Sweet Grass Grill

Sweet Grass Grill, Tarrytown

Sweet Grass Grill, Tarrytown

 24 Main Street
Tarrytown, New York


5 Second Summary:

Price Range- Entrees $16-20, burgers $10-12 (at time of posting)
Ambiance- Warm, trendy neighborhood bistro
Cuisine- Traditional American, locally-produced
Hits- outdoor dining, accommodating service, fresh and organic dishes at reasonable prices, appetizers, white bean puree
Misses- desserts, warmth in waitstaff
Two-month-old Sweet Grass Grill is one of several gourmet niche bistros tucked into Tarrytown’s business district.   Turning from the car-choked congestion of Route 9 onto Main Street, which slopes lazily toward the Hudson, is like  going back in time.  Although thoroughly modern, one can clearly see the mom-and-pop storefront ethos and small-town charm that  evoke wistful remembrances of years gone by.   It’s the proverbial “Main Street” cited throughout the 2008 presidential debates, where local folks eschew corporate franchises and, instead, espouse the stuff of summer Saturday nights and Norman Rockwell nostalgia: stores like Coffee Labs, Mint, and Main Street Sweets.

Mint, Tarrytown

Mint, Tarrytown


A fan of David Starkey’s Dobbs Ferry venture, Tomatillo, I met Rich at Sweet Grass Grill  for dinner.  Always in search of delicious, locally-produced, organic foods, we had heard a great deal about SGG’s relationship to Stone Barns, namely that they offer meat and produce from the latter, and largely homemade fare.
We arrived about fifteen minutes shy of the restaurant’s actual opening time but were graciously invited to a table while  the waitstaff lit candles and placed set-ups. That fifteen minutes gave me some time to examine  the Santa-Fe coziness: vibrant reds, yellows, and a lime-like green with an earthy brown ceiling and napkins.  Normally the brown ceiling might seem oppressive, but it’s high, and a wall of windows brings  in both light and the neighborhood.  The L-shaped space is surprisingly roomy, probably since many of the tables are two-tops.  Potted grasses remind patrons of the restaurant’s namesake and accentuate a bar lit with green pendant lights.  Light wood tables lend a  natural  feel in keeping with the menu, while more informal plastic chairs with lime green slats -not unlike those outside Tomatillo- invite diners to sit on Main Street and watch the foot traffic go by.
Two of Sweet Grass Grill’s most interesting features include the facade of a house along the rear wall of the restaurant and the exposed brick wall one faces upon entering.  Both, we were told, were “discovered” by the owners and left intact.  The “facade” is actually the original 1870s exterior to the building; co-owners David Starkey and Theresa McCarthy left the door, hinges, and shutters as they were and merely cleaned and painted.  In the mid-20th century, property owners added onto the house to create the space that is now Sweet Grass Grill.  Behind the “facade” is the foyer to the apartment building behind the restaurant.  This restoration honors the local spirit in a way that makes decor consistent with a local food philosophy.
Eager to get to that local food, we ordered two appetizers: (1) tempura-fried sweet baby shrimp with a passionfruit and kaffir lime sauce as well as (2) pigs in a blanket made from local pork in a pastry with tarragon mustard.  While waiting for the appetizers, we munched on a homemade foccaccia with delicious fennel flavors, served with a white bean puree that was thick and creamy.  Tasting almost like a lemony pesto, the bits of scallion and fresh herb combined with the beans’ smooth, rich nuttiness made this an incredible combination.  It’s worth going back for the puree alone!
The tempura-fried shrimp were battered with sesame seeds, which added to both texture and taste, and served in a bowl.  As an added surprise, we found battered chunks of avocado and thinly sliced lemon in with our shrimp, which we found -again- to play beautifully on both texture and taste.  The lemon, with rind left intact, had lost most of its pulp in the fryer but was left with a pleasant, mild citrus tang totally unlike the mouth-puckering sharpness of the raw fruit.  Although Rich didn’t care for the sweet dipping sauce with its piquant kaffir lime background, I found it delicious and thought the dish nicely balanced as a whole.
Our pig in a blanket was a delicious white-meat sausage that Rich said reminded him of bratwurst.  It had great bite and crisp texture: that snap when your teeth first break the skin.  On top of the pastry were strips of pickled fennel and an oiled arugula garnish.  The appetizer was much larger than we expected, a fun play on the original bite-size hors d’oeuvres,  served atop a smear of tarragon mustard that tasted strongly of fresh tarragon and only mildly of mustard.
