12 restaurants we can't bear to lose, from a classic bar & grill to a fine dining all-star
The corner bistro where you always order a bowl of briny mussels. The old-school tavern that never fails to cook your cheeseburger to charred perfection. The bakery where the smell of freshly baked muffins fill the air. And the unpretentious Vietnamese spot where steaming bowls of pho consistently satisfy.
These places are part of our collective soul, the community pillars that make us proud to live where we do.
But in these pandemic times, they're at serious risk of shutting their doors forever.
Esquire recently wrote about "100 Restaurants We Can't Bear to Lose" with author Jeff Gordinier, a Rivertowns resident, mentioning Irvington Delight, and writing how owner Amal Suleiman rolls her stuffed grape leaves by hand.
It got me thinking: What would happen if some of my essential Westchester and Rockland spots were to close?
It's not hard to imagine; 2020 was brutal on the food business with 17% of restaurants (approximately 110,000) permanently closed across the U.S. The majority of those, according to the Washington, D.C.-based National Restaurant Association, were well-established businesses and fixtures in their communities. On average, these restaurants had been in business for 16 years, and 16% had been open for at least 30 years.
In New York, the situation is even more dire. According to the most recent survey released by the New York State Restaurant Association, restaurants in this state are facing some of the worst circumstances in the nation with 54% reporting they will likely not survive the next six months without federal relief (compared to 37% of restaurants nationwide).
There are so many restaurants I love and revere – whittling this list down to 12 was no small feat – but readers also weighed in on their own. Scroll to the bottom for their favorites.
It's low key. It's chill. And it has some of the best coffee in Rockland. Inspired by European and Israeli coffeehouses, this funky 16-year-old vegetarian spot, in an old Victorian home with lots of nooks and crannies for seating, features a variety of Mediterranean-inspired dishes such as (my fave) shakshuka, falafel, hummus and super delish ricotta pancakes. Just be prepared for a leisurely pace: The service can be uneven and often slow. But frankly, it just adds to its quirkiness. The coffee's so good I don't mind ordering a second cup while I wait. 65 S. Broadway, 845-353-4230, artcafenyack.com
Babe's looks like it's out of a movie set. And, in fact, it has been used as a fill-in for an upstate New York bar as part of the Showtime limited series "Escape at Dannemora." (Actress Patricia Arquette shot scenes there). Originally called Ferracane's Hotel, in 1928 it became Tony's Lunch, then the 1950s Joe & Rose Ferracane's Tavern and later Ferracane's Tavern (under ownership of their niece "Babe" Marie Louise Ferracane). Under its present owners, Babe's still oozes Americana charm, with a comfy "I've-been-here-forever" exterior and a filled-with-photos and other memorabilia interior.
I'll admit I'm a sucker for its homey vibe, but it's the food that draws you in and keeps you coming back: plates full of super-flavorful St. Louis baby back ribs, pan-roasted double-cut pork chop, Guinness-braised short rib and a half pound burger. Chef/Owner Anthony Accomando, who took over recently from his father, Jerry, is no doubt cooking up your next favorite thing as we speak.
Accomando, who, like his dad, is mindful of the restaurant's deep history, has a million stories about its history and even has photos from the days when it was Joe & Rose Ferracane's Tavern and Ferracane's Hotel. The elder Accomando, in fact, named the tavern after Babe (who often visited) and kept the long-standing tradition of the Ferracane family alive, albeit with his own spin.
For Anthony Accomando, it's "truly amazing to come to work in a place that has endured since before World War II, survived the Great Depression and countless other happenings and was a gathering place for many on Sept. 11 and the days after, when people just needed a familiar place to gather with friends and family."
