Skillet, the Once-A-Month Croton Restaurant

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Hi there, Katherine Curry checking in and I’m not writing about ice cream — can you believe it?

Have you heard about Skillet?  It’s a pop-up restaurant that takes over Grouchy Gabe’s Grill in Croton one Saturday evening each month.  You call weeks — months, even — ahead to get on the list.

It’s taken me a long time to get a reservation at Skillet.  In fact, it’s taken me so long, and I liked it so much, that I’m questioning why I’m telling you about it.  You’re just going to tell other people and make me wait even longer to get another reservation, aren’t you?

Last Saturday night was finally Skillet night.  I went with my husband and our friends Gillian and Richard. We were there for the 6 p.m. seating (there are two seatings — the other one is at 8-ish).

It was a hot, sticky night, but a few brave souls were sitting outside.

Grouchy Gabe’s has a bunch of picnic tables for folks who come in for breakfast or lunch — Gabe’s is a nice little place, good food.  (And turns out owner Gabe Boivin helps out in the kitchen at Skillet, too.)

Self-taught chef David Leveen, pictured below,  is the chef and mastermind behind this fun concept (you may have read about it in the New York Times this winter). The menu is different every month based on what’s fresh and in season. The night we were there, one of his daughters was manning the front of the house.  (Her “regular” job is managing  Morimoto in Philadelphia; another daughter’s manager at Buddakan!)

Leveen uses seafood from Pura Vida, and produce from The Meadows Farm, a personal favorite of mine.

The spicy gazpacho I had as an appetizer was packed with fresh vegetables.

My husband had the “Cousteau”, a shrimp and calamari salad with cherry tomatoes, celery and kalamata olives.  Our friends started with the Caesar salad.  Everything was fresh, simple, and delicious.

Skillet is BYOB, no corkage fee. My pal Gillian stopped by local Deprez Wine, where they give a 10% discount if you tell them you’re picking up wine to take to Skillet. Here’s a look at the room — it was a lively, happy place to be.  Baker and Croton resident Susan O’Keefe was there celebrating her son’s birthday (and yes, of course we all sang “Happy Birthday”).

There were five skillet entrees to choose from, priced between $28 and $30.  Each one is big enough to amply feed two people.

We ordered the chicken paella and the cioppino for the table.  Here comes one of our skillets!

The skillets, provided through an arrangement with Lodge Cast Iron, are pretty darn big.  And hot.  So hot that the wait staff has these special squares of wood to put down on the table to protect the surface.  Here’s the paella before.

And after.

Delicious, as you can tell.  Other options were a grilled Texas rib eye (the table behind us had that, and it smelled yummy), the special skillet burgers, or pretzel crusted crab cakes.

The cioppino was teeming with fresh seafood — mussels, clams, shrimp, hunks of lobster, calamari and flounder.

It came with this very good grilled herby garlic bread, perfect for sopping up the flavorful broth.

We shared two desserts — peach cobbler and blueberry cheesecake.  Both were homemade and delicious.  The cheesecake, made by Susan O’Keefe, was a huge hit.  I’m not sure my husband has ever had homemade cheesecake, and the texture and flavor blew him away.

You can find Susan and her baked goods under the moniker “Baked by Susan” at the Croton Farmer’s Market on Wednesdays — she doesn’t come to the market with cheesecake since it wouldn’t do so well in the heat, but call her to order one and she’ll bring it to the market for you.

The peach cobbler, made by Croton resident Dave Tuttle of Tuttle’s Homemade, was so good I tried to commandeer it for myself. I need to eat this again, soon.

Oh, and the walls of Grouchy Gabe’s usually feature artwork from an area artist.  Up now are watercolors by artist Robert Heinrichs, who has a nice painting of my favorite Ossining Mexican restaurant, Los Abuelos (it’s the painting on the top).

Skillet is such a success that Leveen is planning on adding Sunday night dinners (no reservations) and also a more frequent pop-up restaurant, at another Croton location, in the fall.  The whole idea is well-executed, delicious, and unique, so I’m looking forward to more opportunities to have a Skillet experience.

Oh, and keep Skillet a secret, okay? See, I’m not even telling you the phone number, so you can’t go.

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