Second Annual Pristine Awards

 

Awards

Welcome to the Second Annual Pristine Awards, where I pick the best “must eat” foods of the year based on what I have reviewed in 2016. As opposed to last year I will be changing up the format a bit to help keep this short and sweet. If a category is underrepresented in my reviews this year (Eg. if I ate a food item/category last year and not this year, or there were no new options), then they will not be mentioned here (for last year’s winners, click this link).

Best Burger Winner: Pretzel Burger (WBC) 

Runner Up: The 5 Napkin, 14 Spice Stuffed Burger (The Cobblestone)

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The Pretzel Burger takes it for the second year in a row, the Cobblestone’s offering put up a great fight, but Westchester Burger Co. has seriously perfected this amazing burger.

Best Specialty Pizza Winner: French Fry Pizza (Silver Lake Pizza)

Runner Up: Philly Cheesesteak Pizza (Silver Lake Pizza)

Former Winner: Vodka Sauce Pizza (Luca Bella)

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I mention former winner and runner up because of the immense respect I have for the now closed down Luca Bella and their Vodka Sauce pizza, that being said this was hands down the best specialty pizza I had this year, nothing else comes close. The combination of french fries, bacon, ranch, chives, and two kinds of cheese is fantastic, and is a whole lot better than should be allowed.

Best BBQ Winner: Cider Spiced Ribs (Whetstone Station)

Runner Up: The Trash Rib Teasers (Holy Smoke)

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What else can I say about these ribs that I haven’t already said? As I wrote in my review, “Smothered in sauce, these ribs are near perfection. The BBQ sauce is sweet, with a semi hot (but not overpowering) cider spice.” Can’t beat it.

Best Bird Winner: Duck Confit (Le Provencal)

Runner Up: Fried Chicken (Birdsall House)

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Our second two-time winner, this Duck Confit remains the best bird I have ever had, and the most steak like bird I’ve seen.

Best Desert Winner: Cheesecake (Westchester Burger Co.)

Runner Up: Maple Bacon Ice Cream (Birdsall House)

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Believe it or not, the runner up race was harder to pick than the winner! There were a lot of good choices this year, but the cheese(cake) stands alone.

Best Penne Alla Vodka Winner: Sal’s (White Plains)

Runner Up: Doubleday’s.

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To be honest, if Luca Bella were still around, there would be no contest; Sal’s is great, but Luca Bella was something else. That being said, Sal’s has become the best Penne Vodka in Westchester County, and is deserving of this victory for sure.

Best Non-Beef/Bird Meat Winner: Rack of Lamb (KEE Oyster House)

Runner Up: Pork Belly with Miso and Kimchi (Communal Kitchen) 

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Truly the best lamb I’ve ever tasted; from the rich red tenderness of the meat, to the succulent bone and citrus infused panko crust, this is a meal to behold…and then devour.

Best Appetizer Winner: Chicken Fried Steak Bites (Prohibition River)

Runner Up: Charcuterie Board (Communal Kitchen)

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Still one of the most amazingly flavored appetizers out there, I’ve been longing for it ever since I first tried it. While it is not readily available on the menu (it is seasonal), it is still the top appetizer around.

Best Steak Winner:  8 oz Filet Mignon (Ruth’s Chris)

Runner Up: 8 oz Filet Mignon Au Poivre (O’Malley’s)

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You can’t go wrong with a prime cut of steak that is served on a sizzling 500 degree plate. For awhile O’Malley’s was going to take home the title, but then Ruth’s Chris came back into my life during Hudson Valley Restaurant Week; and I’m so glad she did.

Best Soup/Chowder Winner: New England Clam Chowder (O’Malley’s)

Runner Up: Roasted Tomato Soup (Ruth’s Chris)

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I know I’ve said this a lot, but this is simply the best New England Clam Chowder I’ve tried. The roasted tomato soup was great, but the “chowdah”at O’Malley’s is simply amazing.

Best Hot Sandwich Winner: Phive All Day (Philly’s: A Taste of Philadelphia)

Runner Up: Ale Roasted Cheese Steak (Lazy Boy Saloon)

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Another two-time winner and with good reason, this is one of the most unique sandwiches out there. Take your traditional Philly and add bacon and secret sauce to it nd you have a Phive All Day. Wonderful.

Best Side Dish Winner: Garlic Balls (PPT’s)

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Another two time winner that is totally unique; doughy, sweet, and full of Garlic. This is a great side to pizza and even a great dish to bring home by itself. Truly deserving.

