Sunday, September 11, 2011

Restaurant Review: 97lake (West Harrison, New York)

A couple of months back, while looking for gluten free restaurants within driving distance of my office in northern Bergen county NJ, I discovered 97lake Sports Cafe & Restaurant (97 Lake Street, West Harrison, NY).  [Special note, this restaurant is in West Harrison, New York, not New Jersey.]  Today, I finally got to try it out, and it was amazing.

97lake Sports Cafe and Restaurant in West Harrison, NY
What really attracted me to this restaurant is their six page gluten free menu.  (The online menu has a page for kids, it wasn't in my 'adult' menu at the bar.)  While there are a couple of naturally gluten free items on the menu there isn't a gluten friendly item to be found (that's right, no "order the salad without croutons" or "order the hamburger on lettuce") what there is is an unbelievable selection of actual gluten free foods: gluten free pizza, french fries, gluten free onion rings, gluten free chicken fingers [contains dairy], chicken noodle soup, hamburgers with gluten free buns, sliders with gluten free buns, gluten free crab cakes, NY strip steak on gf garlic toast, gluten free hoagie buns for cheese steaks, gluten free (but sadly not dairy free) Mac and Cheese, gluten free bread (for a corned beef sandwich or BLT), gluten free wraps, and gluten free desserts (most of which are ice cream, none of which looked dairy free).  [Warning: I only asked about dairy in the bun, chicken fingers and onion rings (the chicken fingers have butter milk), if you are also dairy free please check with your server.]  One last thought, I can't drink beer (or anything carbonated) so I didn't ask while I was there, but according to their online menu, they have Estrella Daura from Spain and two different gluten free ciders.

Gluten Free Onion Rings at 97lake (they're dairy free too!)
To write this article, I returned to their website and menus and discovered something I hadn't noticed before.  There is a small notice on the GF menu that reads as follows (note especially the sentence I underlined):

"I was diagnosed as a Celiac in 2005. Since that time I have been on a search for the finest gluten free products and recipes in the market today. It is my pleasure to offer gluten free foods to those who know the struggle of eating out without getting sick. Our fryers are gluten free, as is the entire kitchen. Any gluten based products are made off premises. I hope you understand that gluten free products are much more expensive to purchase. Please enjoy our food." - Alan Marc Smith, Owner, 97lake

Ummm . . . wait a second, that means anything deep fried is gluten free no matter which menu you order off of?  Shhh . . . don't tell the wheat-eaters!  There is a slight price increase on anything with gluten free bread (seems to be $2 usually) which isn't really that bad compared to some other places I've eaten.  So enough about the menu, on to the food!

Hamburger with Avocado on a Gluten Free Hamburger Bun
with Gluten Free French Fries at 97lake
As mentioned above, I asked about the dairy free status of the onion rings, hamburger buns, and chicken fingers.  The chicken fingers are dipped in buttermilk, but that's ok as they were only my backup plan.  I was really after a burger and fries . . . oh, and onion rings.  The onion rings arrived first and they were perfect - crispy battered exterior, hot soft onion interior!  Exactly what I remember onion rings to be.  Then came the burger - the roll was toasted and tasted homemade.  Although it felt like it was starting to come apart towards the end, it held up through the entire half pound burger.  The fries reminded me a bit of 5 Guys' fries only at 97lake they are thicker and more expertly cooked (I often have to finish my 5 Guys fries in the oven when I get them home).

And finally some notes about getting there:  My Garmin GPS dropped me off at 97 Lake Street in White Plains about a 1/2 mile from the restaurant.  I just happened to luck out and drive past the restaurant as I did not stay on Lake Street.  That Lake Street becomes Veterans Memorial Drive and then East Lake Street.  The road I was on is labeled as Harrison Blvd in Google Maps (they run parallel to each other, the restaurant is across both roads from the football field).  (BTW: Google Maps thinks West Harrison is Briarcliff Manor. ) Click here to get directions from google maps: Google Maps Directions to 97lake (I've already centered the maps on the restaurant for you, right click on it and select "Directions to here".)

97 Lake SportsCafé & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Other reviews you may be interested in:

Gluten Free Bellizzi's (Mt. Kisco and Larchmont, NY)

Gluten Free Restaurant List (mostly for New Jersey but includes a handful of NY restaurants near the border)

Gluten Free French Fries (stand alone NJ restaurants and Nationwide Chain / Fast Food Restaurants)

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