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Justin Thyme

171 Grand St., Croton-on-Hudson

This review is more about community than food.  The dishes are consistent and good.  This is not fine-dining, but better than many establishments around it. 
Justin Thyme is a gem.

The owner, Scott Labis, opened Justin Thyme after his young son, Justin, crossed-over way too early.  The location is ideal, the atmosphere “Cheers-like” and most of the staff you’d invite to your next BBQ.

Scott has fine-tuned this machine with great staffing and trust.  He is off doing other projects (I heard a book is in the works) – – most people cannot successfully run a business in this manner and so-far-so-good.

Read a good book lately?  Talk to Kim.  Kim is the literati of Justin Thyme.  She can shake a mean martini and talk to you about the NY Times Best Seller List and hot novels like it’s nobody’s business.  Her husband, Dave, also works there.  By day, he’s a certified massage therapist with his own practice, by night, his smile will calm your nerves.  They work together smoothly, and it’s fun to watch their interactions.

Lauren is dinner-and-a show.  This show-tune addicted bartendress will belt out songs from Les Miserables on and off key – – either way, it’s just worth it.  She wears fun earrings, too.

The menu is a tome and although it seems (and really is) very diverse, the parts are the same, but the results make up many pages of different dishes. Salads, ribs, fish (everyone raves over anything salmon there), and even our friend the chicken is good.  The Chicken Scaparelli is quite good (and I’m not a chicken breast fan).  The heat is right, the pasta is good, and the sauce is memorable.  If you really want to shock your brain, ask for it to be extra spicy – – they will kick up the red chili-flakes and you’ll dread the morning. Ahem – – doesn’t affect me that way, but I’ve heard horror stories.

Jessica, Scott’s daughter, seems to run the show these days.  She has hair down to her ass.  Usually it is tightly wound in a nice package on top of her head.  There is so much bun there, I think it could pick up cable; or the sign might read, “Caution, contents under pressure.”  Either way, she’s great – – feisty, honest and in your face.  I love her.
Don’t wanna cook tonight?  Haul your behind to Justin Thyme.  If you’re alone or with one person, you may want to eat at the bar – – but get there early as I may have taken your seat.

Report Card

Eats – Quite good – – ribs are fall off the bone.  Stay away from the shumai, they must come frozen to them and steam-up quite rubbery.

Drinks – Decent offering of beers on tap.  They have interesting bottled beers (Belgian whites, and Hefeweizen, etc.)  Red wines need to be chilled appropriately.  If they just come out of the back, they’re mostly fine.  However they usually are sitting on top of the bar taking on the room’s warm-ish temperature.  They churn through the wine – – buy a cooler.Of Special Note: The martinis are the forte here.  You can get anything straight-up to a martini that tastes just like a Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookie.  Be careful, though, they go down smoothly and can kick your ass.
Wait Staff – A destination!  In addition, if you want to brush up on your Spanish, befriend the kitchen staff as they go to-and-fro – – they are happy to make your acquaintance and have a sense of humor.

Buzz – Get your seat early.  Reservations are not accepted – – guests tend to pile around the bar awaiting their coveted seats.  The dining room in the back is too quiet for my taste in contrast to the crenelated main area which can get quite noisy – – I like the busy buzz.

Award – Casual, fun, and no-airs establishment.  You’ll make friends and meet some characters to be sure.

Extra Spice –  Wednesday nights come with live music.  Always the same croony-lady with a broad range (think Janice Joplin through Stevie Nicks and a splash of Jewel to whomever is her man-accompanist that week).  Here and there, Thursdays have a musical kick but not predictable.  Some nights just turn out to be “gay night” at Justin Thyme.  Wonderful, fun people, STRONG personalities!  Always fun.      
Todd Alan is Westchester Eat’s critic for all things to stuff into your mouth, gadgetry to play with in the kitchen, and all things food.  We make him eat crap so you don’t have to.

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