Exit 4

153 E Main St. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 241-1200exit4foodhall.com

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The concept of this place is interesting to say the least. Sort of like a mini food court that’s not located in a mall and not made up of your usual chains like Panda Express and Sbarro’s. It’s actually all locally sourced, serving up a jack-of-all-trades menu from all over the map (or more specifically all over Northern Westchseter), yet somehow they manage to let you put it all on one bill (that you kinda have to carry around with you from pavilion to pavilion- it’s complicated).

It’s also a dynamic than can easily become a recipe for disaster should you arrive and not know what you want. Especially with young kids who will quickly become more overwhelmed with the choices than Robin Williams in Moscow on the Hudson.

On the upside, most everything is surprisingly good, so it’s kinda hard to go too, too wrong, unless you have wildly high expectations. When I say “surprising,” however, I want to temper that by stating that I mean it only in the context of lowered expectations. Nothing will have you swinging from a star, but if you’d rather eat a pig, a fish or a mule, they pretty much have you covered (that was for all you Sinatra fans).

So here’s how I recommend playing it:

Step 1: Grab a table. Put your stuff down and have a member of your party stand guard. The last thing you want to do is get caught with seven trays of grub and nowhere to sit.

Step 2: Order the stuff that takes longer to make first. This would be your pastas, your pizzas, your burger and your bahn mi that are all cooked to order. Whereas the tacos, and barbecue offerings are much more prepped and take about two minutes or less to hit your table. So, assuming you like your family or friends, and want to actually eat “together,” then I recommend doing these options near the end of the batting order.

Step 3: Order stuff that doesn’t need to be ice cold or nice and hot dead last. This would be your sushi and glasses of red wine.

Step 4: Bon apetit!

So now that you’ve circumnavigated one of the more complex dining matrixes in the tri-state, here are my thoughts on the offerings themselves.

First up, let’s start with the sushi, sourced from Mt. Kisco Seafood down the street, so you know it’s pretty darn fresh. But more than just fresh, the sashimi bowls and the maki are really quite inventive and a step up from a lot of other places in the immediate vicinity. Yes, that goes for you Hito and Spoon.

Next up, let’s go Italian. Or more specifically the pizza, because the only pasta I’ve had there was my daughter’s kidsy butter and shells. So not really fair to judge them on that. My daughter, on the other hand, has a ways to go in terms of expanding the ole horizons. As for the pies, I liked both the fig, prosciutto and caramelized onion pie and the one with Brussels sprouts, smoked pancetta and gruyere. Neither compare to the likes of The Parlor in Dobbs or Zero Otto Nove in Armonk, but they hold their own handily against Old Stone and Village Social, which I actually think has one of the best pies in town. Nonetheless, the pizza is good enough to make you forget all about the fact that this place used to be Belizzi (RIP).

And now let’s take things down a notch. As in down South. As in TexMex and barbecue. Starting at the top, I’d go with the brisket sammy. It’s quite solid, topped with a bourbon sauce, slaw and cornichon. After that I’d go with the pulled pork. The sauce has a nice kick to it and it also comes with slaw on it as well. It’s not what I would call a runaway smash hit, but unless you’re willing to roll your bones all the way over to Portchester for Q, then it’ll do the trick. That said, little known secret- Dinosaur BBQ is available via Fresh direct. As is some seriously spicy slaw and brioche sliders. So if you don’t feel like venturing out for your barb-e-fix, then call in the reinforcements. Oh, and skip the tacos if you ask me. Truck and Hacienda are both miles better.

And most importantly… the booze. They have a nice selection of beer and wine by the glass so no complaints there either. Nor do I have many complaints on the whole. Exit 4 is a nice addition to the hood and the only other “something-for-everyone” deal in town apart from Village Social. So, if you’re like me and you’re saddled with two kids who don’t agree on anything when if comes to food, this “good enough” fare quickly becomes good on ya!

