By the end of this month a Taco Bell fast food restaurant should be opening its doors where Wendy’s had previously been at 303 Boston Post Rd. Jananne Abel|Westmore News
By the end of this month a Taco Bell fast food restaurant should be opening its doors where Wendy’s had previously been at 303 Boston Post Rd.

Jananne Abel|Westmore News
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In Port Chester, which has been designated "the restaurant capital of Westchester," the eating establishments just keep on coming. One batch hasn't even completed construction before another one crops up.

Back in April I wrote about six new restaurants under construction within a small area downtown. Of those, five have opened and all except one, the Papa John's franchise at 117 North Main St., have been featured in this Dining Out guide. They are McShane's, an Irish bar and restaurant at 123 North Main St., Port Chester Hall & Beer Garden at the train station on Broad Street, Salsa Picante Mexican Restaurant at 110 Adee St. and Spadaro Ristorante, the second location of an Italian eatery that got its start in New Rochelle and has found a home in a building with a modern new façade and deck at 50 Abendroth Ave.

Rye House Port Chester nearing completion

The sixth, Rye House Port Chester at 126 North Main St., corner of Willett Avenue, is coming along, with the most visible change from the outside the new windows on both the North Main and Willett Avenue sides of the former Zemo's men's store followed by Stratmar Systems building.

When I peeked in last Friday, I could see that the space had been transformed, but it was still too early to get a good feel for what it will look like. There are going to be two bars-one upstairs and one downstairs-and the owners are getting a license for small scale entertainment such as small piece bands and jazz to accentuate dining, not create a venue for live music.

A gentleman working inside said he hoped the gastrobar, the original location of which is in New York City, would open in about two weeks.

Rye House in NYC serves elevated bar food and creative sandwiches including picked quail eggs, boiled peanuts and fried pickles. According to Michael Jannetta, one of three partners, the menu in Port Chester will be fleshed out to make it a full blown restaurant with an American menu encompassing dishes from all parts of the U.S.

In keeping with the name of the establishment, Rye House will have a strong selection of domestic whiskeys and spirits.

Craft cocktails are also a big part of what Rye House is known for. For these they use international whiskeys, scotches, gins and vodkas with different kinds of bitters and fresh juices, syrups and specialty conserved fruit as well as special slow-melting ice. There will also be 12 beers on tap and an exclusively domestic wine list.

Dan Forrester, another partner, has lived in Rye Brook for 15 years and, Janetta said back in April, "is unwavering in his belief that Port Chester is the place to be now and exponentially so moving forward."

Six more restaurants coming down the pike

Besides Rye House, six other new or transformed restaurants--from fast food to Latino to Italian--that have been under construction have just opened or will be opening their doors in the coming months in Port Chester and Rye Brook. They are Makondo Colombian Bakery & Restaurant at 139 North Main St., River House Bar & Grill at 435-7 North Main St., Taco Bell at 303 Boston Post Rd., Popeye's on an adjacent site at 275 Boston Post Rd., Misti Café Takeout which is being expanded to encompass three storefronts at 100-4 North Main St., corner of Adee Street, and Fortina of Armonk, the owners of which are converting the former Racanelli's Restaurant space in the Rye Ridge Shopping Center at 136 South Ridge St. into their second restaurant.

Makondo Bakery & Restaurant
139 North Main St. Port Chester
305-6147

Makondo Colombian Bakery & Restaurant actually opened at 139 North Main St. on Saturday, Sept. 5, the day after I stopped by to check on its status. It was the former Tequila Blue, a bar that offended some residents when the owners painted the front bright yellow.

The Colombian-born wife and husband team of Amparo and Jorge Valencia of Greenwich, who already own a place in White Plains, have spent nine months turning the former bar into their dream restaurant.

"We're calling it a baby," Michelle Munera, niece of the owners and their spokesperson, said last Friday. "The baby is born tomorrow."

The Port Chester location is more restaurant than bakery and more upscale than El Cafetero, their White Plains eatery, Munera said.

