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My first thought upon walking into Fireside was “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto.”

I admit it is pretty bizarre to have a Wizard of Oz moment when you go out to dinner, but it just seemed to fit the occasion. Fireside, a great eatery featuring fare that is at once homey yet creative, is actually set at the back of Monsey’s newest shopping center, Town Square. Walking into the mall, you find yourself passing attractive stores selling the latest in children’s shoes, baby clothes and paper goods, but continue to the far end and you are greeted by a sign bearing the word “Fireside.” As soon as you step through the restaurant’s glass doors, you are immediately transported to a different world, one where the walls are adorned with hanging wine racks and the background music is serene yet eclectic. Just steps away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Fireside takes you to a different time and place.

Fireside simply chicken

Fireside’s tasteful decor sets the mood with comfortable contemporary chairs and softly painted taupe walls. Clever touches abound, from the washing sink whose faucet is mounted directly into the wall, to a pull down screen that can turn one small section of the dining room into a separate area offering an extra measure of privacy, to the soundproof wall in the upstairs dining room, just recently installed for those looking to make private parties at the bistro. Further adding to the atmosphere is the use of cutting boards as serving plates for some of the dishes, with several menu items coming on large butcher block slabs giving the feeling that you are eating something truly impressive, but in a rustic kind of way.

Duck fingers

As soon as you meet Chef Alexander Remer, it is clear that this is a man who is passionate about food. Soft spoken and unassuming, Remer grew up in Chicago and had the opportunity to immerse himself in the culture of food during a stint in the kitchen of an award winning restaurant in Chicago, where he began to envision cooking as a form of art. Drawing on his own experiences with food, Remer came to Fireside intent on creating the home style heartiness of food that might be found in a pub or a diner, but taking things to the next level by upping the flavor quotient while simultaneously adding an extra dose of originality and personality. The result is food that is satisfying, robust and nuanced.

Have a hankering for a burger? Fireside has several on its menu, ranging from the conventional to the unique, including one served on French toast, stuffed with braised beef, pastrami, steak bits, caramelized onions, heirloom tomato and maple aioli. Fireside’s steaks are gorgeous and our massive cowboy steak for two was deliciously peppered, with a spectacular crunch on the outside and a wonderfully juice interior. There are plenty of other menu choices as well, including an assortment of chicken, veal, ribs and a great selection of sides, including their legendary tumbleweed onions. The list of appetizers runs the gamut including the very elegant veal sweetbreads, served with citrus beets, roasted spaghetti squash and strawberry puree, crispy battered duck fingers accompanied by a quartet of dipping sauces, tongue sliders with truffle aioli and red wine braised beef nachos that paired fried tortilla strips, guacamole, salsa with a fabulous garlic aioli.

Chicago style deep dish pizza for two (with veal; no cheese)

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Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who writes for numerous websites, newspapers, magazines and private clients. She can be contacted at [email protected].