways, everyone had some connection to it. As a kid, you were invited to birthday parties at Sportime U.S.A. As a teenager, you were happy to drive to the available movie theaters (that have unfortunately since shut down.) Still, some things remain, Westchester Skating Academy and Westchester Broadway Theatre being two of them (and Sportime as well!).
Casaletto Ristorante is another place where we still gather to eat in the area. Serving up Italian-American comfort food in the form of pastas, meats, and fish, the place has hosted many a special occasion. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been there a single time when someone wasn’t celebrating a happy milestone.
If you’re just looking to kick back with a beer and a burger, Pete’s Saloon has been doing it in town since 1977. Sit, watch the game, and just be.
Or, if it’s not beer but wine you seek, there’s Shiraz Kitchen and Wine Bar, a Persian-Mediterranean restaurant where owner Reza Parhizkaran is providing fantastic eats, with a former food market transformed into a wine bar next door. The menu includes tahdig, feta-stuffed dates, labneh, kebabs, and traditional stews, all with incredible flavors that pair well with their 100-plus labels of wine available.
A little farther up in lower Westchester County, there’s Pleasantville. Not exactly the town which one pictures from the 1998 film, but still a place that has great things to call its own. It’s home to the Jacob Burns Film Center, a celebrated art film house whose special guests and board members have included renowned and award-winning filmmakers Ang Lee (a Larchmont resident) and the late Jonathan Demme. Across the street is its Media Arts Lab, a non-profit cultural arts center dedicated to the continuance of film education programs.
If still on the hunt for a little more culture, take a short drive up to the Katonah Art Center, now located in Mt. Kisco. Plenty of workshops and classes are being offered in both visual and digital art for all ages.
In the summer, there’s the Pleasantville Summer Music Festival, with a main stage, chill tent, and party stage. Showcasing upcoming artists and bands alongside well-known performers, past music acts have included KT Tunstall, Blues Traveler, The Psychedelic Furs, Everclear, Aimee Mann, and The Smithereens.
Of course, there are things to eat around town too, all year long.
Little Mumbai Market, where chef and owner Bonnie Saran is serving her take on the street foods of Paris and Mumbai. One of her current six restaurants, the vibe here is chill and the food is delicious. Available on the menu are hot crepes, deconstructed samosas, and pani puri, plus rice bowls, salads, and Frankie rolls (grilled bread wraps) for which you can select your proteins and sauces.One place I love is
I was introduced to Bollywood Grill via their lunch buffet, which operates seven days a week! If buffet eating isn’t the route you want to take, no problem. There is plenty of other food to be had, a la carte, all delicious.
Chef and ‘Chopped’ alum, Mogan Anthony, continues to make his mark in town as the executive chef for Pubstreet, serving New-American pub fare—and he’ll also be opening up a new restaurant to look out for in Pleasantville, Fatt Root, which is planned to be an homage to Asian street food.
So you see, there’s always something new to look forward to in Westchester—and always something old to appreciate too.
Header image courtesy of Enzo Figueres / Moment / Getty Images