Westchester/Rockland changes: Eric Gabrynowicz leaving North, Peter Kelly selling Freelance/Xaviars

A couple of recent big restaurant news items in the area.

First, Eric Gabrynowicz is leaving Restaurant North in Armonk to move to NC. The current executive sous chef is taking over. I feel sad about this since I’ve gotten to know Eric over the years and he’s always treated us very well, and we’ve had some very good meals there.

Next, Peter Kelly is selling Freelance Cafe and Xaviar’s in Piermont. He will keep X2O and Restaurant X and Bully Boy Bar. He’s selling to someone from Seattle. In fact, it might have happened already since the article says it was going to close late in September. The new owner is supposedly keeping the names for now. One positive I noticed is that Freelance is now listed on Opentable, although reservations were not available yet. So maybe it won’t be walk-in only anymore. On the other hand, the discounted gift cards from Costco (which I didn’t see on my last visit) won’t work anymore.

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I am sad about Peter Kelly selling the restaurants in Piermont. Although we haven’t been there in a while, Xavier’s was always special and Freelance was fun. I’m not so upset about Eric - when North opened we liked it but we liked it less and less as time went on. A bit too pretentious for me these days. Everyone seems to have a different experience there…

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Like Gwenn said I have had mixed experiences at North over the years. I always felt like they had a two tiered service model where regulars and people spending major $$ were treated much much better than those like me who’d come once or twice a year. I understand that those people are their bread and butter but today’s twice-yearly diner may be tomorrow’s weekly diner. Other restaurants handle this with more finesse and less obviously.

Their food was often very good, especially at the beginning, but I began feeling foolish for spending a ton on a meal that didn’t feel particularly special in any way.

Also, I’ll never forget the last time we went. The indifferent and rude host pulled my chair out for me. The chair was covered in crumbs and food particles from the last diner. I pointed it out to him and I got the dirtiest look from him. That kind of treatment echos with me and we never went back… Small details matter.

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I’ve read a number of reviews about North like yours, that if they don’t know you, you don’t get the same level of treatment. I am not a big spender there (and of late only go there for RW), but I have been friendly with them over the years, and Eric and Steven (and the former manager) would often come out to say hello to us, so I understood how others might feel. We’ve had some great meals there, some less than great.

That’s too bad about your last experience with the host.

I had some really nice meals at Freelance. We don’t eat there very often because of the no reservations policy, too much of a pain.

Yes, we love Freelnace but the no reservation thing is a pain. We used to go and stand outside and talk to people but that wore off!

For my money x2o is still the best of the Kelly group, with spectacular views of the Hudson. It is also my opinion that x2o is one of the best in Westchester. Interesting that Peter never invaded NYC. Country Mouse?

I love that he stays here. I love all his places.

I’ve been to X2O several times using their Groupon, which I think is one of the best out there (2 appetizers, 2 entrees, 2 desserts, 2 glasses of Proseco). There is no restriction on what you can order, with the exception of a $15 surcharge if you get the Cowboy Rib-eye for 2. Groupons structured like that do not work for me at most restaurants because of my dietary restrictions and food preferences, but at X2O I tend to order the higher priced stuff.

The view is obviously very nice. When we were there a couple of weeks ago they sat us upstairs but we had a table right by the window facing south, so a great view.

That said, for Restaurant Week I prefer X. Not as much of a zoo, and I have generally preferred their menu.

Anyway, with only 2 restaurants it will allow him to spend more time at each. He supposedly does hit each one every night. We didn’t see him last time but were told he had been there earlier. Unlike the discussion about North and people feeling slighted, when Peter is in the restaurant and walking the dining room, he tends to visit everyone.

Yes, that has been our experience-- I haven’t been to X2O in a while but we used to go occasionally and it seemed like Peter Kelly was often in the house and if so he would stop by our table and everyone else’s, no matter who they were. My husband and I had a small family lunch there after our civil marriage ceremony and he stopped by to wish us good luck and congratulations.

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He is amazing. He makes every diner feel like an old friend!

Many fine memories coming out of Chef Kelly’s original two…but few know the business model better than he does. Hope the new ownership is up to the task.

So, I’ve been looking for any news about the new Freelance or Xaviars, and I haven’t been able to find it. There does not appear to be a website, and the Yelp pages still point to the old website, which has removed those locations. Recent Yelp reviews for Xaviars seem to be good. I don’t see anything for Freelance and interestingly the ones from 2016 prior to the sale were pretty bad. Has anyone heard anything about them?

As for North, I haven’t been there lately and they didn’t do HVRW because they apparently weren’t ready to with the change.

I haven’t heard at thing so far, MisterBill. I work across the street from North and no one has even mentioned it. I hope Freelance and Xaviers will be good under the new ownership, but maybe they are still gearing up?

We went to North since the change. The menu has changed slightly, we felt that the food was equally as good as before, maybe even better! However, they lowered the lights and raised the volume of the music to try to change the atmosphere. We found that unappealing. We could not have a conversation the music was so loud.

PS- They still give you a muffin when you leave and ours were delicious!

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Good to know. I have not cared for North the last couple of visits, though, and now, if its that loud, I may as well go to Fortina!!

Debmom, thanks for the report. Are the prices the same? The downstairs and bar area got mighty loud in the old incarnation so I can’t imagine it being louder and them still charging the same prices.

We stopped going a couple of years ago when we felt the service steeply decline.

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I have found the service to be inconsistent at North for many years. I would say on our last visit the waiter was ok, nothing special. As I recall the prices are about the same as they were when Eric was there.

Actually, the last time we went - a couple of years ago, we had a terrific waitress. She was so good I emailed the restaurant - I think Eric himself. Got no response. The meal was not great - certainly not for the price. My pork was dry and I don’t remember the rest, sorry! She made it a good night. Other than that, I have not had a good server there since it first opened.

Many years ago when we first started going maybe once a year for our anniversary, there was an excellent server who we had several times. But over time they began catering exclusively to regulars and there was a particularly obnoxious host who just couldn’t be bothered with non-regulars and could barely contain his disdain for everyone else. Attitude is easy to find in Westchester and I don’t need to go all the way to Armonk and spend that kind of money for it!