3 teeth

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251 Lex

251 Lexington Ave. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 218-8156 •  251lex.com

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I was excited to try this relative newcomer, which seemed to have promise from the outside looking in. Unfortunately, the promise only seems to be on the outside. In fact, the only nice thing I can say about the inside is that the people are nice. Oh, and the prices were pretty great, granted it was restaurant week, but only twelve dollars for a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc is worthy of a star in and of itself.

Beyond the wine and the warm pita with olive oil, the restaurant falls short on virtually every other metric possible, coming off like a child’s doll house dressed up to play a game of restaurant. The kids, a.k.a. waiters, inside trying so hard to please that it’s almost charming, but when they keep spilling water everywhere and forgetting silverware, the charm wears thin.

In terms of grub, nothing was god awful, but if tepid is the response you’re looking for, then you’ve come to the right place. Starting with the oysters, they were probably the best thing of the night, clean and fresh, served with a beet mignonette that overpowers them, so I would skip it. And while we’re on the subject of skipping things, the kale Caesar salad was cream based, a major no-no, and blah based, also a no-no.

For entrees, the salmon with cracked bulgur struggled to even register a pulse, as did the signature octopus dish, served with Israeli couscous in a skillet that’s so friggin piping hot you could probably still use it as a kiln to bake ceramics after it cools down a touch.

With the writing already firmly on the wall, there was little dessert could do to sway my already solidified opinion and as one would expect, dessert did little to even try. The Greek yogurt and honey panna cotta with fig mostrada, while interesting in theory, proved par for the course in terms of taste. That said, I’m not the biggest panna cotta fan, so the fact that I didn’t hate it is a major coup for 251. And finally the gelati was also semi-decent in the most average sense possible, falling short of supermarket gems like Talenti and Steve’s.

And falling short was theme throughout. Short of expectations and hopes. Really not sure what people see in this place or why it has the crowd or reviews that it does, but I suppose I’ll chalk it up to the fact that people are easily fooled. Case in point, Trump will be the Republican nominee for president. Mic drop.

2 teeth

Lexington Square Cafe

510 Lexington Ave. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 •  (914) 244-3663lexingtonsquarecafe.com

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It’s taken me a while to work up the courage to eat here versus my other tried and true options in the burbs, but the other day a window of opportunity opened and my daughter and I decided to step inside. Which is much nicer than one might expect from the outside looking in. In fact, one might even go so far as to say it’s impressive, with its large dining room, high ceilings, and surprisingly hip bar. The only things bringing it down are the giant, round hotel-esque counter at the entrance and the large staircase cutting through the space.

Also, a word of advice as to where to sit in the expansive dining arena. Definitely avoid the booths, because if you do sit there, you will be out of sight and out of mind, literally having to stand and flail your arms like a castaway on a deserted island just to get a waiter’s attention.And attention you will need, because the food tends to need a lot of help to get the flavor going. For example, the pizza is more of a flatbread and the flatbread is more like the crap you throw together for your kid when you are just trying to scrape by with pasta sauce, sliced cheese and a random pocket of pita bread or naan. So should you order it as an adult, you will definitely want some red pepper flakes to help overcome the nothingness.

The chicken cutlet sandwich is also pretty bland, surprisingly so for something that’s supposed to be packing Sriracha mayonnaise. So be sure to order it with a side of Sriracha to give it the oomph it was born to have. With that caveat, I can proudly say the sammie wasn’t half bad.

And last but not least, something that wasn’t half good. The apple crumbly with ice cream and a caramel drizzle simply isn’t worth the time on the treadmill. And compared to places like Truck, Fortina, Beford 234 and Village Social the Lexington Diner simply isn’t worth the space in your stomach.

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Little Drunken Chef

36 E Main St. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 242-8800

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Well, the fact that the chef is a self-proclaimed drunk explains a lot. And considering this place got four stars on Yelp, I’d say the chef isn’t the only one who’s plastered, because you’d have to be shit-faced to think this place was even worth three, much less two. And yet both times we have tried to go here there has been a 45 and 20-minute wait respectively. The second time we powered through it with a few drinks at the bar, which also had a wait to be seated. We haven’t had this hard a time getting a table in Westchester since Bedford 234, but at least that meal proved worth it.