Rumor has it, he said, that the first color TV in Rockland was at Babe's. For the memories alone, this place is a keeper. 73 W. Railroad Ave., 845-429-8647, babesbarandgrill.com
How fun is it to sit near the tanks where beer is brewed? Or, at least you could sit there – and bring your dog! – in the old days. Now open for takeout only, Industrial Arts, which opened in 2016, has the perfect mixture of old and new. There's something about sipping a crisp IPA amid the modern technology of the brewery's tap room while outside, the building you've just walked through contains antique brick arches and alleyways dating back to before the Civil War. In other words, coming here feels like you've entered some cool hipster Brooklyn industrial spot.
In a short period of time, Industrial Arts, led by founder Jeff O'Neil, shot to the top of many a beer-lover's list, even placing, in 2018, as one of the fastest growing small and independent craft breweries by the Brewers Association, a not-for-profit trade group representing small and independent craft brewers. In August 2019, the company opened a second location in Beacon.
Worth ordering now (if they still have some left): their Black is Beautiful stout with notes of chocolate, toffee, and vanilla and a bourbon undertone. All profits of this beer are donated to Campaign Zero, a platform of research-based policy solutions to end police brutality in America. 55 W. Railroad Ave., 845-942-8776, industrialartsbrewing.com
I love plantains, so when I first tasted the “El Jibarito," a steak sandwich with melted American cheese, guacamole, lettuce, tomato, red onions and a homemade spread – on plantains – it was love at first bite. It's creative, it's flavorful and it's all part of the fun energy best friends Melissa Llanos and Jason Quiñones bring to their fusion food truck which mixes traditional Puerto Rican cuisine with healthy and fried foods.
They're also known for their chicharrones, turkey sliders, fresh fruit juices and Melie-Mel grilled chicken sandwich with melted mozzarella cheese, bacon, guacamole and ranch dressing.
In business since 2005 and open year-round from Tuesday to Saturday, the two are super friendly and willing to accommodate any food requests. Plus, if you're a regular or even a semi-regular, they tend to remember your order. Consummate hard workers, Llanos and Quiñones put their heart and soul into each dish. And they're still out there, in the cold, sleet, snow and extreme heat, despite the slower street traffic and the loss of their summer events business. The fact that they can be almost contactless, with people calling ahead for takeout, has saved them. But as a longtime steady presence in the Knights of Columbus parking lot on West Broad Street, they're a mom and pop shop that I'd be super sad to see drive away into the sunset. 56 West Broad St., 845-200-4746, facebook.com/5-Senses-Food-Truck
Family is at the heart of Rocco's, a classic red sauce eatery known primarily for its pizza and super addictive garlic knots. In business since 1981, second-generation owner Vinny Rosano is all about making people happy with a pizza sauce made from a secret family recipe with deep roots in Italy. There are more than 15 varieties of pizza to choose from, including the very popular eggplant, the Maddalena salad pizza with whole wheat crust, the Margherita and the Focaccia.
Why is it such an institution? Rocco's is the kind of place where Rosano greets everyone by name, and often knows their order. Plus, it's more than pizza. The restaurant also serves a host of traditional Italian dishes such as Mussels Oreganata, Chicken Parmesan, Sausage and Veal Cacciatore and Shrimp Fra Diavolo. Another reason to love it: You can often smell the garlic from the parking lot. 170 S. Main St., 845- 638-1375, roccos.com
Newly expanded – as in opened just before the pandemic last March – this bakery is a much beloved Westchester staple, not just in Croton but at many coffee shops throughout Westchester where baker Susan O'Keefe's creations are sold.
O'Keefe has been baking her sweet treats – I'm a huge fan of her mixed berry crostata – for more than two decades, first in her home kitchen where she sold at farmer's markets and later in her retail space on Grand Avenue in Croton. Among her goodies: savory galettes, cakes, cookies, pies, brownies, cupcakes, quiche and empanadas, many of which can be found in gluten-free versions. Though her desserts certainly shine, it's O'Keefe's bubbly personality – she seems to always have a smile on her face – that makes this bakery so valued. 370 S. Riverside Ave., 914-862-0874, bakedbysusan.com
I love wine bars but this one, open since October 2016, is more of a community gathering spot. It's like your favorite pair of comfy jeans that easily segue from a coffee date to lunch to dinner to drinks. And on weekends, for brunch. Owned by hospitality veteran Paul Molakides and his wife, Jennifer Aaronson, global culinary director and co-founder of Meal Kit Delivery Companies Martha Stewart and Marley Spoon and Dinnerly, the two are known for their warmth, often greeting customers as if they're guests at their personal dinner party.
