Dining at pinch American Grill, the Alain Ducasse-concept restaurant at Empire City Casino in Yonkers, is an other-wordly experience. It starts with valet parking. You leave your car inside a giant bubble that somewhat resembles the pyramid at the Louvre, then stroll into a double-height lobby filled with a dizzying array of buzzing, ringing and blinking slot machines and gamblers intent on their next big score.
Then, it’s up a glass staircase to pinch. It’s a little like being in Oz.
The restaurant, on the casino’s mezzanine level, is lovely — no glitter and glitz here. The decor was inspired by a classic 1950s diner, with red banquettes and lots of chrome accents, a barrel-vaulted ceiling and hanging pendants. There are small tables and cavernous booths, perfect for a large party of revelers. Some of the tables even feature personal taps, the better to pour your own from the 100 New York craft beers on tap.
We settled in for dinner at the U-shaped bar to do some serious people-watching.
The menu is billed as modern American grill, so there’s a raw bar, big steaks (a 32-ounce bone-in ribeye), sandwiches, burgers and some signature items such as the Pinch burger — a crispy pork belly served with red onions and a sunny-side-up egg with a beer/cheese sauce. There’s some fun stuff, too, like onion soup shooters and beer floats for dessert. Chef Fabienne Eymard uses locally sourced ingredients and almost everything on her menu, including the ice cream, is house-made.
After dinner, check out Alley 810, a vintage two-alley bowling alley and cocktail bar adjacent to the restaurant. And there’s always the lure of the casino. I pumped $10 into a slot machine called Kitty Glitter and was $10 poorer for the experience.
What we tried
Three-way crab cake. Salacious name, sublime taste. Three appetizer-sized crab cakes on individual buns come with three sauces: spicy chipotle mayo, tangy tartar and barbecue, so you can doctor them up as you please.
Mini short rib tacos. Not as impressive as the crab cakes, but the short ribs were tender and flavorful served on soft tortillas with a dab of avocado, fresh cilantro and sour cream.
Rainbow beet salad. Thinly sliced beets are arranged in a layer on the bottom and then the salad is piled on top. I thought it needed a little more goat cheese; my husband thought it needed less. You can get the salads in half or full portions.
Grilled and breaded chicken. You read that right. Eymard grills a half chicken, then smears it with honey mustard, breads it and bakes it. That extra step yields incredibly juicy meat with a crunchy skin. It comes with a small pot of crushed potatoes and another small pot of “Devil” sauce, a thin, tangy and vinegary barbecue sauce. We called this Jackpot number one.
Seared Daurade. Daurade is a small, white Mediterranean fish and in this version, the skin is left on and the filet is seared, then served over thick wedges of roasted fennel with bits of diced tomatoes.
Drinks and Dessert
Totally of the old-school diner variety: there’s warm chocolate cake, ice cream sundaes and beer floats. Our waitress said the Chocolate Stout float was outrageous, but on top of two tall Pinch IPAs, it was a bit much. We shared two scoops of excellent housemade banana ice cream with chocolate fudge and nuts. Jackpot number two.
There is a nice selection of mostly New York and California wines, with a few French and Italians. As for beer, there are 100 New York beers on tap, along with some large format beers from Belgium, fruit beer (Dogfish Head Brewery Black and Blue) and some Trappist beers, made by monks, including a Chimay Grand Reserve. You can also buy a growler and fill it up to take home.
Mainly casino denizens, so it’s an adult audience. Our waitress said there are a lot of large parties on weekend nights, especially during harness racing season. This would be a great pre-concert option once Empire City’s summer concert series kicks off on July 6
What we will try next
The personal beer taps and a nice boneless ribeye.
There is a $35 three-course prix fixe menu available during happy hour, 5-7 p.m. Definitely consider valet parking; it’s a hefty walk or shuttle bus ride from general parking. The restaurant will validate if you spend more than $50, but you have to present the validation to the valet to get your car back.
The 411 on Pinch Cuisine: American. Entree price range: $14-$41 Great for: Big Groups, Date Night, Solo Dining, Watching the Game, Craft Beer, Cocktails, Dining at the Bar, Girls’ Night Out, Late Night Eats, Meeting for a Drink, Open Kitchen, People Watching, Private Room, Dinner with Grandparents, Singles Scene, Small Plates, Special Occasion Dining Noise level: Moderate Hours: 5:30-10:30 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday. 5:30-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Bar open till midnight. Go: 810 Yonkers Avenue, Yonkers, 914-457-2541, pinchusa.com