So back to the bar, where we were eventually able to squeeze in and get the only highlights of the night, the drinks. Figures when you take into account where you are. The two drinks we had were the sake cucumber concoction and the Drunken Manhattan, which is far less inventive than the sake (my reco), tasting like your run of the mill Manhattan, but served in a martini glass as opposed to a lowball. Oooooh!

Then miracle of miracles happened, our table was ready in under 20 minutes. And lucky us, we scored a drunken, jovial waiter who went on to swoon about roughly 75% of the menu, which is always a worrisome sign, made only more worrisome by the fact that not one single recommendation was even just okay, much less good. I think he was just ecstatic to have a job and someone to talk to.

Starting with the Tossed Goat Salad, the kale is overdressed, the Drunken Goat (that’s the actual name of the cheese, which is available at any Whole Foods, but aptly chosen for its name) is shaved so thin you can’t even taste it and the chunks of peach aren’t even ripe! On the plus side, at least they didn’t screw up the candied pecans. But the rest of the salad should definitely be “tossed.”

Next came the jamon and manchego croquettes four ways. And sadly 75% of them sucked about five different ways by my count. The only one rising to an “eh” was the chutney, but I suppose that’s to be expected since Indian is the closest in to the chef’s comfort zone.

As the night progressed, the losers kept coming and I’m not just referring to the clientele lined up outside still waiting for a table. I’m also talking about the pulled pork buns, served with a hint of chimichurri. Not with actual chimichurri, mind you. Just a hint. That hint being in the description on the menu, yet nowhere to be found in the dish itself.

And for an entrée, I highly recommend the paella for none. I tried the Paella for one and it might very well be the worst form of Spanish torture since the Inquisition. Overcooked rice, overcooked chicken, overcooked scallops, overcooked mussels and a sprig of chorizo- granted I’m not entirely sure it was honestly chorizo, but it was definitely a sausage of some kind.

Now I know I get dramatic sometimes and take things to extremes, but to have had to wait 20 minutes for this performance should be punishable by death. I’d rather wait in line at the DMV! Seriously. And the worst part is that I had to actually pay for the mistreatment of my mouth! But what’s crazy about all of this is that I have actually been a long time fan of the “Little” franchise, going back to its humble beginnings as just a Kebab Station. Then a Spice Market. That said, I’ve noticed that the further they step away from their bailiwick, the more the seams start to show, because Crepe Street is a bit of a pass, especially compared to places like Good Food in Briarcliff. But never has anything been as bad as this place, which if allowed, I would like to rename “Little Big Mistake.”

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Hacienda La Paloma

443 Lexington Ave. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 864-1750 haciendalapaloma.com

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There are two schools of Mexican, old and new, and while I am much more partial to the more inventive, more refined, more Tex Mex side of the campus, I can also appreciate the merits of the cuisine in its more traditional state. And as far as authentic Mexican goes, Hacienda does muy bueno.

By authentic I am not, however, referring to the Disney-esque hacienda you see in the photograph above. I actually go in spite of that, which should say something about the offerings within. Such offerings as good food, friendly staff and generous portions. In fact, most entrees are big enough to serve two or three people and still have leftovers. Case in point, the highly recommend fajitas. Loaded with veggies, three different kinds of peppers and enough rice, beans, tortillas, salsa and chips to max out the stomach capacity of a large, ravenous coyote.

Other worthwhile dishes include the Bistec a la Tampiquena (steak with onions, cactus salad, a cheese enchilada, guac, rice and beans- told you they were generous) and the arroz con pollo. Neither are quite as impressive as the fajita, but they get r done. The only laggard for me would be the camarones en salse verde (shrimp in green salsa). It’s atypically normal sized and asadly not all that great.

So, if you’re not all that close to Bar Taco or Truck, or simply don’t feel like making the shlep, but you’re still jonesing for something South of the Border, then hop in your coche and head on over to the Hacienda, arriba! It’s not great, but as Goldie Locks would say, it’s just right.