Since hiring Paul DiBari as chef in July and opening the takeout spot B6 Kitchen next door, they've upped their food menu with items like Charred Cauliflower Piccata (with lentil quinoa salad and tahini vinaigrette), Loup De Mer (Europeane sea bass, olive oil smashed potatoes, pistachio gremolata), Disco Romana (oven baked Sullivan Street focaccia topped with Fior di Latte fresh mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, and dollops of ricotta) and Maltagliati (housemade pasta with imported tomatoes, whipped ricotta and basil) in addition to a host of locally sourced cheeses and more than 40 wines by the glass. Molakides is particularly proud that 20 of those fall under the category of natural wines, orange and/or biodynamic. 549 Warburton Ave., 914-231-9200, boro6winebar.com
The coffee is always hot and the fries (I go for curly or sweet potato) are always a quick order away at Dorry's, a cheerful diner that makes you feel like a regular the minute you walk in the door. A White Plains fixture since 2005, the eatery, owned by Dorry Dimos, serves classic American fare – think eggs any style with home fries, toast and coffee; omelettes; pancakes; turkey club and homemade tuna salad.
The diner also has a sense of humor with mugs that read "Coffee with a side of brunch" and a quote from Bruce Springsteen on the menu ("Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive") complete with various "The Boss" specials. The Bruce burger, FYI, comes with bacon, swiss, mushrooms and fries. Bottom line: This is a small local yokel place that, even though it closes at 3 p.m. (and 2 p.m. on weekends) is the kind of spot where if you don't know someone the minute you come in, you'll definitely know them by the time you leave. 468 Mamaroneck Ave., 914-682-0005, dorrysdiner.com
Talk about a place ingrained in the community. Horsefeathers has been around for 40 years, starting with current owner Julia McCue's uncle Russ Rogers. McCue grew up at Horsefeathers visiting her mother and aunt, who both worked there. Her other aunt, Grace, in fact, was one of the original chefs. (Her name is still listed under Gracie's real good chicken.)
McCue bought the restaurant from her uncle in 2018 because she loved it so much and wanted to preserve its legacy. Indeed with all the changes going on in our world, it's nice to know you can go "home" to Horsefeathers and have it feel much like it did when you there last, whether it was 10 days or 10 years ago. It helps, too, that Horsefeathers is all about American comfort food with a variety of "serious" burgers, as they're called here, 8 ounces of hand-patted Angus beef, as well as chili, ribs, salads, sandwiches, pasta and wedges. 94 N. Broadway, 914-631-6606, horsefeathersny.com
Sandwiches are elevated into an art form at this fast casual spot where chef and co-owner Lou Bridley, a former cook at such restaurants as Savona in Scarsdale, Fortina in Armonk and the restaurant at the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center, brings gourmet flair to familiar favorites.
It's honestly hard to pick what I love more: the crackly buttermilk fried chicken, served on a soft potato bun with a drizzle of spicy maple sauce and a handful of house-made pickles; the "53rd & 6th" NYC cart-style chicken, with white yogurt sauce and harissa; the flank steak that's been marinated in a sweet soy with pickled veggies, spicy mayo and sesame on ciabatta; or, my husband's go-to, the Cubano with pork belly that's been seasoned and carefully braised before layered with paper-thin prosciutto.
