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Places to Dine When Going to Winter Wonderland at Kensico Dam Plaza

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By Morris Gut

The ninth season of Westchester’s Winter Wonderland will run from this Friday, Nov. 25 through Jan. 1 at Kensico Dam Plaza in Valhalla. The drive-thru event, sponsored by Westchester Medical Center and presented by the Westchester Parks Foundation, draws thousands for a big dose of holiday cheer.

The glittering 1.2-mile drive featuring thousands of lights chock full of festive seasonal attractions begins at 5 p.m. on weekdays and 6 p.m. on weekends. Tickets are $25 to $35 per car.

This year Wegman’s Market added Ned & Alberts Holiday Treat Bag as an option, and each carload is promised a personal visit by Santa.

For reservations and additional, call 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 entrance. Its annual Christmas holiday fest lasts through the season, 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 Gimmy Cavagna and his staff are keeping the premises spiffy as ever: Christmas decorations galore, life-sized toy soldiers, bursting colorful floral displays and the handsome multilevel seating area. A special holiday menu is served. Open seven days. Valet parking. Reservations advised.

Mulino’s of Westchester is located at 99 Court St. in White Plains. Info: 914-761-1818 or visit www.mulinosny.com.

Squire’s of Briarcliff

Proprietor Kurt Knox has been serving patrons for a cool 55 years. When I entered the bar and lounge for the first time I felt right at home. The stories and history go perfectly with all the memorabilia on the walls in the bar and dining room.

We usually zero in on the Squire’s Burger, topped with bacon and cheese and served on a soft bun with a mountain of fries. Their basic burger probably has not changed in years. It is a retro-delish indulgence. The regular menu covers a lot of ground, and prime rib is listed on the weekends.

Squire’s of Briarcliff is located at 94 N. State Rd. in Briarcliff Manor. Open daily. Free parking. Info: 914-762-3376 or visit www.squiresofbriarcliff.com.

The Barley House

A warm friendly greeting from the staff is a welcoming start. The wraparound bar with its barnwood accents and high tops is inviting. There is a good craft beer selection posted on the wall. A second dining room is a little less noisy on the side of the freestanding house.

Portions are very generous and nicely plated. There’s a giant homemade soft pretzel with dipping sauce, and that was just for starters. Then there were those overstuffed sandwiches. My pastrami Reuben with Swiss, coleslaw and Russian dressing on rye and served with fries was decadence on a plate. Their burgers are prepared with a blend of short rib, brisket and chuck, served on a croissant-brioche bun.

Owner Bobby Harris also operates The Barley Beach House in Rye and the seasonal Barley on the Hudson in Tarrytown.

The Barley House is located at 665 Commerce St. in Thornwood. Info: 914-495-3333 or visit www.thebarleyhouseny.com.

Mughal Palace

Owner Mohammad Alam serves delicious Indian regional specialties. Look for the tandoori chicken or shrimp; lasuni Gobi (cauliflower florets tossed with bell peppers, onion, garlic and green herbs); chicken barbecue kabab; Lamb Bhuna (pieces of lamb cooked in a medium-spiced sauce of bell peppers, tomatoes and fresh Indian herbs); and mango chicken (boneless chunks of chicken cooked with fresh mango, ginger, garlic and dry spices). There’s a bar to get a drink. Open seven days.

Mughal Palace is located at 16 Broadway in Valhalla. Info: 914-997-6090 or visit www.mughalpalace.com

Valhalla Crossing

Personable owners Stan and Louise Chelluck operate this bustling vintage old train station next to Valhalla’s Metro-North stop. Over the years, Chelluck has spruced up the railroad cars, facade and sweeping bar and offers flavorful authentic rail car dining. The kitchen serves an eclectic menu of American tavern specialties – wings, sliders, burgers with choice of toppings, mac ‘n cheese, chicken pot pie, fresh salads and wraps. There’s a kid’s menu, too. Portions are generous.

Valhalla Crossing is located at 2 Cleveland St. in Valhalla, just off the Taconic Parkway and across from Broadway. The restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday 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 a charming job decorating the shop’s front. It is all decked out in a palette of color highlighting all their tempting homemade ice creams, soft serve, Italian ices, crepes and waffles, candy, espresso, latte and coffee. There are acai bowls, too. A good place to cheer up and relax.

Village Creamery & Sweet Shop is located at 32 Broadway in Valhalla. Info: 914-421-1300 or visit www.villagecreamerysweetshop.com.

A delectable cannoli is a great way to end a meal at Alex’s Bar & Grille.

Alex’s Bar & Grille

Proprietor Alex Ahmetaj updated the menu at his restaurant, offering big cuts of aged steaks and chops along with generously served northern Italian and continental fare. The handsome dining room is split into cozy sections with white tablecloths and colorful de Villeneuve impressionist paintings. Mediterranean clay-colored banquets and chairs complement wooden walls and plush beige curtained windows.

Check out specialties such as the 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; or pork chops. There’s also a bar and lounge.

Alex’s Bar & Grille is located at 577 N. Broadway in White Plains. Info: 914-358-1444 or visit www.alex577.com.

The Beehive

The Beehive has been buzzing in Armonk for 15 years for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Their comforting combination of eclectic specialties sprinkled with a tasty Greek influence has patrons returning to this popular dining destination on Old Route 22.

It is a diner-esque experience. Try the Greek spanakopita with fresh dill, spinach and feta cheese wrapped in country phyllo or the Turkey Chop Chop Cobb Salad loaded with cubed roast turkey, avocado, egg, bacon, tomato and a big helping of creamy ranch dressing on the side. Takeout and curbside pick-up is available. Open daily.

The Beehive is located at 30 Old Route 22 in Armonk. Info: 914-765-0688 or visit www.beehive-restaurant.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 gutreactions@optonline.net.

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