3 teeth

Bellizzi

153 E Main St. Mount Kisco, NY10549 • (914) 241-1200bellizzifood.com

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If you are just going for pizza, be warned that without kids you will likely find this place to be hell on Earth. It’s part arcade, part romper room- oh, and part pizzeria. But if you order delivery, none of that really matters, now does it? All that matters is the food. And to be fair, that’s usually all that matters. After all, I’d rather eat an incredible meal in a hovel than a crappy meal in a castle.

So, shocking as it may be, this garish, kid-laden eyesore actually manages to serve up a pretty mean pie. My favorite being their namesake, the Bellizzi Special with lemon thyme crust, roasted peppers, zucchini, herbs, and a killer sauce- My wife and I were both extremely impressed. Better than 80% of the pies you get in Manhattan.

Beyond that pie, however, the drop off is steep. And if you don’t have kids I strongly urge that you head elsewhere for your pizza-fix. In the immediate area I recommend Old Stone Trattoria or surprisingly Village Social. Both have solid pies, without the cheese… meaning cheesy decor. The pies obviously have cheese.

2 teeth

Lefteris Gyro

190 E Main St. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 242-8965 • lefterisgyro.com

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I have eaten at all three locations, Tarrytown, Mount Kisco and Yonkers (Ridge Hill), not so much because I am a Lefteris groupie, but more because I like a good gyro and no matter where you are in Westchester, Lefteris is never too far away. And while I wish I could regale you with stories of magnificently thin lamb shavings, sprinkled with pixie dust, the greatness of Lefteris is born more from the rules of supply and demand than any culinary hocus-pocus. Put plainly, they are the only game in town.

And currently Lefteris is winning that game 3-0, because all three locations appear to be doing a good business. Partly due to the kid friendly/family friendly vibe. And partly due to the insanely generous portions for bargain basement prices. When I have it delivered, one order of the gyro platter is enough to feed me for two nights, making it less than eight bucks a meal. Note to the penny pincher.

Please take the knife count below with a grain of salt though. The stuffed grape leaves are crap and you can find better spinach pie at Stew Leonard’s, but the pitas always come warm and the gyro meat and souvlaki seldom miss the mark- that mark being a very casual Greek fix. They’re definitely not trying to be MP Taverna (not that MP impressed me either). So recalibrate your expectations and go for some good, quick, cheap, Greek eatin’ and you’ll be happier than Socrates… before he drank the hemlock.

3 teeth

Winston

130 E Main St. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 244-9780winstonrestaurant.com

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Well that was a pleasant surprise. We had no idea what to expect when we set foot inside, but the décor is really quite fetching with its dramatic skylight, exposed brick and divided light windows. Unfortunately they undercut its beauty a tad by over-lighting the place.

The other surprise came from how young our server was, borderline an embryo, I’m not sure he was even old enough to serve. Which brings me to the cocktails. Having read online about how great they are, we were very excited to partake. I went with the Gentleman’s Fig and wifey chose the blood orange margarita. Sadly, I can’t say we shared the same enthusiasm for the booze. For starters, the Gentleman’s Fig is so sickly sweet I’m not exactly sure what gentleman would ever order it? Granted I did, so… selfie slam! And as for the blood orange margarita, it was marginally passable. The one at Truck and ABC Cocina rock its world.

Things picked up from there, however, with two great appetizers, the salmon tartar and the beef carpaccio. Both served with an inventive twist and both worthy of a FF stamp of approval. FF being short for Ferocious Foodie. Should I not go there? Thoughts?

For mains the striped bass was well cooked and prepared with really nice flavors like pear relish, sautéed spinach and herbed potato dumplings. It was definitely the better of the two. The other being a NY Strip grilled in a cumin-mustard rub and served over smashed baby potatoes with kale in a port wine reduction. And while all of that other stuff was indeed as awesome as it sounds, the steak itself was tough and flavorless, even though it was cooked to spec, medium rare.

