By Morris Gut – The glittering annual Holiday Train Show is on track through Monday, Jan. 15, 2018 at the beautiful New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx near Fordham University. It’s a real seasonal treat, a must for the young and the young at heart. I look forward to visiting NYBG, walking through the beautifully restored Enid Haupt Conservatory and seeing the seductive floral arrangements and dramatic plantings. (For additional info and tickets: www.nybg.org) After taking in all that beauty, we do get hungry. Here are several easy-to-reach suggestions on your way back to Westchester.
Artie’s Steak & Seafood, 394 City Island Ave., City Island; 718-885-9885. Owner Spiro Chagares and his staff offer patrons an inspired melding of traditional and contemporary dishes served with flair. Sit back in one of several dining areas and enjoy such changing specialties as: hearty seafood chowders; smoked salmon roll-ups; wood grilled jumbo shrimp and scallops; hunks of tender short rib; a massive zuppa di pesce; tender oven roasted rack of lamb; chardonnay poached salmon with seafood; and fresh lobster prepared in a variety of styles. There’s a loaded lobster salad roll at lunch and their Mediterranean style pizzas are good to share, too. Check out the redesigned bar/lounge most evenings for good networking. Private party facilities. Open seven days. Free parking; www.artiescityisland.com.
Mario’s Restaurant, 2342 Arthur Ave., Bronx; 718-584-1188. Arthur Ave. is just a stone’s throw from the Garden. Since 1919 five generations of the Migliucci family have worked the front and back-of-the-house making sure patrons are well served at this venerable ‘Little Italy’ institution. Amiable Joe Migliucci, the current patriarch, is there with his wife Barbara, daughter Regina and sons Michael and Mario. Joe’s mom, Mama Rose Migliucci, was considered to be ‘the First Lady of Arthur Avenue’. This restaurant has a long 98-year history full of colorful chapters. For starters enjoy the palate pleasing lagniappe of marinated carrots, hot peppers and good crusty Arthur Ave. bread. Great appetizers include: spiedini alla Romana, skewered deep-fried mozzarella sandwiches; stuffed artichoke; or the pulpo salad. Move on to such specialties as: penne rustica with sausage; stuffed braciola Napolitana; osso buco the size of Mt. Vesuvious; or the traditional Tripe a la Livornese. Special Hint: If you ask, the house will prepare one of its famous Neapolitan pizzas, or the ultimate fresh calzone (not on the menu). They are truly among the best. Open Tuesday through Sunday. Private party facilities. Free parking lot and valet service; www.mariosrestarthurave.com.
Prime 16 Tap House, 156th Ave., Pelham; 914-576-0700. This 60-seat tavern espouses the virtues of ‘gourmet’ burgers and local craft beers, which are listed and updated daily. Changing starters include: meaty chicken wings with choice of such sauces, and Ahi tuna tacos. Fresh prepared salads include: California cobb and kale Caesar. Delicious 8 oz. burgers include: all American, topped with Vermont aged white cheddar, butterhead lettuce and sliced tomato, topped with Elm City yellow mustard and smoked ketchup; and The Smoker, topped with smoked gouda, smoked Applewood bacon, sautéed onion, sautéed crimini mushrooms, romaine and sliced tomato with a side of garlic aioli. You can also ‘Build Your Own Burger’. Alternative sandwiches include: Ahi Tuna Po’ Boy, and Vermont chicken wrap, marinated grilled chicken, Vermont aged white cheddar, smoked Applewood bacon, grilled apple, sautéed onion and maple bourbon Dijon mustard in a whole wheat wrap. There is a Craft Beer Happy Hour offered Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m. featuring half-priced drafts, select wines and 12-piece wings; www.prime16.com.
The Quarry, 106 Main St., Tuckahoe; 914-337-0311. Owner Dominic Cesarini’s handsomely renovated bi-level 70-seat dining room and bustling bar/lounge is always engaged in spirited networking. There are artsy exposed pipes and vents on the ceiling. A lovely area rug and acoustics temper the noise level. Handsome brown wood and clay toned walls, warm lighting fixtures and modern sturdy deep brown butcher block chairs and tables highlight the floor with large picture windows and seating spilling out onto Main. There is another entrance from the rear parking lot. The staff here is most friendly, efficient and eager to please. Cesarini, a ‘local grill man’ himself, whose family owned and operated several cafes and grills in the Bronx-Tuckahoe-Eastchester area, has kicked it up a notch with a good mix of reasonably priced American tavern comfort fare with a good dose of broccoli rabe to go around. Check out the short ribs with garlic mashed, filet mignon sliders, pork flatiron scarpariello and lamb shank. Good burgers, too. Open seven days for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch; www.thequarryrestaurant.net.
Nutmeg Café, 64 Main St., Tuckahoe; 914-779-1328. Currently celebrating a first anniversary, Nutmeg Café opened on Main Street in Tuckahoe offering a variety of artisanal baked goods, craft foods and beverages for eat-in and take-out. Proprietor and creative force behind Nutmeg is Cindy Bothwell. You may recognize Cindy from her years of working at Farmers Markets around the county in Bronxville, Irvington and Chappaqua, selling her signature goods under the ‘What’s For Dessert?’ brand. The Café is warm and inviting. There is seating for up to 25, soft background music, exposed brick walls and display cases filled to the brim with the tempting daily larder. Bothwell calls her way of cooking and baking: “American home-style rustic” and insists on keeping up with the seasons. Delightful beverages include such exclusive artisanal makers as Joe’s Coffee out of Brooklyn. There are daily infused water flavors, iced teas and fruity lemon or lime aids. Fresh made soups and salads were recently added to Nutmeg’s menu and posted daily on the blackboard. Enjoy delectable cheddar scallion scones; caramelized onion and gruyere crostada; and cauliflower, leek and Asiago quiche. Open daily; Sundays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; www.thenutmegcafe.com.
Starr Events Holiday Dining at NYBG. Ever since restaurant rock star Stephen Starr took over the food service concessions at NYBG, hungry visitors have been taking note. Starr made a big name for himself in Philadelphia where he owns several powerhouse restaurants including his retro: Continental. He is also represented in Atlantic City at Buddakan, and in Washington, D.C. at the hot new Le Diplomate where we enjoyed a wonderful French brasserie brunch recently. He has premiered themed Dining Pavilions throughout the park and near the Enid Haupt Pavilion: the casual Pine Tree Café and Hudson Garden Grill. Open daily. Early dining is recommended since they keep Garden hours to 6 p.m. most days. For info: Starr Events: 646-627-7711, or 718-817-8700; www.nybg.org.
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. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.