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By Morris Gut
The eighth glittering season of Westchester’s Winter Wonderland gets underway this Friday and runs through Jan. 2 at Kensico Dam Plaza in Valhalla. The second year of the pandemic-inspired drive-through version of the event is expected to draw thousands for a big dose of holiday cheer.
The 1.2-mile drive begins at 5 p.m. on weekdays and 6 p.m. on weekends and is chock full of festive seasonal attractions. Tickets are $25 off peak and $35 during peak times per car.
This year Wegman’s Market added Ned & Albert’s Holiday Treat Bag as an option, and each carload is promised a personal visit by Santa.
For additional info and reservations: 914-231-4600, or visit www.wwinterwonderland.com
If all this makes you hungry, here are some nearby dining suggestions for everyone in the family. It’s a busy time of the year, so reserve ahead if you can.
Mulino’s of Westchester
It is over the top at Mulino’s of Westchester in White Plains during the holidays, and it begins with the bright glittering lights at the entranceway. The annual Christmas holiday fest lasts through the season and it’s a sight to behold for the whole family. The fountain garden is beautiful as is the lavish dining room and bar and lounge.
General Manager GianLuigi (Gimmy) Cavagna and his staff are keeping the premises as spiffy as ever with Christmas decorations, life-size toy soldiers, bursting colorful floral displays and handsome multilevel seating area. A special holiday menu is served.
Mulino’s of Westchester is located at 99 Court St, in White Plains. Open seven days. Valet parking. Reservations advised. Info: 914-761-1818 or visit www.mulinosny.com.
Personable owner Stan Chelluck and his wife operate this bustling vintage space next to Valhalla’s Metro-North station. Over the years, Chelluck has spruced up the railroad cars, facade and sweeping bar.
The kitchen serves an eclectic menu of American tavern specialties – wings, sliders, burgers with choice of toppings, mac and cheese, chicken pot pie and fresh salads and wraps. A children’s menu is offered as well. Portions are generous.
Valhalla Crossing is located at 2 Cleveland St. in Valhalla just off the Taconic Parkway and across from Broadway. Open Tuesday through Sunday 12 to 9 p.m. for lunch and dinner. Free parking. Info: 914-682-4076 or visit www.valhallacrossing.com.
Village Creamery & Sweet Shop
Walk down Broadway in Valhalla and stop at the most colorful shop in the hamlet – Village Creamery & Sweet Shop. Owners John and Kristin Caldarola have done an outstanding job decorating the store with charming frontage. It is decked out with a palette of colors highlighting all their tempting homemade ice cream. There are also soft serve, Italian ices, crepes and waffles, candy, espresso, latte and coffees. There are acai bowls now, too, and a few tables out front. It’s a good place to cheer up and relax with delicious treats.
Village Creamery & Sweet Shop is located at 32 Broadway in Valhalla. Info: 914-421-1300 or visit www.villagecreamerysweetshop.com.
The Beehive has been buzzing in Armonk for 15 years for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The comforting combination of eclectic specialties sprinkled with a tasty Greek influence keep patrons returning to this diner-esque experience.
Two favorites are the Greek spanakopita, with fresh dill, spinach and feta cheese wrapped in country phyllo, and turkey chop chop Cobb salad loaded with cubed roast turkey, avocado, egg, bacon, tomato and creamy ranch dressing on the side.
The Beehive is located at 30 Old Route 22 in Armonk. Curbside pick-up and take-out available. Open daily. Info: 914-765-0688 or visit www.beehive-restaurant.com.
Alex’s Bar & Grille
Proprietor Alex Ahmetaj updated the menu at his restaurant and bar and lounge offering big cuts of aged steaks and chops along with generously served northern Italian/continental fare. The handsome dining room is split into cozy sections with white tablecloths, colorful de Villeneuve paintings and warm candlelight. Mediterranean clay-colored banquettes and chairs complement wood walls and plush beige curtained windows.
Check out specialties such as pan-fried calamari with hot cherry peppers; linguini alla vongole; a delicious fresh branzino prepared tableside; classic veal parmigiana; grilled filet mignon; New York sirloin steak, a hefty rib-eye; and pork chops.
Alex’s Bar & Grille is located at 577 N. Broadway in North White Plains. Info: 914-358-1444 or visit www.alex577.com.
Freebird Kitchen and Bar
I have been enjoying my visits to Freebird Kitchen and Bar this past year, devouring fried calamari, meaty racks of baby back ribs, Cobb salad, spicy chicken wings and crispy Brussels sprouts. I’ve had shrimp and grits and braised short ribs, too. The cooking here is quite satisfying, and all done with a friendly southern theme. Portions are ample and shareable.
The seasonal lighting and those artsy birds hanging from the ceiling in the dining room give it a magical atmosphere. There is a seasonal rooftop and Sunday night jam sessions. Happy hours are Tuesday to Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. and Friday from 2 to 6 p.m.
Freebird is located at 161 Mamaroneck Ave. in White Plains. Open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. Info: 914-607-2476 or visit www.freebirdkitchenandbar.com.
Sergio’s Restaurant & Bar
The Argentinian-bred Arias and Pennacchio families have been in the restaurant business for many years. If you follow the family tree, you know that Chef Sergio Arias and his wife Sylvia had operated Piccola Trattoria in Dobbs Ferry.
Sergio’s in Valhalla is in a free-standing house on Columbus Avenue. It is a comforting bar and restaurant serving a traditional Italian-American menu. The general manager and partner is the seasoned Jerry Zonghetti.
Fine choices are the P.E.I. mussels prepared with onions, celery, tomatoes, basil and garlic sauce or the breast of chicken Milanese topped with fresh salad. I have enjoyed their sturdy house-made lasagna with ground meat, parmesan, oozing mozzarella, herbs and marinara sauce. There was more than enough to share.
Sergio’s Restaurant & Bar is located at 301 Columbus Ave. in Valhalla. Free parking. Info: 914-946-3580 or visit www.sergiosrestaurantandbar.com.
Cantina Taco & Tequila Bar
Host and actor John Solo of the bustling Cantina Taco & Tequila Bar in White Plains offers some good holiday deals: a three-taco lunch for $9.95, one of their tasty quesadillas with steak, chicken or shrimp or a big burrito. A new street bowl is available with choice of protein for $8.95.
You can also try the new birria tacos, cheeseburger tacos and house specialties like chicken wings, carnitas, garlic shrimp and steak fajita. Enjoy one of their frozen drinks, too.
Cantina Taco & Tequila Bar is a playful, colorful restaurant located at 166 Mamaroneck Ave. in White Plains. Open seven days. Happy hours. Festive party facilities. Info: 914-461-3959 or visit www.cantinany.com.
Morris Gut is a restaurant marketing consultant and former restaurant trade magazine editor. He has been tracking and writing about the food and dining scene in greater Westchester for 30 years. He may be reached at 914-235-6591 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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