Restaurant Review: Whistling Willie’s (Cold Spring, NY)

Rare is it to have an experience that begins with such promise and ends with such anger. We did some restaurant research before our trip to Cold Spring aboard the Seastreak. After browsing at one menu after another online, we decided that based on price and selection, Whistling Willie’s seemed our best bet in this pricey town—not cheap, but not exorbitant either. We walked inside and I immediately enjoyed the atmosphere. The ceilings were tin, the bar was vintage, and just the general decor gave off a unique ambiance. I later learned that the building served as a hotel more than a hundred years prior. This was evident. Later it was a Civil War veterans hospital with a saloon on the first floor. I started off with a Maple Manhattan and browsed through the menu.

My drink was outstanding. It managed the perfect ratio of maple-to-bourbon. It was sweet, but no so sweet that you forget what you are drinking. Justin had a beer and my mom started off with a water. She took a sip of mine and enjoyed it so much that she ordered one later on. Our appetizer selection at this time was the crab and artichoke dip. I was impressed when it arrived. There was a large bowl of dip accompanied by more than enough pieces of crustini bread and the interesting choice of barbecue flavored wonton strips. Whistling Willie’s smashed the pet peeve of mine which is when restaurants give you a large quantity of dip and nothing to dip in it. But the setting down of this dish coincidentally was the last time we were not annoyed during this experience.

While the flavor was fine, the dip itself was lukewarm—the kind of temperature you can only achieve with a microwave. This was a major setback, because if something as simple as this is being heated with a microwave, it does not leave much hope for what is to come. Also causing concern was not one but two tables sending food back by the time we finished the appetizer. As our plates were cleared and we waited for meals, a third table sent back two burgers to the kitchen. It was like a parade. We were not there a half hour and four meals had been returned. What, I wondered, was in store for us?

Justin had a burger called The Whistler, which featured bacon and cheddar cheese. His was cooked into oblivion. There is a difference between well-done and burnt beyond recognition. The burger itself was inedible. A large layer of crust formed on both sides and was so thick that it let out a crunch sound upon biting it.He immediately spit it out. I took a bite and all I tasted was dirty grill. It didn’t taste like beef. Hell, the taste of that grill was so strong that I forgot there was bacon on there to begin with. He called the waitress over and asked for it to be taken off the bill. He said no when asked if he wanted anything else. Also added to his meal was a cheese sauce for his French fries. This came in a tiny plastic container and was clumpy and gross.

My mom trudged her way through her burger, clearly disappointed but not wanting to send it back.  She had the Smother Mother, which consisted of another burger charred into hockey puck form and smothered with onions, mushrooms, and cheese. By the time she was done scraping off the char, there was no burger left.

As for me, I went with the Pit Beef Dip, which was essentially French dip. The menu described a sandwich on garlic French bread with horseradish mayo and a side of aus jus. As you can see in the picture, the bread was not crusty French bread (it was a soft ciabatta roll), there was no horseradish mayo that I could taste, and the aus jus was in a container so small that you could not even fit the sandwich. The beef itself was dry and flavorless. The garlic spread on this tacky roll was the only thing that gave it any flavor. I ate half. It was not worth it to continue. The fries, at least, were crispy.

There is something going on here at Whistling Willie’s. When Justin went to the bathroom, he peeked into the kitchen and saw the chef, a 20-something with headphones in, who looked disinterested. You would think someone who had five meals now returned in a mere 45 minutes would be a bit more focused. Does management care enough? This was a Saturday afternoon with the Seastreak coming to town with hundreds of tourists. If this is the guy they have doing the cooking, I can only imagine other days.

The bill was $75…and that was without his burger. I felt absolutely robbed. It pissed me off handing over my card to pay the bill because I felt it was a tad steep for the half sandwich I ate, a microwaved appetizer, and my mom’s burger which most people would have sent back. Oh, there were the two cocktails and beer. I guess we should have kept it a liquid lunch. This review would have fared better—little would we have known.

Overall, Whistling Willie’s was disgusting—an embarrassment to the trendy dining scene in Cold Spring, New York. Had it not been for kind, attentive, and understanding service, I would have given this place one star. I begrudgingly go a step higher with a 2 out of 5 stars for the simple reason that the Manhattans were delicious. Aside from that? This was garbage I wouldn’t feed a stray dog.

Whistling Willie’s is located at 184 Main Street in Cold Spring, NY.

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