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Mar 6, 2002 02:44 PM

Port Chester town write-up Part I. Great Chow!!! (long)

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IMO, the best chow town in the Westchester & Western Fairfield area is Port Chester. Here’s my criteria:

1)Number of consistently good places (food & service) relative to town size.
2)Diversity of cuisine.

PC is the epicenter of forces that have created a unique and special chow town. These forces include low rent relative to surrounding towns, a vibrant and diverse immigrant community and close proximity to wealthy towns. As a result, compared to all towns within 20 miles, PC offers better and more authentic food for more value across a wide spectrum of cuisines, price levels and day parts. Great little bodegas to shop, too.

Amazingly, PC is also among the most undiscovered town. I live next door in Greenwich and am amazed at how little my neighbors know anything about the delicious treasures around the corner.

OK, here’s a first of what I hope to be a series of PC recommendations I’d like to make. There’s still much I need to try, especially the many Latin American joints.

***** DON’T MISS ******

1)Alba: 400 N Main St. (914) 937-2236. Call for reservations.

Fantastic classic Northern Italian restaurant with superb service. It’s a classy place all around, valet parking, simple décor – carpeted floor, oil paintings on the dark wood walls - waiters wear tuxes and diners are dressed neatly. Strong wine list. Apps $7-12, Entrees $18-25. On a recent meal there, everything was absolutely first-rate. I had veal medallions topped w/ crabmeat, asparagus and a sauce I can’t remember. Wifey had a salad and a fish special which was filleted at the table and served with a wine sauce. Friend 1 also had the fish. Friend 2 had lobster ravioli and a veal entrée (sorry, can’t remember!).

The antipasto plates floating around the restaurant looked divine, as did the tableside prepped Caesar salad. Desserts are brought out on a cart, are all homemade, presented simply, and are superb. We had a fig tart, a bittersweet chocolate and almond cake, and a strawberry mouse.

I know others who go to Alba and are fiercely loyal. Go find out why.

2)Piero’s: 44 S Regent St . (914) 937-2904. Call for reservations.

My local cousins have been telling me to go here for a year or so. I finally went and am kicking myself I didn’t go sooner. It’s a South Italian family-run place on a residential street. It’s a small white stucco building that looks like it was a plumber’s office at one time. Piero used to run a restaurant in NYC and moved shop to up here. While waiting for our table, Piero the charming host poured us each a complimentary glass of wine.

Just go and enjoy the food and let them take care of you. We had salads and antipasto for starters. For entrees I had marvelous a seafood fra diavolo over linguini. Perfectly cooked. Wifey had rigatoni a la vodka. Friend 1 had monkfish and Friend 2 had veal picatta. Too full for dessert, but Piero sent over some complimentary Sambuca’s.

Prices are very reasonable and portions generous. Entrees $12-22.

3)Crossroads Café

I wrote about this place earlier, see link. Best breakfast around for the price of a crappy diner.

The sweet potato and sausage hash is to die for. Get it with a couple of poached eggs on top, or as a side to anything.

4)Coyote Flaco. On Midland Ave. across from Home Depot.

Very good Mexican food and people in the know come from all over to get it.

5)El Tio. 143 Westchester Ave. (914) 939-1494

More very good Mexican food. You’ll likely be the only gringo in the place. Locals debate Coyote Flaco vs. El Tio. Enjoy them both.

6)Famous Pizza & Souvlaki. 10 N Water St. Greenwich, CT (203) 531-6887

This is the Byram section of Greenwich, which is basically Port Chester with a Greenwich zip code.

The pizza’s nothing special, but the Greek side of the menu is very good. The place is family-run, lead by a CIA grad. The dips are wonderful – be sure to try the feta and hot pepper. A huge combination platter of gyro, souvlaki, and felafel will set you back just $12. Get that and the dill romaine salad and you’re set for two people. A great meal for $20.

Very good homemade greek desserts, too.

***** GOOD CHOICES ******

7)Machu Pichu. 40 Grace Church Street (914) 934-9090.