Best Philly Cheesesteak Winner: Silver Lake Pizza

Runner Up: Tighe’s Tavern

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The final two-time winner, and my favorite Philly that I’ve had, this sandwich from Silver Lake Pizza is top notch, and has yet to be beat (maybe when I visit Philly?)

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That’s it for the Second Annual Pristine Awards, thanks so much for reading and I hope to see you back in the New Year!

 

 

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First Annual Pristine Awards

Awards

Welcome to the First Annual Pristine Awards, where I pick the best “must eat” foods of the year based on what I have reviewed in 2015. The Categories this year are as follows:

Best Burger, Best Plain Pizza, Best Specialty Pizza, Best Sicilian Pizza, Best BBQ, Best Bird, Best Desert, Best Milk Shake, Best Mac and Cheese, Best Penne Alla Vodka, Best “Other” Pasta, Best Appetizer, Best Side Dish, Best Soup/Chowder, Best Hot Sandwich, Best Deli Sandwich and Best Philly Cheesesteak. 

Each category will be broken down into the top 3 choices, and the winner will be chosen from the finalists. Certain categories that only have one choice in them, such as Steak, Salad, Burrito, Smoothie, etc. will be forwarded to next year’s awards when they will (hopefully) have some competition. With that out of the way, on with the awards!

Best Burger: Pretzel Burger (WBC) vs. Bacon Cheeseburger (O’Malley’s) vs. Eastchester Burger (Piper’s Kilt.) 

Winner: The Pretzel Burger – Westchester Burger Co.

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While the other two choices were both amazingly delicious, the Pretzel Burger just had no downsides. With a perfect patty, delicious melted cheese, crispy maple bacon and a pretzel bun, one can’t go wrong with this choice. Besides, when a burger can make me actually enjoy an egg, that’s an extra bonus.

Best Plain Pizza: Plain Slice (Portofino’s) vs. Original Tomato Pie w/ Mozzarella (Frank Pepe)

Winner: Plain Slice – Portofino’s.

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Portofino’s combines a great flavor with an amazingly sized slice. New York makes some of the best pizza in the world, and this slice easily ranks up there with the best of them.

Best Specialty Pizza: Vodka Sauce Pizza (Luca Bella) vs. Big Mac Slice (Luca Bella) vs. White Pizza (Tarantella)

Winner: Vodka Sauce Pizza – Luca Bella 

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This slice beats out the other delicious specialties from Luca Bella and Tarantella, because the Vodka Sauce used on this slice is by far the best Vodka Sauce I’ve ever had. The idea to put this sauce on the pizza was inspired, and we are all better off for it.

Best Sicilian Pizza: Nicky’s vs. Sal’s vs. Portofino’s

Winner: Sal’s Sicilian Pizza.

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Nicky’s had thickness, Portofino’s had size, but Sal’s was perhaps the best Sicilian I’ve ever had, and certainly the best in Westchester. Light and airy, and yet somehow filling; with perfectly melted cheese and an amazing sauce, Sal’s Sicilian pizza earns the easy victory.

Best BBQ: Pulled Pork Sandwich (Jack’s *Ribfest NH*) vs. Trash Rib Teasers (Holy Smoke) vs. Ribs (Texas Smokehouse *Ribfest NH*)

Winner: The Trash Rib Teasers – Holy Smoke.

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Believe it or not, the rib teasers actually beat out a full rack and pulled pork, mainly due to how meaty and flavorful a rib Holy Smoke was able to concoct. The Texas ribs were great, but Holy Smoke gets the edge.

Best Bird: Duck Confit (Le Provencal) vs. Fried Chicken (Holy Smoke)

Winner: Duck Confit – Le Provencal.

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If I’m being honest, I don’t like eating birds that much; so many places just don’t do a good job preparing them. Holy Smoke and Le Provencal are two establishments who know what they are doing. I went with the Duck because it was simply one of the best birds I’ve ever had. In my review I described it as “the steak of birds” and in the end, that is what sealed the victory for the Duck Confit.

Best Desert: Cheesecake (WBC) vs. Black Salted Caramel Donut (Gypsy Donut)

Winner: Cheesecake – Westchester Burger Co.

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This was a harder decision than you might think; the black salted caramel is one of the most unique and delicious things I’ve ever tasted, but the Cheesecake won in part due to its light, and rich texture and flavor. The plating of the desert was also an added bonus but did not play into the decision.

Best Milkshake: Chocolate Milkshake (City Limits) vs Italian Nutella Milkshake (WBC)

Winner: Italian Nutella Milkshake – Westchester Burger Co.

