YORKTOWN HEIGHTS, N.Y. - Those who seek a unique dining experience in a cozy, inviting atmosphere need to look no further. The Barnwood Grill has arrived and is open for business.
Located at 2 Old Tomahawk St. in Yorktown Heights, right on the Somers border, the restaurant specializes in contemporary American cuisine and seafood.
Elmond Blakaj is onsite nearly every day actively managing the restaurant. He and his executive chef have worked at unique restaurants in Manhattan, Greenwich, Conn., and Westchester prior to embarking on their vision to create a space that serves wholesome, fresh food in a comfortable, modern setting.
In 2014, an opportunity presented itself for Elmond and a former coworker to open their own restaurant in Newtown, Conn., which they named The Barnwood Grill. They developed a menu around fresh, seasonally available ingredients. It was an immediate success.
When Elmond set out to open a second Barnwood Grill, he knew he wanted to be back in Westchester County where he cut his teeth in the restaurant business.
“I always intended to return to the community that openly welcomed me,” he said. “At the Barnwood Grill, I can share my love of food, offer options that are gluten-free and vegan in a place that is rustic and relaxing. That is what we have in Newtown, and I thought that if we came here with the same ideas and same concept, people would love it.”
He was right. People do love it. The Barnwood Grill in Yorktown Heights opened its doors in January and so far the reviews have been superlative. Many diners remember Elmond from his previous tenure in the Westchester dining scene.
“I love being at the restaurant and seeing people who knew me when I first started here in Westchester,” he said. “I listen and learn about what the community wants and have strived to deliver that in The Barnwood Grill.”
The building that Barnwood Grill inhabits has a rich history. It’s been a restaurant for more than 80 years.
“I found the first liquor license from 1938 in the basement,” Elmond said. “[The cost of the license] was like $20, which is insane. There is a legacy here.”
It took three months for Elmond to remodel the building, which now boasts a rustic ambiance with exposed wooden beams and myriad fireplaces throughout the dining areas.
“We did a lot of cosmetic work,” he said. “Everyone who walks in is impressed. They’re like, ‘Wow, I love it! It’s beautiful!’”
One of Elmond’s secrets to his success is his executive chef, Steven Kralani, who crafted much of the menu with some input from Elmond.
“We work together,” Elmond said. “I go buy whatever is fresh and we come up with an idea on how to use it. I try to work locally as much as I can—farm to table.”
Elmond said customers have already developed favorite dishes and many gravitate toward the fish and seafood, which is served fresh every day.
“The branzino and the shrimp and grits are our most popular dishes,” he said. “[Customers] love the shrimp and grits, which we do with a marinade of sweet chili sauce over jalapeno grits.”
The restaurant has on its menu clams and oysters, ahi tuna tacos and hand-crafted Kobe burgers. Barnwood also features a variety of steaks, from the New York strip (in peppercorn sauce) to tomahawk pork chop.
Barnwood Grill has a lively bar scene where customers will discover an array of signature cocktails.
“We are known for our craft cocktails,” Elmond said. “All our syrups are homemade. We are renowned for our aged manhattans and old-fashions, and all our draught beers are local craft beers. We try to stay in New York and Connecticut with those.”
Barnwood Grill offers a happy hour every day but Saturday from 3 to 6 p.m.
“If you want, you can just come in to have a drink,” Elmond said.
Like the venue in Newtown, the Yorktown Heights Barnwood Grill can cater to parties, both large and small.
“We have two private rooms and the main dining room holds up to 80 people,” Elmond said. “I have special dividers so if someone has a party of 30, I can use one of them. We are very experienced at hosting parties. In Newtown, we have at least two a week.”
Every Sunday, Barnwood Grill features live music in the main dining room from 5 to 8 p.m.
“It’s background dinner music so you are able to talk and enjoy the dinner and the music,” Elmond said.
On the last Friday of each month, the bar will feature live acoustic music with well-known local musicians.
Additionally, Elmond’s goal is to have a license that will enable customers to use the patio this summer so they can dine alfresco.
“Come in, I love to talk to customers,” he said. “I am approachable, and I love to hear from the community and any ideas they might have.”
2 Old Tomahawk St.
Yorktown Heights, NY