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Westchester Steakhouses


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Restaurants & Bars 9

Westchester Steakhouses

Neil | May 23, 1999 01:15 AM

Fueled by my love for a good, old fashioned steakhouse
experience, as well as my strong desire to
procrastinate regarding some work I have to do, I
hereby offer my ratings of the following – what I
humbly believe to be Westchester's finest steakhouses.

1) FLAMES, Briarcliff Manor. In the Peter Luger
tradition, Flames offers "steak for one", "steak for
two", etc. The steak, of course, is porterhouse;
steak for two is therefore preferable as it is an
ideally thick, juicy cut. I find the steak here to be
mouth-watering, sometimes actually on a par with Luger
(hushed tones as I dare invoke the Lord of Steaks).
Attentive service, fine side dishes. The best wine
list of the steakhouses if you’re looking to drop big
bucks. Their special salads are always superb. Flames
is a cozy restaurant, mellow atmosphere, more romantic
than the typical masculine steakhouse. But the bottom
line is that the steak here is the best I've had in
Westchester; better than any I've had in the City.

2) WILLETT HOUSE, Port Chester. The Willett House is
a converted warehouse that, while cavernous, has
charm. It also has the best variety in terms of cuts
of meat of any of the steakhouses I list. They make a
terrific prime rib (reminds you of how inevitably
mediocre this dish is at weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc.)
in "queen", "king" and "brontosaurus" sizes, and they
offer a buffalo steak as well as various traditional
cuts of beef. But like most steakhouses, Willett
House specializes in porterhouse in the Luger style,
and supposedly the chef is a Luger's expatriate who
shops at the same market (you hear that rumor with a
lot of places; a waiter I’ve become friendly with
there insists it's true). They offer an excellent
gorgonzola salad as well as the tasty house "Willett"
salad, a very good onion soup with five cheeses, a
fine signature clam dish, and good sides (all kinds of
potatoes, including terrific cottage fries). The wine
list is pretty good, featuring a variety of California
reds. My only gripe with Willett House is the prices,
which seem to go up every time I go there. It's
ridiculously expensive for a place in Port Chester,
let alone Westchester, much more expensive than any
other steakhouse listed here. I rate this above
Ruth's Chris only because it's a local place with
character (whereas Ruth's Chris is a chain, albeit the
world's best chain). Ruth's Chris, while not a
bargain, is a better buy than Willett House.

3) RUTH'S CHRIS STEAK HOUSE, Tarrytown. As we were
discussing...amazing that this is a chain, isn't it?
This restaurant, nestled in the Marriott on Rte 119,
has handsome mahogany décor, the most conventionally
masculine steakhouse motif of the restaurants listed
here (and what’s wrong with that?). Perhaps because
of its hotel location, there is some electricity in
the air -- the atmosphere is more alive than the other
steakhouses I list, and it’s the most crowded on
weeknights (though sometimes the Willett House can
give it a run for its money). Good albeit limited
wine list; there are some quality reds at a relative
bargain. I have sometimes been disappointed in the
starters – the gumbo soup (Ruth’s originates from New
Orleans) is a bit generic. The shrimp can be
flaccid. The rare tuna with wasabi is ordinary. But
there’s nothing wrong with the meat entrees, be it the
fine porterhouse, N.Y. strip, T-bone, or always tasty
lamb chops, all served on an amazingly hot plate with
sizzling butter. Warning: If you ask for steak sauce,
they’ll give you Heinz 57. Yikes. Flames and Willett
House make their own steak sauces, both of which are

4) YE OLDE TOLLGATE, Mamaroneck. To be fair, I
haven’t been here as many times, and the last time
(last month) I felt it had improved over the previous
time, which had been over a year earlier. My initial
impression (when it opened a few years ago) was that
it was a poor man’s Willett House, and it’s hard to
overcome those first impressions. The menu is more
limited than the other restaurants here (no lobster,
for example), and like Flames, they offer only one
type of steak, porterhouse. Again, there are claims
that they get their meat from the same source as Peter
Luger’s (M.H. Reed says this in Wining & Dining in
Westchester, but Reed also claims this is the best
steakhouse in Westchester and doesn’t much care for
Flames, so don’t give it too much credence). I’ll go
back soon to Ye Olde Tollgate – it is a fine
steakhouse – but for now I rate this at the bottom of
Westchester’s best.

5) NOPE. No other steakhouse in the County in the
class of the other four, unless someone can tell me
something different. I haven’t mentioned desserts;
lately I haven’t been indulging too much in that area
so my opinions aren’t too strongly held. Still, I
believe all offer good cheesecake (the steakhouse
staple) and I think Flames comes out on top in the
dessert department as well. Perhaps more important
for masculine steakhouse lovers, all have bartenders
that know how to make a good martini. I will be
testing this in more detail but I’ll never be able to
type my findings.

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