And the ending only weakened from there, running out of the only dessert we were interested in, the warm apple tart. But apart from walking away empty handed desert-wise, the rest of the meal was still strong enough to carry things to a solid three. Let’s see if they can impress further come round two…

3 teeth

L’anjou Patisserie Francaise

130 N Bedford Rd. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 242-4929lanjoupatisserie.com

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Once again La Tulipe was closed, so once again I found myself hunter-gathering a back up plan for our Sunday morning family croissant ritual. Having already tried Jean-Jacques in Pleasantville and Susan Lawerance in Chappaqua, Anjou was the last bastion of hope for a go-to alternative according to the wisdom of Chapp Moms.

And while Anjou was certainly the best of the attempts to find said alternate, I believe it’s best at this point if we just do the unthinkable and go croissantless for a week or two until La Tulipe reopens. Brutal, I know. First-World problems are the worst.

So why did Anjou come up short? Well, right out of the gate one has to take marks off for not serving things freshly baked. I got there as soon as they opened and the croissants were already as cold as the weather outside. Maybe I could forgive him if he was busy baking tons of other morning goodies, but the place is tiny and there were no other freshly baked excuses to be found.

My other major complaint is texture. The croissants are way too doughy. This is blasphemy as far as I’m concerned. If you can’t make a croissant flaky, you just shouldn’t be offering croissants. Consider yourselves on notice Jean and Susan. That’s right. I’m getting’ real up in this bitch.

But before I go too deep down this rabbit hole of criticism, I do have to give Anjou props for flavor. Surprisingly I found the chocolate within the chocolate croissants to be excellent. Perhaps even better than in Tulipe’s. Just not as ooey-gooey because they weren’t warm.

And while the marzipan in the almond croissants was also good in terms of flavor, it was nowhere near as good as at La Tulipe, which is a tall order considering La Tulipe’s almond croissant is an Ultimate.

2 teeth

Lalibela

37 S Moger Ave. Mount Kisco, NY 10549 • (914) 864-1343 • lalibelamountkisco.com

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I can count the number of Ethiopian restaurants I’ve been to on one hand. And part of that is a reflection on me, I suppose. But the balance of blame, to be fair, should be on Ethiopians. After all, it’s not like they have a ton of options out there to choose from. I’m not saying they need to catch up to Italy or anything, but let’s just say there’s room for improvement.

So, why don’t I eat at the ones I have been to more often? Well, to be honest, I can’t say I LOVE the cuisine itself. It always comes up short for me. And while I certainly enjoy the cultural novelty and ritual with the huge, dramatic plates and using bread as a utensil, it’s still not enough to distract me from the inadequacies of the food itself.

But strangely enough, my issues with Ethiopian cuisine of the past was very different this time around. Usually my gripe is that every dish tastes exactly the same. Just a hodgepodge of spices and sauce with some sort of indiscernible meat floating within.

This time, it was nothing of the sort. At Lalibela I could quite clearly taste the differences between each dish, but ironically I found myself missing all of those spices. I know, I just can’t be happy, right? I’m like a bad client. But is it so much to ask that I be able to taste the meat within in my dish and have a little heat? Apparently.

Nonetheless, Lalibela did have its moments. Surprisingly the avocado salad was the runaway success. Highly recommend. Worth 4 or 5 knives on its own. I also loved the roasted beet salad that came as a side accompaniment with our main dishes. Very tasty. And third for me would be the misir dat (alicha) – “alicha” means the non-spicy version and “misir” means lentils. We got it because we were expecting our two meat dishes to be much hotter.

The two meat dishes, a.k.a. losers, were a grounded meat and jalapeno dish- and yes, it wasn’t spicy… And their signature chicken dish with drumsticks and a hard boiled egg. Also not very spicy.

So it would seem that perhaps vegetarian dishes are the Lalibela’s bailiwick. Good to know for next time. Either that or we ask the kitchen to make the other stuff spicier. Always a dangerous game of semantics.

Décor is very charming with its brightly color walls adorned with beautiful photography of the Ethiopian people.

And staff, while friendly, is a touch on the slow side. But I’ll forgive them because they gave a very solid recommendation on the beer. St. George is a very refreshing Ethiopian lager that pairs nicely with the food… and would pair even nicer if the food was spicier. Okay, horse officially beaten to death. Check!

3 teeth