For those not in a sandwich mood, the restaurant, an Eastchester fixture since 2016, also serves bowls with plenty of kale, quinoa and beets. Plus, hello – there are also killer milkshakes in Nutella, Oreo and Butterfinger flavors. 33 Mill Road, 914-776-2766, masonsandwiches.com
You've gotta love a coffeehouse that's both uber-serious about its java yet fun and quirky at the same time. A Peekskill landmark since 2003 known pre-coronavirus for its live music and trivia nights, it's become the living room of Peekskill, with its mismatched Formica furniture, much of it from the 1960s and '70s
The woman-owned coffee shop, with a sizeable food menu (think crepes, Belgian waffles, paninis, soups and salads) has also done a great job with social distancing, adding designated doors for entering and exiting and arrows on the floor. At one point, there was even a basket of locally made masks for sale. Now, with pedestrian seating on adjacent Esther Street, a visit here is the perfect excuse for getting out of the house and enjoying a frothy, hot cappuccino. Bonus points to the artful baristas who always up their coffee game with fun designs. The snowman, in particular, is one of my faves. 101 S. Division St., 914-739-1287, peekskillcoffee.com
Chef Peter X. Kelly is practically synonymous with fine dining. His gracious hospitality transcends his food to ensure that whatever you're feasting on, be it sushi from the more casual Dylan Bar to Kelly's famous cowboy rib-eye or coconut shrimp, is an experience. Dining here means making memories. Not just because the food is superb and gorgeously plated, but because so much thought goes on behind the scenes to make your meal flawless. From the way your wine is poured to the attentiveness of the wait staff to the commitment to using seasonal Hudson Valley ingredients, this is a Westchester gem through and through. And I haven't even mentioned the gorgeous Hudson River view or the three-course tableside brunch with unlimited Prosecco, Bloody Mary's and Kir Royales. It's not easy for a fine dining restaurant built on leisurely meals to pivot as it has during the pandemic, but, in a nod to Kelly's ingenuity and creativity, it has. Let's hope more people feel the way I do and continue to support it. 71 Water Grant St., 914-965-1111, xaviars.com/x2o
We asked readers what restaurants they'd miss the most if they were gone and were flooded with responses. So much so, in fact, that not all were able to make this list. It's clear you love restaurants as much as we do so let's do all we can to support them so this hypothetical situation does not become a reality.
- "DPNB in Nyack and O Lar in Piermont," Amos Friedland, Nyack
- "Caked Up Cafe in New City," Helene Wexler-Gold, New City
- "Station Kitchen, Congers," Tom Colgan, Congers
- "New City Kosher Deli," Barbara Issak, New City
- "Ambulance Brew House, Growler’s, Caked Up, Posa Posa, Jacqueline’s on Main, Velo, Opa; all Rockland County gems that feed my soul, and make me happy to call Rockland County home," Shara Abraham, Nanuet
- "Curley's Corner in Suffern and Avanti in Pomona," Stephanie Nodelman, Pomona
- "iGrill in Nanuet," Trish Zuniga, Pearl River
- "Patricia's Pizza II in Congers," Samantha Diaz, Congers
- "Caked Up, Aunt Mia's, Didier Dumas, Harry's Burritos, Rocket Wrapps, Union Restaurant, Burger Loft, City Line Diner and Posa Posa. Also New City Sushi and Tulsi Nanuet," Wanda Octaviano, New City
- "The Whiskey Kitchen in Valley Cottage," Larayne Carucci Peterson, Valley Cottage
- "Harvest Moon in Chestnut Ridge," May Herbert Neils, Chestnut Ridge
- "Craft Taqueria in New City," John Cameron, Nanuet
- "Anna's Bakery in Congers, Rock's Kitchen in Stony Point and Top Notch in Congers,"Nat Holland, Congers
- "Lulu's Cafe in West Nyack," Alice Reis, Nanuet
- "Nanuet Hotel, Dee Maria's, Station Kitchen, Rick's Club American Club, LaTerrazza, Sangria's, CityLine, Valley Pizza, Cassie's, David’s Bagels, in Valley Cottage, VC Deli, Doreen Reynolds Dillon, Valley Cottage
- "Cornetta's in Piermont," Joan & Jay Jacobson, Orangetown
- "Red Hat in Irvington," Stuart Skolnik, White Plains
- "Flour & Sun Bakery in Pleasantville; Truck in Bedford," Roberta Lasky, Pleasantville
- "Rincon Santaneco in Mount Kisco," Tessa Elizabeth Tokke, Ossining
- "Yorktown Pastry," Thomas McLoughlin, Yorktown
- "The Bayou” in Mount Vernon," Morgan Salvatori, Cortlandt Manor
- "Mint in Tarrytown," Samantha Jaclyn, White Plains
- "Jewel of Himalaya," Steven Gliner, Yorktown
- "Little Sorrento’s in Cortlandt Manor, Little Cabin Sandwich Shop in Cortlandt Manor and Pappous Greek Kitchen in Yorktown," Dana Coleman LaPorta, Cortlandt Manor
- "Mason Sandwich, Gemelli and Bartaco," Leslie Horowitz, New Rochelle
- "Emma's Ale House," Lesley Kopp Friedman, White Plains
- "Piper’s Kilt in Eastchester," Josefa Ierardi, Crestwood
- "Taiim Falafel Shack and Penny Lick Ice Cream, both in Hastings," Harold Isaacs, Thiells.
