By Morris Gut
The Day of the Dead is a public holiday in Mexico on November 1 and 2, when villages come together to commemorate deceased family members. There are costumes, parades, and rituals, but that has nothing to do with Halloween. It is in fact a derivative of All Saints’ Day.
It is a particularly festive time to visit your favorite restaurant south of the border and take part in customs, traditions and good food. It often starts with a good margarita or a shot of tequila.
Here are some suggestions.
Owner, host and actor John Solo of the bustling Cantina Taco & Tequila Bar in White Plains offers a three-taco lunch for $ 9.95, or you can choose one of their tasty quesadillas with steak, chicken or shrimp or a big burrito. A new rue bowl is available with a choice of protein for $ 8.95. It could also be a good time for one of their frozen drinks.
Cantina is a fun and colorful restaurant. A bright aqua pastel facade attracts along Mamaroneck Avenue. They serve a lively menu at reasonable prices south of the border. Try the new birria or cheeseburger tacos and house specials such as carnitas, chicken mole, garlic shrimp and steak fajita.
Cantina Taco & Tequila Bar is located at 166 Mamaroneck Ave. at White Plains. Open seven days. Happy hours. Info: 914-461-3959 or visit www.cantinany.com.
Chef and owner Sal Cucullo Jr. and his partners renamed this vibrant restaurant to El Barrio, showcasing Mexican street food. There are seats inside and outside.
There are breathtaking flavors and fine talent at work here, and a fun new design. El Barrio’s ready-to-go, deliver, and patio dining specialties include Mexican street corn on the cob; fried calamari y camarones (arbol aioli); traditional guacamole; wood-fired quesadillas; tacos and tostadas; the El Barrio Burger wrapped in a flour tortilla; and freshly brewed cocktails from the south of the border.
El Barrio is located at 185 Summerfield Street in Scarsdale. Info: 914-723-2600 or visit www.elbarriony.com.
This Mexican restaurant offers spectacular views of the East Branch Reservoir in Brewster and an outdoor patio for relaxing and taking photos. There is plenty of seating by the window and a dining area with a fireplace for added comfort. They often have mariachi bands, a DJ, and dance and drink specials in their large bar.
Look for culinary specialties El Aguacate (avocado stuffed with crab meat and shrimp); carnitas, which are three chewy pork tacos; sizzling fajitas; and sinaloa (giant prawns wrapped in bacon stuffed with Manchego cheese.)
Las Mananitas is located at 1250 Route 22 in Brewster. There is a large free parking area. Info: 845-279-4646 or visit www.lasmananitasrestaurant.com.
Catering and entertainment
Live entertainment is back. Here are some current sites to discover.
Casa Rina in Thornwood on Commerce Street is a 40-year throwback to the days when Italian-American cuisine reigned supreme. There are pictures of Sinatra on one wall and pictures of Marilyn Monroe highlight another.
Owner Tommy Stratis took over Casa Rina 20 years ago and has done his best to keep the creative flow going. Italian classics include hot antipasti for two; manicottis; rigatoni with broccoli rabe and sausages; chicken with scarpariello; a big zuppa di pesce; langoustines with shrimps; and, yes, veal saltimbocca.
Martinis & Meatballs at Casa Rina takes place Fridays from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. It offers $ 6 martinis and unlimited complementary meatballs with a DJ to boot.
Casa Rina is located at 886 Commerce Street in Thornwood. Info: 914-769-4515 or visit www.casarinarestaurant.com.
Pete’s living room
Since 1977, Pete’s Saloon in Elmsford has offered an extensive tavern menu as well as a healthy dose of entertainment. There’s Thursday night karaoke and a band concert schedule and even a trivia night.
New owner Anthony Bartolotta took over from outgoing founder Peter Riekstins last year and has vowed to continue the popular format. You can continue to enjoy your jumbo pretzels, pizzas and big angus burgers while soaking up the ambiance.
Pete’s Saloon is located at 8 W. Main St. in Elmsford (at routes 9A and 119). Some free parking spaces are available. Info: 914-592-9849 or visit www.petessaloon.com.
This restaurant is a short drive from SUNY Purchase and Manhattanville College. There is a separate pizza bar with tasty pies and the kitchen serves hearty Italian cuisine.
Discover the house specialties such as the salad of fresh beets; squid ink pasta; classic veal, chicken or shrimp parmigiana; or organic roast chicken. Includes bar and lounge with Happy Hours. Entertainment and dancing evenings on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. Ample free parking.
Trattoria 632 is located at 632 Anderson Hill Road. in Purchase. Info: 914-481-5811 or visit www.trattoria632.com.
Curry on Purdy
Westchester’s newest Indian restaurant offers karaoke every Wednesday from 7 p.m. The vintage lounge bar dating from the 1940s is a fascinating place to visit.
Curry on Purdy offers a wide selection of meat and vegetable curry dishes as well as specialties from across regional India. There is a Purdy Special goat curry; classic tandoori chicken out of the clay pot; rack of lamb seared in a clay oven; saffron shrimp tikka and vegetable biryani. Don’t forget the wonderful homemade Indian breads like garlic nan or onion kulcha. A daily buffet lunch is offered.
Curry on Purdy is located at 7 Purdy St. in Harrison. Info: 914-600-8500 or visit www.curryonpurdy.com.
Morris Gut is a restaurant marketing consultant and former editor of a restaurant magazine. He has been tracking and writing on the food and dining scene of Greater Westchester for 30 years. He can be reached at 914-235-6591 or at [email protected].