Interesting and reliable Peruvian. I’m no expert on this cuisine, but have enjoyed several meals there.

There’s another small Peruvian seafood joint in PC that’s on my list. It packs in the locals and gives off good vibes. Hope to post about it soon.

8)Tandoori. 163 North Main Street (914) 937-2727.

Reliably good Indian. Owned by the same group who owns about eight other Indian places around the area. This is among their better places. I prefer it above Malabar Hill. (Chola in Greenwich – different owner - is quite good, by the way
9)Green Symphony. 427 Boston Post Road (914) 937-6537

Kosher chinese vegetarian. Nice change of pace. All the ‘meats’ are soy-based substitutes. Try the ‘chicken’ with apples and golden walnuts. Kosher folks travel from quite a while away to go here.

10)Tamarind. 112 North Main Street (914) 939-9103

Decent Asian-fusion. They’re working through a new menu and I expect the place to get stronger over the next couple of months. Try the Korean ribs app. Excellent Indian breads. Good curry entrees and tandoori fish and meats. Reasonable prices.

11)Café Mirage. 531 North Main Street. (914) 937-3497

Good French/Cajun/American mix. Late night – open till like 2:00 am. Patio open in the summer.

***** STAY AWAY FROM ******

12)Pantanal. 29 North Main Street (914) 939-6894

The two times I’ve eaten at this Brazilian place I’ve been very disappointed. It’s been around a while and there’s a large Brazillian population in town, so I’m surprised. Maybe I’m missing something.

13)Pasquale’s. 2 Putnam Avenue (914) 934-7770

Many people enjoy this place and I can’t figure it out. Service is miserable and the food is lousy.

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  1. Thanks especially for the Pantanal report. Suburban Brazilian is pretty consistently mediocre. For that matter, urban Brazilian's been pretty bad, too. And I LOVE Brazilian food. There are reasons (has to do with the mindset of immigrants) too complex to get into here.

    The reason Coyote Flaco (115 midland avenue, 937-6969) has that certain something in their food is that they're actually Ecuadorian. so it's sort of like a delicious, inauthentic rendition of a stupid suburban Mexican place, and it works GREAT. Best dish: grilled chorizo appetizer. Note: great outdoor dining.

    Can i run some other Port Chester names by you (and anyone else)? just random names I've got on my to-chow list:

    bravo peru on grace church st

    Tierra rosa peruvian. Used to be a brewery

    Inca gaucho

    Cafe Brazil 37 North Main St, 914-934-1600 f

    Cafe Guatemala 28 Grace Church. steam table guatemalan

    El Tio 143 Westchester Ave near train station for mexican (looks awful and touristy but waiter at guatemalan place likes it)

    grill fx 112 north main street 914-939-4745 south african food (one chef is the guy who opened "Custard Beach"!)

    Margot's Signature Restaurant & Gourmet Shop 35 1/2 North Main Street 914-934-0175 "best cheap brazilian"

    Kneaded Bread 181 N Main St 937-9489 "good ingredients, small, some stuff overwrought. good pumpkin bread covered w/toasted pumpkin seeds. Bread, not pastries"

    Retaurant Misti on N. Main st for pollo a la brasa 100 N. Main. 939-9347; 2-3 blocks N of the intersection of Main St. and Westchester Ave, on left heading north.

    Two Moons 179 Rectory 937-9696 "inventive Southwest food, interesting atmosphere". Weekday lunch, 11: 30-3; mon-thurs, 5: 30-10; fri/sat, 5: 30-11: 30; sun 5-9


    16 Replies
    1. re: Jim Leff

      Grill FX is closed, replaced by Tamarind at least a year ago. Two Moons is also closed, at least a year ago, replaced by a Latin fusion place called Sonora. Kneaded Bread is OK, some breads better than others, but do not buy the brioche, which has a bare minimum of eggs and butter in it.

      1. re: rjka

        Sorry to hear that you think kneaded bread is just ok. I go there all the time believe its the best bread place around and coffee is excellent. Also other good items are faccio,sandwiches, muffins and rolls. If you know of a better bread place in the area, please let me know. I would like to try.