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The specialty milkshake carries the day. I love chocolate milkshakes, but the Italian Nutella was just too good not to win. The flavor was unique, and  it was made so well. Both were great, but WBC’s was just better.

Best Mac and Cheese: Mac and Cheese (Piper’s Kilt) vs. Deluxe Cheeseburger Mac (Mr. Mac’s) vs. Philly Cheese Steak Mac (Mr. Mac’s).

Winner: Philly Cheese Steak Mac – Mr. Mac’s.

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Man, I wish this restaurant would come to New York! The Philly-Mac was simply one of the best things I’ve ever had. The Macaroni and Cheese portion was great, and made even better by an authentic taste of the Philly Cheesesteak.  Not only that, but it also has great re-heat value; and while I love the Mac at Piper’s Kilt, Mr. Mac’s specialty is their Mac and Cheese, and this is one of the best.

Best Penne Alla Vodka: Sal’s (White Plains) vs. Luca Bella

Winner: Penne Alla Vodka – Luca Bella

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Its the sauce. In the same way that Luca Bella won best specialty pizza with their Vodka Sauce slice, they win the Penne category with the sauce being where it was always meant to be, on pasta. It was a hard choice given that Sal’s sauce included a few extra and delicious elements, but in the end, Luca Bella’s sauce was just that much better.

Best “Other” Pasta: Spinach Ricotta Pillows (Grazie) vs. Linguine and Clams (Lago)

Winner: Spinach Ricotta Pillows – Grazie

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A country club take on spinach ravioli, these pillows were not only delicious, but presented in a wonderful manner. The spinach and ricotta meld beautifully and just made for a great pasta dish.

Best Appetizer: Speck (Lago) vs. Dueling Meatballs (Grazie) vs. Chicken Fried Steak Bites (Prohibition River)

Winner: Chicken Fried Steak Bites – Prohibition River.

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Possibly the toughest choice so far; on one hand you have a a wonderful Charcuterie dish, but you also have a fantastic meatball offering. But the Chicken Fried Steak Bites get the victory because it is one of the most delicious appetizers out there. Filet Mignon steak bites, with a deliciously crispy skin and a fantastic gravy? How could it not get the win?

Best Side Dish: Garlic Balls (PPT’s) vs. Beer Battered Onion Rings (O’Malley’s) 

Winner: Garlic Balls – PPT’s.

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The ultimate side to pizza, Garlic Balls from PPT’s are doughy, sweet, and full of Garlic. It is easily one of the most unique side dishes out there, and a must try for anyone who likes good food.

Best Soup/Chowder: New England Clam Chowder (O’Malley’s) vs. New England Clam Chowder (Townhouse)

Winner: New England Clam Chowder – O’Malley’s.

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Very easily the best New England Clam Chowder I’ve had, as it is the specialty of the Chef at O’Malley’s. It is thick, creamy, and has great clams. An easy dish to return to over and over, and I do almost every time I go to O’Malley’s.

Best Hot Sandwich: Phive All Day (Philly’s) vs. Aged Beef Top Round w/ French Onion (Melt)

Winner: Phive All Day – Philly’s: A Taste of Philadelphia.

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One of the most unique and succulent sandwiches out there, the Phive All Day wins based on its combination of traditional Philly Cheesesteak elements, but with the fantastic additions of bacon and home-made “McNabb Sauce.” (Note: This Sandwich will not be considered for the category of Philly Cheesesteak because it has too many unique elements).

Best Deli Sandwich: Sicilian Sandwich (Roosters) vs. The Godfather (Anthony’s) vs. American Combo (Anthony’s)

Winner: American Combo – Anthony’s Deli.

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Another tough choice, especially considering that the Godfather is Anthony’s signature sandwich. Don’t get me wrong, the Godfather is a fantastic Italian Sandwich (as is Rooster’s Sicilian), but the American Combo just has the “it factor” in terms of traditional deli sandwiches. The bread, as well as every meat used is fresh, and the size is fantastic. I’ve had all three of these sandwiches on multiple occasions, but the American Combo is the one that I go back to the most.

Best Philly Cheesesteak: Silver Lake Pizza vs. Royal Scarlet Deli

Winner: Philly Cheesesteak – Silver Lake Pizza.

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Easily my favorite Philly Cheesesteak, Silver Lake Pizza knows what they are doing in regards to this sandwich. The bread is crisp, the meat is thick and flavorful, the cheese is melted perfectly, and the peppers and onions are a nice addition to this juicy sandwich.

