Chef Chris Vergara and front-of-the-house man Justin Montgomery have opened a hip new restaurant in Dobbs Ferry called Harper’s. They’re serving American food, made with American ingredients paired with an all-American wine list — what they think is the only one in Westchester.
If you’ve dined at Vergara’s other restaurant, Meritage in Scarsdale, you know something of what to expect: simple, homey cooking using local, seasonal ingredients and waste-not, want-not techniques. (Here’s a post from one of my visits there.) You know, gutsy food like duck confit, braised beef short ribs, roasted duck and homemade pastas. (One pasta, a carrot agnolotti with butter and sage is “a real eye-popper,” says Vergara.) He’s also serving local fish, including striped bass and fluke.
He will be a bit more adventurous in his menu here. “Scarsdale is Scarsdale and that clientele knows what it wants,” he says. “A different clientele gives us the opportunity to try different projects and different things — and go more casual.”
The setting, in the former Mimosa, has been completely renovated from top to bottom. “It’s a brand new restaurant and it looks like it’s been here for 50 years,” says Vergara. Which means the wood floor is distressed, the custom-built tables are inlaid with Scotch wood cases and in one room, all the wainscoting is stained palate wood. The bar is poured concrete and the banquettes are leather. Even the walls are funky: they did several layers of paint, then plaster, then paint again — including one wall that’s teal blue. The restrooms have wallpaper made from old newspaper ads.
“It’s tavern-y, very 19th century, very distressed,” says Vergara. His designer calls it “elegant decripitutde.” (I guess that’s the next shabby chic?)
Harper’s is named after Vergara’s great aunt, Rose Harper, who passed away this year. His promotional materials give us a feeling for what Rose was like:
Rose Harper claimed she drank at least two glasses of Scotch every day from age 19 to 98 — excluding the prohibition era, insisting she’d consumed 3 glasses a day out of principle.
“She was a bit of a character,” says Vergara. “It’s a little bit of hyperbole and some creative writing, but it’s not far from the truth.”
The restaurant is open for dinner except Mondays. They’ll be starting lunch and brunch soon.
The 411 is coming. Til then: 92 Main St., Dobbs Ferry. 914-693-2306.