        1. re: john i

          Actually the best bread place in the area used to be a place called Breadventures, which was on a side street off Greenwich Avenue. They used to basically reproduce the breads from the La Brea bakery in Los Angeles. Unfortunately they closed the retail location to focus on a wholesale restaurant business but their stuff is still available in a limited selection in places like the local Food Emporiums. I have not tried the supermarket product.

          It's not that I think that the Kneaded Bread is bad. I just don't think that most of their bread is better than the high end breads that are being sold in some of the better supermarkets and gourmet grocery stores in the area, and they are usually higher priced. They do have some unique varieties though. I do have a real problem with their brioche, which is a total rip off with virtually no eggs or butter in it. For a much better brioche, try Whole Foods Market.

      2. re: Jim Leff

        I don't have any info on the ones you mentioned -- still eating my way through town. Thanks for the Peruvian tips.

        rjka let you know about those closings. (I was sorry to see Grill FX go)

        1. re: Jim Leff

          I used to work in Larchmont and recently tried to go to Two Moons and sadly it is no longer there. I have tried to find them via the phone company and the Internet and have not had any success. A true loss...

          1. re: Jim Leff

            Port Chester, yeah! An oasis in the Westchester desert.

            My favorite is Rinconcito Salvadoreño, a down-home pupuseria. They're moving soon to 20 Broad St. because their building is being knocked down, like half of downtown, for some godawful development. Figures, right?

            I've been to some other good places there. I'll note the names next time I cruise by.

            Port Chester's reputation as a nightlife mecca dates to the days when New York's drinking age was three years younger than Connecticut's, BTW.

            1. re: snakewriggle

              For those who complain I'm hording all my tips for my Chow Alert newsletter (profits from which support the site....see a free issue at link below), I'll let a find out of the bag from the upcoming issue:

              Michael's Pan Pizza, 125 Midland Ave, right near coyote flaco, makes really good greek-ish pan pizzas (I like with sausage and onions). Some of their (Italian) food is good, too....all with a "we're not showing off, this is just how we make it, and that's that" attitude that's by turns charming or disappointing (the latter for more expensive dishes, which are overpriced).

              important: the pizzas come with sweet or hot sauce. We asked for a mixture, and it was almost really hot but not quite. We all agreed that really hot would be even better (though, again, REALLY hot).



              1. re: snakewriggle

                Last night we ate at Rinconcito Salvadoreño at its 20 Broad St incarnation, and I was a bit disappointed with the pupusas. They were greasy and moist on the outside, not browned at all as I expected. The accompanying curtida was crisp goodness, while the tomato sauce was so-so, almost a thin marinara.

                Can anyone point to a better pupuseria in the area?

                1. re: tbetz

                  rinconcito has the best pupusas in town, unfortunately. I've had them there, at pupusa loco on westchester ave, and at el tesoro II on main and rinconcitos are better.

                  1. re: adamclyde

                    I'd heard very good things about Tesoro II from a Salvadoran native. She likes their pupusas best. Since I trust your Latin food chops Adam, what did you find lacking at Tesoro II?

                    1. re: laylag

                      hi laylag. I have only been to tesoro II once, so it definitely deserves another try. The pupusas were good, they just weren't quite as memorable as rinconcito's, I guess. That's terribly vague and unhelpful isn't it!?!? Basically, my memory of them weren't as strong as the other places, but there was definitely nothing bad about it.

                      What was interesting was the sort of split menu at tesoro, half being guatemalan and the other half salvadoran.

                      this is a good motivator to get me back to tesoro again. I'll report back soon!

              2. re: Jim Leff

                The list is a bit out of date. FX Grill is gone and has been replaced by Tamarind. Tamarind was fabulous when it opened a couple of years ago. My husband and I went back last summer and were incredibly disappointed. The menu had changed alot, the staff was all different and, most important, the food had gone from incredibly good to really mediocre. We called over the manager and made inquiries. It had been sold.