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That’s it for the First Annual Pristine Awards, thanks so much for reading and I hope to see you back in the New Year!

 

O’Malley’s: New England Clam Chowder

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Its hard to come by good New England Clam Chowder outside of its namesake location; fortunately for us, it just so happens to be a chef specialty at O’Malley’s in Nyack.

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This is by far the best New England Clam Chowder I have ever had (though my experience with this dish has been mostly relegated to New York), and it comes in two sizes; cup, and bowl. Pictured above is the cup, but I readily suggest everyone get the bowl.

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O’Malley’s chowder is a pure and accurate taste of New England; thick and creamy, with a nice combination of sweetness and zest. The clams were fresh and had a good chew to them (avoiding the common fault of rubbery clams); the potatoes were hearty, and the vegetables had a good slight crunch to them.

This is an appetizer that could very well be a meal, and by the time you’ve finished it, there is an excellent chance that it will leave you craving more.

O’Malley’s has a plethora of good menu items, with this chowder being one of their best. Whether its the middle of winter, or the peak of summer, O’Malley’s New England Clam Chowder is always worth the purchase, and can give many New England restaurants a run for their money. I hope you will enjoy it soon.

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com

Silver Lake Pizza: Philly Cheesesteak

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Philly Cheesesteaks are without a question my favorite food; which is why its such a good thing that Silver Lake Pizza (located in my hometown of Silver Lake) makes the best Philly Cheesesteak I have had to date.

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In brief, Silver Lake Pizza provides taste, texture, and quantity in their Cheesesteaks; utilizing great ingredients to produce a great sandwich. The outside of the bread has a good chewiness to it while the inside is soft and laced with the juices of the sub’s fillings.

The American cheese on this sandwich is perfectly melted, so much so that even if you don’t like American cheese in general (and I do not), you will find it works perfectly in this context.

The meat is a sweetly seasoned steak that works great with the cheese, onions and peppers; and these peppers are not too hot or overly sweet, but rather bring a highly accessible taste and texture combination. It must also be said that there is a good amount of grease in this Philly, but it only helps to enhance all the other flavors held within.

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If you are looking for a great tasting Philly Cheesesteak that is also satisfyingly filling, look no further than Silver Lake Pizza. I’ve been eating Cheesesteaks for years, and have yet to find one that matches the overall product that Silver Lake produces on a regular basis; size, taste, and satisfaction will all be found in this one sandwich.

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com

Tarantella: Sicilian Slice

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There are certain key elements that go into making a good Sicilian style pizza; first the crust must be firm enough to hold its shape when picked up, but soft enough to give you a full, doughy bite (think of a pillow of dough, as opposed to a pillow of cheese).

Second, the sauce should be spread out evenly enough to lubricate your mouth with each bite; and finally the cheese must be melted in such a way that it stays on the pizza when you chow down.

I once visited a hole in the wall pizza shop (if you could even call it pizza) that served me the exact opposite of what I’ve described. The crust was too hard, the sauce was cold (after being heated up!), and the cheese was hard and slid off the slice after one bite. Last time I checked, this shop had closed down and Tarantella is still going strong; why? Because Tarantella knows how to make a proper Sicilian.

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Soft pillow of dough? Check. Melted cheese that actually stays on? Yep. Enough tomato sauce to compliment the other ingredients? You bet. This particular slice also had a nice crunch that started the closer you got to the crust. A crunch that was not the result of too hard a crust but rather just the right amount of time in the oven; and as usual, the the taste was just as good as the texture.

If you have never had a Sicilian before, you are missing out; this style takes the traditional taste of good pizza and applies it to a thicker canvas, putting a nice spin on an already great work of art; and quite simply, if you want to experience one of the best artists in the business, you must go to Tarantella Pizzeria in Nyack.

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com

Tarantella: White Pizza

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Tarantella Pizzeria in Nyack makes the best pizza I’ve ever tasted; I have had White Pizza from many different locations and while other vendors are really good (its New York after all), no one does it better than Tarantella.

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Tarantella’s White comes with a hot, thin crust; and while it is thin, it has enough of a body to it to provide a good crunch and chew with each bite. It is garnished very well (as you can see in the picture) and is layered with a soft, but thick cheese; the first thing that popped into my mind while eating it was that this slice had a “pillow of cheese” on it. The cheese was melted perfectly, it did not slide off the slice like some other cheeses would, and it also did not have the “puff of cheese” that many pizzerias tend to go with, as seen in the example below:

Picture courtesy of http://www.seriouseats.com

Now there is nothing “wrong” per se about a slice of pizza with a cheese “puff”, as they can be very tasty, but I have found that the best White Pizza, like Tarantella, avoids that method and instead gives you a straight forward White slice.