For dinner, I had a Sweet Grass burger with pickled green tomato and onions served with crispy house fries.  My burger was a tad overcooked for medium and had a smoky char that slightly overpowered the beef flavor.  As someone who has dabbled with uncommitted but heartfelt vegetarianism, it felt good on the conscience to eat patties that were certified humane Kansas Creekstone Farms Black Angus.  The burgers were dense and tightly packed, though, and I wished they were a bit more high and loose.  (To give you a sense of my taste and subjectivity, Rich says my burgers are shaped more like “meatballs,” but I like the loose pack because it lets the meat be meat so you can fully enjoy its flavors.)  The pickled tomato and onions were a nice touch, and the fries were nicely peppered with tasty strips of potato skin left unpeeled.  I tend to enjoy steak-style fries with a softer consistency, but if you like crisp fries -as Rich does- you might think them undercooked.
Rich’s bison burger was very overcooked (he asked for it rare).  He felt it wasn’t very flavorful, but I felt that this phenomenon -along with typical dryness- is par for the course with bison meat.  Although Rich enjoys his burgers a little flatter than my “burger meatball,” he was disappointed with the burger shape and thought it had a “frozen patty” consistency.  The sweet potato fries he chose to accompany his meal were crisp, sweet, fresh, and delicious.
As much as I visit a restaurant for its entrees, I often find dessert to be a surprise favorite (another window into my personal food biases and subjectivity).  We weighed the options,  including a brown butter panna cotta that stepped-up the traditional warm caramel fudge brownie with caramel sauce.  Another tempting option was the trio of housemade sorbets.   Instead, we chose to take home two desserts.  The first was fresh doughnuts with apricot jam and chocolate.  The doughnut was white cake with a white glaze.  I’m not sure if it was served warm, but by the time I tasted it, it was cold.  The temperature did a disservice to the taste, which was unremarkable and may be due to our decision to carry out our desserts.  The apricot jam was tart and sweet, as only apricot can be.
Our second dessert was cheesecake with a phyllo crust and strawberry graham cracker ice cream.  Rich is a cheesecake aficionado and didn’t find the cheesecake too exceptional.  I don’t consider myself enough of a cheesecake fan to comment.  Having spent the last few weeks anticipating summer by experimenting with our new ice cream maker, I was very much interested in the strawberry graham cracker ice cream.  I found the consistency smooth, the flavors fresh, and I liked the graham cracker crumble, which was both in the ice cream and freshly crumbled to preserve presentation  and texture despite the fact that we chose to eat our desserts from styrofoam at home rather than on plates in Tarrytown.  One final remark and wish for dessert was that, given the emphasis on sustainable, local organic food, I had hoped we’d be sent home with reusable containers rather than lunch-tray style styrofoam.
All in all, I left eager to return for lunch with co-workers and friends.  In both decor and food, Sweet Grass Grill offers truly local flavor.
In a  follow-up trip to Sweet Grass Grill, my family and I shared take-out.  I am incredibly pleased  to note that we were sent home with BPI-certified, compostable containers  made from sugarcane in oxo-biodegradable bags.  A very accommodating staff offered to help me out to the car, and I was sent with very pleasant wishes to enjoy my meal.
We shared a petit poulet (accompanied by pine nuts and raisins) that was incredibly tender and flavorful,  chicken parmesan chowder largely influenced by fresh herbs, fragrantly muddled stewed  cannelini beans, a beautifully crisp and delicious grilled homemade sausage sandwich with spicy grain mustard. 
Finally, I want to note that our two Sweet Grass burgers, which had been a bit lacking in the previous visit were incredible. Cooked to a perfect medium, they were tasty and -although still somewhat densely packed- very tender.  The fries were also cooked to more of a crisp.  The proper temperature made all  the difference, as the burger attained a heavenly balance with the pickled  vegetables  and soft, sweet bun.  In responses to my inquiry,  I was also assured that SGG’s beef also comes from Stone Barns, which will make consumers feel good about supporting local, sustainable food sources.

One Response to “Sweet Grass Grill”

  1. […] were occupied— impressive for a Monday night, even if other local bistros like Mint and Sweet Grass Grill are closed on Mondays. Chiboust is trendy, warm, and cozy with blue candle holders, a lovely […]

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