The Valencias received their certificate of occupancy last Friday, opened Saturday and are applying for a liquor license which they will receive in the future.

The name comes from a fictional village called Macondo, the setting of some of the books by Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, one of the most significant authors of the 20th century. The décor-such as a large tree on which many butterflies have alighted covering one wall-reflects that fictional village.

The bakery portion of Makondo will produce mostly flour and cheese pastries in different variations, Munera said.

The restaurant will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner serving platters with eggs and arepas for breakfast and typical Colombian dishes from the Caldar region the Valencias are from for dinner. Bandeja Paisa--rice, beans, beef, pork skin, chorizo, egg and avocado--is one of those typical dishes.

"They had always wanted a place in Port Chester before White Plains," Munera said about her aunt and uncle. "When Tequila Blue went under, they scoped it out and fell in love with this place."

Makondo Bakery & Restaurant will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 12 midnight Friday and Saturday.

River House Bar & Grill
435-7 North Main St.
Port Chester
937-9695

Two bartenders and a general manager who worked together at Thataway Café and Sundown Saloon in Greenwich have teamed up to turn the former J T Straw's at 435-7 North Main St. into River House Bar & Grill.

Egyptian-born Tarek El Sharkawy, Tom Smario and Joe Ribbiro, who all live in Greenwich, have hired executive chef Gabriella Syvaniemi to develop a menu featuring New American cuisine. She graduated from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R. I., and has worked for Nick Morfogen, one of the top chefs in South Florida, Simon Keating from England and Graham Elliot, one of the judges of Master Chef.

"We are trying to bring something different to the area--the freshest quality ingredients and as seasonal as possible," El Sharkawy said. Everything will be house made--from the pasta to the ice cream.

El Sharkawy said they are going to have "really decent prices ($9 for a plain hamburger), a nice happy hour and great quality." The intent is to bring a Greenwich crowd into this Port Chester bar and grill near the Connecticut border.

When I visited last Friday, El Sharkawy was planning for a Wednesday, Sept. 10 opening.

Why Port Chester? "After work we used to hang out in Port Chester," El Sharkawy said. "I think Port Chester is coming up. A lot of places are going to open up here."

In keeping with this location's late night tradition, the kitchen at River House Bar & Grill will be open seven days from 11:30 a.m. to 3 a.m.

Parking on North Main Street is prohibited after 1 a.m., which hurt business for the previous establishment, but El Sharkawy said they have worked out an arrangement for parking with private property owners in the vicinity, without giving any specifics.

"Six years ago I moved from Egypt to America and became a bartender," El Sharkawy concluded. "This was always my dream to have my own place."

Taco Bell
303 Boston Post Rd.
Port Chester

Not having any luck in getting a return phone call from architect Gary Gianfrancesco from Arconics Architecture in Rye Brook, who is handling the architecture and planning for the Taco Bell franchise that will be opening at 303 Boston Post Rd., I only know that the fast food restaurant, which serves Mexican fare, is keeping the same footprint as the former Wendy's that operated on the site next to Sound Shore Indoor Tennis for many years. I can also see that the Taco Bell building will be much taller than Wendy's was.

According to signs out front, the restaurant will open sometime in September, and management is now hiring. Anyone interested is directed to the website workattacobell.com.

Cantina Hospitality, LLC, which owns several Taco Bells in Connecticut, including two in Milford, one in Ansonia, one in Orange and one in New Milford, among others, will own and operate this one in Port Chester. Other companies own Taco Bells in New Rochelle, White Plains, Yonkers, Old Greenwich, Stamford, Norwalk and Danbury.

Popeyes
275 Boston Post Rd.
Port Chester

Architect Gary Gianfrancesco from Arconics Architecture in Rye Brook is also charged with the planning and architecture for Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, which will eventually be opening in front of Taco Bell at 275 Boston Post Rd. He presented the plan for the fast food fried chicken chain to the Port Chester Board of Trustees many months ago, and it received their approval, required because it will have a drive-thru feature if I recall correctly.