Trust me, if you like White Pizza and have the ability to get over to Nyack any time soon, do it; I have brought out of town family and friends there on multiple occasions, and hear nothing from them but rave reviews.

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com

Gypsy Donut: Black Salted Caramel

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So you are out and about in Nyack having just finished a wonderful dinner at Harry’s or O’Malley’s, and you are looking for a light but delectable desert; where do you go? The answer without a doubt is Gypsy Donut.

Gypsy makes by far some of the best donuts you will ever have, in fact, they blow other donut facilities clear out of the water (Dunkin who?). For a bit of anecdotal evidence, I took my friend Eric to Gypsy Donut once, and he ended up bringing some of them home with him; his roommate got a taste, and now whenever he is passing through New York, said roommate makes it a point to go out of his way for some of Gypsy’s finest…they are that good.

Today’s installment focuses on the Black Salted Caramel donut:

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This is one amazing donut; when you bite into it, not only do you get dough that is rich and never stale, but the mixture of black salt and caramel is inspired. The caramel is unlike any coating I have tasted to date, its a flavor that makes you wish that the donut wouldn’t end; and the black salt adds an extra spice to it that fits perfectly with the sweetness of the caramel coating.

If you are into coffee and donuts, Gypsy Donut and Espresso Bar is a place you need to visit, and often. Every other donut I have tried pales in comparison to the ones at Gypsy; so after you hit up one of Nyack’s many delicious dinner outlets, go get yourself a Black Salted Caramel donut at Gypsy, it’ll change your life (or at least your standards when it comes to donuts).

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com

Anthony’s Deli: American Combo

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Today’s review brings you one of the greatest deli sandwiches in New York, if not the country; you think I’m joking? If so, then you’ve never been to Anthony’s.

Anthony’s is a traditional Italian American deli with great food and a classic charm; known for overstuffed sandwiches at an affordable price, if you want a real NY deli experience, Anthony’s is the place to go. Their signature sandwich is known simply as “The Godfather” (“often replicated never duplicated”), and it is a fantastic wedge that I will one day review, but today belongs to the American Combo; easily my favorite thing on the menu:

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Look at that size! It is, simply put, a monster of a sandwich that Anthony’s packs with an assortment of meats, cheese and lettuce; if you don’t think its really that big, I invite you to take a look at what half of that sandwich looks like:

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Yes my friends, that is only half of what you get when you order an American Combo on a wedge; pretty awesome right? But never fear, if a wedge is not your style, you can always order it on a roll as well:

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Are you hungry yet? What is amazing about these sandwiches is that even if you traditionally do not like deli style sandwiches, you will still like most anything the staff at Anthony’s puts together. They always use the freshest ingredients and the price difference between a roll and a wedge is less than $2. But I know what you are thinking; “okay, so it looks good, but how does it taste?” The answer? Unbelievable.

I said it before, but it bears repeating; Anthony’s ingredients are always fresh. When you take a bite, a myriad of flavor and texture hits you like a brick…a delicious meat filled brick.

The bread is equipped with a perfect crust; not too hard, and not too soft. The ham and turkey both have a delightful sweetness to them, a key factor in what makes this sandwich deserving of praise. But not to be outdone, the roast beef is of the best quality and is unspoiled by time or exposure. The Swiss cheese provides a sharp bite that is the perfect counterpart to the sweetness of the ham and turkey, and crunchy iceberg lettuce with creamy mayonnaise puts a final bow on this gift to humanity.

Anthony’s Deli truly knows how to make a top notch sandwich; what could be sold for $11 or $12 elsewhere will only cost you about $8.50, a great price for a great meal*. Even better is that one could easily be satisfied by only half a sandwich and save the other half for another meal; which makes it an even greater value.

Anthony’s is my favorite sandwich shop, and I hope it becomes yours as well; so whether you live in Westchester or are just passing through, do yourself a favor and go to Anthony’s Deli in Mamaroneck; you will not be sorry you did.

Got food tips? Email me at: foodreviews24@gmail.com

*One thing that must be noted for first time buyers at Anthony’s is that they are a cash only establishment; credit/debit cards are not accepted (although they do have an ATM inside). But hey, that’s part of the charm.