                Two Moons is now Sonora (since, last spring or summer, I think) a sister restaurant to the one by the same name in Manhattan on E39th St (roughly). Good trendy latin food.

                1. re: Jim Leff


                  saw your post below and the link to chowalert is not working - what exactly is chowalert and where would I find it on the site?????


                  1. re: KarenNYC

                    In the earlier days of chowhound (prior to CNET) chow alert was a fee-based service that shared great tips (many from Jim himself) on places around town. Very cool... not sure if there's an archive or anything, though things change so frequently, it probably wouldn't be all that helpful any longer...

                    1. re: adamclyde

                      thanks - I was on chow back then as well altho my old login was taken when I resigned up. either way - I must have missed the chow alert. bummer. we should start a new one for the area!

                  2. re: Jim Leff

                    What is Custard Beach and what do they serve?

                  3. "I'm no expert on this cuisine...."

                    To calibrate on Peruvian cuisine (and you maybe should, since it's so thriving in Port Chester), I'd suggest a few meals at Rinconcito Peruano (803 9th ave 53/54, manhattan, 212-333-5685) and/or Chabuca Limeña (85-15 roosevelt, Jackson Hts, Queens; 718-779-PERU

                    1. Thanks for the tips! I agree wholeheartedly on Alba's. The Famous Greek food is very good too (I actually like the pizza but it is not a classic style). I've been going to the Famous for about 15 years and it went through a phase when the CIA chef replaced Dad and tried to broaden the menu, which was poorly executed, but it has gone back to its roots. I was at Tamarind shortly after it opened and agree on the Korean ribs but had a mediocre Thai curry.

                      I was disappointed in Coyote Flaco, maybe expectations were too high. I had chicken mole and the mole was a sweet, tarry sauce with none of the fire, depth or complexity I expected from a mole. I will definitely try Piero's.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: rjka

                        Let me emphasize once again that coyote flaco does NOT make real mexican food. It's a talented Ecuadorian chef's attempt to make Mexican-American food.

                        it's delicious, but only if judged on pure aesthetics. Must drop all standard preconceptions re: Mexcian food, it just happens to be SHAPED like that.


                        1. re: Jim Leff

                          Sorry, even on those terms, my dish was not anything special, nor was the one my companion had. Not bad, just nothing to rave about. I guess I just made bad choices assuming the place was somewhat authentically Mexican.

                          1. re: rjka

                            Ok, gotcha.

                            do try the chorizo app if you get a chance.

                            it's not a great restaurant, and I don't mean to tout it as such. But I do like it, and I know a bunch of others who do. Some dishes may be better than others.

                      2. I have been trying to find out about a place called The Willet House, on Willet Ave. in PC. I have posted an earlier message (alternative to the CIA). Some friends and I are not willing to wait until July for reservations for a party of 10 in Hyde Park, especially since there seems to be good stuff around the corner.

                        Does the Willet House live up to the current PC reputation?

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: bill

                          It's been about 3 years since I've been there, but recall it to be a good time then. It's a classic steakhouse. Wish I could tell you more.

                          I know it's a popular choice with the US Tobacco execs from Greenwich.

                          FYI, Frankie & Johnnie's opened in Rye and it's always busy.

                          1. re: bill

                            I was at the Willett House last summer. It is your typical expensive steakhouse, ie. steaks (no sides) in the low to mid $30's in my recollection, mediocre side dishes, limited other entrees. Sort of like Morton's. There's a new steak house in Greenwich called uncreatively The Greenwich Steak House on Greenwich Avenue which has gotten very good local reviews, is a bit more expensive but apparently has a bit broader menu.

                            1. re: rjka

                              Greenwich Steak House is in the location of the former "64" restaurant. I'd be glad to hear any news about it.

                              Also, Abis, the Japanese place at the bottom of Greenwich Ave. also promotes itself as a Japanese steakhouse.

                          2. Try the Firehouse Deli in Byram, just over the line from PC - very best deli sandwiches anywhere around here...