Gianfrancesco said at the time that there was a lot of interest in this prominent property on the Post Road, but not many entrepreneurs were willing to invest the kind of money this site would require to put it in shape. The former Mary Ann's Mexican Restaurant building languished there for months, becoming overgrown and unsightly over the summer until the building was finally razed on or about Aug. 23.

When I visited the site last Friday, two men were surveying the rubble-filled property in the hot sun. One of them told me that American Paving was the contractor for the job but wasn't willing to provide any contact information. Gianfrancesco did not return a phone call placed to his office.

Popeyes, the "second largest quick-service chicken restaurant group," has locations simply called Popeyes and others named Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits or Popeyes Chicken & Seafood. Founded in 1972 in New Orleans, Popeyes had more than 2,000 restaurants worldwide as of January 2014.

Other locations in the area are at Playland in Rye as well as in Mt. Vernon, Yonkers and Hastings-on-Hudson.

Misti Café Takeout
100-104 North Main St.
Port Chester
939-2204

Despite repeated attempts both in person and on the phone at Misti Restaurant to find out what is happening at their sister restaurant, Misti Café Takeout down the street, I was only able to learn that it is under construction, which is obvious from the outside. Previously just taking up one storefront at 100 North MainSt.,corner of Adee Street, it is being expanded to encompass three storefronts from 100-4 North Main. Prior to the construction, the Peruvian food at both restaurants was pretty much the same. However, the corner spot focused on takeout and just had a few tables while the 110 North Main location is large and bustling. I'm assuming there will be more tables following the expansion, but maybe the owners will just install additional ovens to roast Misti's delicious pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken). There's no doubt it's the best around and Misti is doing a fabulous business, attracting every nationality to the well-run operation, which Rosa and Javier Castillo started from nothing.

Construction seemed to be at a standstill the times I visited during the past week, so I can't predict or determine when the expanded location will be ready for business.

Fortina of Rye Brook
Rye Ridge Shopping Center
136 South Ridge St.
Rye Brook

Fortina in Armonk is described by Google as a "rustic-chic bistro and bar known for pies and main dishes cooked in imported wood-fired ovens." The restaurant coming to the Rye Ridge Shopping Center later this year will be much the same--a second Fortina.

Best friends Christian Petroni, the chef; Rob Krauss and John Nealon, the latter two having gone to high school together in Westport, Conn., opened Fortina in Armonk in mid-2013. With its success, they decided to branch out with a second location.

Fortina is friendly to kids as well as adults. "At the end of the day there is pizza, pasta, meatballs, garlic bread, steak, chicken and fish," Krauss said early this week in a telephone interview from the Armonk locale. "While kid-friendly, it also provides adults with some different options that you can't get at a pizzeria." Fortina's pizza is Neopolitan style, "but Christian created his own dough, so it is an 11-inch pie," Krauss said.

Specialties at Fortina include fried meatballs and barrata cheese (mozzarella and cream) on a thick slice of prosciutto with a seasonal topping, currently a corn puree with watercress, brown butter and vinocotto (cooked wine syrup). Their signature pie is Luigi Bianco, a white 3-cheese pizza made with barrata, robiola and parmesan topped with a black truffle paté.

The Rye Brook location "was really kind of the opportunity that fell into our laps," Krauss said. "We know Rye Ridge is a very up and coming area and we are excited to be a part of the town and what is going on there, so we jumped on it as quickly as we could.

"The fact that there's a Chipotle, Chop't, Starbuck's, Z-Life and all these other great stores; these stores bring so much hype and foot traffic to the area that we can be successful just because of the sheer volume of people who come to that shopping center on a daily basis as long as we produce good food and service," Krauss added.

He expects the Rye Brook restaurant will open in November or December. While they are not actively hiring yet, Krauss said it's never too early to do so and, if anyone is interested in working there, "we can train them at the Armonk location."