The streets of Bronxville are lined with more than a few great reasons to give the home fires a night off, particularly for a diner with money to burn. For a girl on a budget, dinners out get more complicated.
There are few things in this world that get me as excited as a really well made meal – where you can tell the chef put his heart and soul into it. So, dining on a budget can be a challenge. I can’t quite afford to eat at the places I’d like, and I’d really rather not frequent the places I can.
I also don’t want to go into a local bistro for just salad and water. I know the servers are counting on tips from the high-ticket items to make a living, and as a former waitress, I feel a strong obligation to “rent” the table.
The idea of eating dinner at the bar hit me like a bolt of lighting one day, and I’ve been singing its praises ever since. At the bar, it is perfectly acceptable to make a meal out of a couple of appetizers. Nobody expects a bar patron to order dessert or the special du jour. And the service from bartenders (especially in B’ville) can’t be beat.
One of my favorite places to dine à la bar is Sammy’s Downtown on Pondfield Road. I get the same thing every time, and I can’t get enough of it: Elsa Bianchi Argentinean Cabernet, Canadian Mussels, and Wild Mushroom and Porcini Risotto.
The mussels are always plump and cooked to perfection, and the risotto is so creamy – I swear there must be some guy in the kitchen whose only job is to stir the risotto all night long. (Sharing a bottle of wine is also a great budgeting tip; you get five glasses for about the cost of three.)
I took my friend Jason with me to Sammy's last night. He’s always willing to go along with my crazy ideas, but he was dubious of my assertion that two people could really make a meal out of just appetizers.
So, we ordered a third dish, the fried calamari, to make him comfortable. The calamari was wonderful, served with a fra diavolo sauce that packed quite a punch. But we ended up with too much food and a doggy bag.
As I promised, Jason did a double take when we got the bill – only $78. I would have paid a lot more for this evening, he said. I think I've turned him around on the benefits of dining at the bar.