- "Lalibela in Mount Kisco," Nicole Friedman, Yorktown
- "Casa Rina in Thornwood," Raymond Ferrara, Valhalla
- "The Parlor in Dobbs Ferry, Pas-Tina's in Hartsdale, Gemelli in New Rochelle and Anthony's Deli in Mamaroneck," Erica Prestwood, Harrison
- "La Panetière in Rye, Saltaire in Port Chester, Maison Margaux in Mamaroneck," Domitille Marchal-Lemoine, Larchmont
- "Horse & Hound in South Salem, " Margaret Pryor, South Salem
- "Traditions 118 in Granite Springs," Tim Stewart, Yorktown
- "Lefteris in Tarrytown, Mancora Peruvian in Sleepy Hollow, Irvington Delights in Irvington," Roman Kozak, Tarrytown
- "Lulu’s Cake Boutique in Scarsdale, X20 in Yonkers, Restaurant X in Congers, El Barrio in Scarsdale, The Cookery in Dobbs Ferry, The Taco Project in Tarrytown any of the Bobo’s," Jane Anne Carelli, Irvington
- "Vietnam Central in Scarsdale, Kishuya in Scarsdale, Fujinoya in Hartsdale, Golden Wok in Ardsley, La Manda in White Plains, Ardsley Diner in Ardsley, Lefteris Gyro in Tarrytown," Janey Lee, Greenburgh
- "Put Some Meat on Your Bones, Yorktown," Daniela Giuliano, Jefferson Valley
- "Eastchester Fish Gourmet," Lisa Diamond Itzkowitz, New Rochelle
- "Horsefeathers," Thomas Kosnik, Staten Island
- "Sundance Deli," Justine Fontinell, Pleasantville
- "Flame Asian in Jefferson Valley," Joanne Quagliata Markopoulos, Yorktown
- "La Lanterna in Yonkers," Michele Romano, Dobbs Ferry
- "Dorry's Diner," Caitlin Kirklin, White Plains
- "Meritage," Rebecca Kramer, New Rochelle
- "La Piccolo Casa in Mamaroneck," Gingie Greene, White Plains
- "Little Sorrento Yorktown Heights," Michele Ferretti-Collins, Yorktown.
- "Aberdeen in White Plains," Darryl Moy, Ossining
- "Katie’s cottage in Yonkers, Roma’s in Tuckahoe, The Bayou in Mount Vernon," MaryBeth Craven, Bronxville
- "Spacarelli in Millwood," Elizabeth Bracken Thompson Briarcliff Manor
- "The Blue Pig in Croton, Lexington Square, Little Crepe Station, Village Social all in Mount Kisco," Laura Koller, Yorktown
- "Kelly's Sea Level in Rye," Suki van Dijk, Rye
- "The Bayou," Stefanie Cardillo Daly, Eastchester