With real estate prices going through the roof and everyone wanting to claim a piece of the quaint suburban atmosphere for their own, the upscale little Westchester County village of Bronxville, NY can’t compete with romanticized visions of the al fresco dining experience-you know the kind: lots of tables with umbrellas over them looking out over a picturesque Italian plaza. But even with space at a premium, a few dining establishments have carved out a little section of sidewalk for their own for a few guests to eat outside. Whether enjoying the first warm flickers of the year on a spring night or a casual lunch on a sweltering summer Saturday, you’re sure to find an option you like to make a front-row seat to suburbia part of your mealtime experience.
Latitude 36° North – 124 Pondfield Road
Pondfield Road is Bronxville’s equivalent of Main Street in any other Small Town, USA-a two-lane affair cutting right into the little business district. But right before it hits shops and banks it spends a block as a curiously quiet stretch of road used primarily for transition rather than destination. Pick one of the tables at this Mediterranean establishment (formerly the solely-Italian Pane e Vino, now featuring an ambitiously expanded menu) for dinner and you’ll be faced with a consignment shop and a post office, neither a hotbed of activity, and the quiet can be calming.
A weekday lunch outside, however, is not recommended, unless scheduled late enough to avoid the local school’s lunch hour, as the spot will be swarmed with teenagers going to and from school. Kids will be kids, but it is hardly the refined crowd one wants to see and hear whilst dining at a place with tablecloths.
Underhill’s Crossing – 74.5 Pondfield Road
The curious address and the name taken from the pages of Bronxville history suggest a little spark of something unlikely about the place, and indeed one look confirms it; nestled between such unprepossessing businesses as bookshops and banks sits a place with a swanky wood-paneled front and attractive potted trees on either side. A few charming tables and chairs are deployed outside, with flowers and other plants joining if the weather is right, for what amounts to a few square feet of a classy European al fresco experience popping up in oasis form amongst more utilitarian storefronts.
The menu is described as ‘American favorites’, but it is all decidedly upscale; few restaurants in the region list an oyster glossary on their Web site. Be prepared to pay well but receive what you pay for; a young friend and frequent Underhill’s visitor offers her money-saving hint of ordering an appetizer and cake rather than an actual meal. The cake certainly offers little to complain about.
Haiku – 56 Pondfield Road
Tucked farthest away from the business end of Pondfield Road, this charming pan-Asian establishment offers unique and attractive dishes and dishware alike. There is more sidewalk space here, too, for diners who prefer to watch rather than be forced to interact with passing people. Haiku’s outdoor dining tables allow you a peek inside the table surface, lined with Oriental game boards or gilded fabric bearing writing. Whether looking for Chinese on a little higher a level than the local takeout, or something more adventurous, Haiku is suitable for a casual lunch with a friend or a more formal dinner. On busy nights, the combination of low light and boisterous conversation inside makes eating outside a particularly worthy option.
Village Cup & Saucer – 143 Parkway Road
A little coffee shop offered here more for the sake of completeness, Village Cup & Saucer is located in a cleaner, brighter portion of Bronxville on the less busy side of the train tracks. For those who want to sit in the sun without seeing suburbanites wander around, this may prove the perfect place to rest one’s feet, sip a cup of tea and eavesdrop on neighboring gossip.
Starbucks – 29 Park Place
It’s Starbucks. Surely the rest of this portion of the article can write itself. Your correspondent dutifully notes that outdoor seating atop a dais is plentiful.
Pete’s Park Place Tavern & Restaurant – 18 Park Place
A friendly neighborhood bar with juicy burgers, scrumptious shakes and generous portions, perfect for simple American fare. Outdoor tables are tucked under an awning that provides a nice little mix of sun and shade. Pete’s is a big hit with local families and the dinner-before-the-movie crowd.
Park Place as a whole is worth mentioning because a few benches line the street, and even if you just grabbed a slice of pizza or a bagel from one of the little takeout places, any quick meal or snack can take on an impromptu al fresco aspect; just sit and watch life’s passing parade. It will pass with great enthusiasm, particularly during school lunch hours, but this is not necessarily a drawback.
Bronxville is a tiny place and unlikely to be the site of the next culinary revolution, but good things do indeed come in small packages. Those curious enough to snoop around the suburbs one pleasant summer evening may indeed find themselves rewarded!