The food here was very good on our recent visit. Not the best we'd ever had, but very good. The service was great. But make no mistake about it, the view across the East River to Manhattan makes the River Cafe experience.
We were recommended the River Cafe by a local friend who had been there a couple of times. She said two things: call and reserve a table in advance and get the Brooklyn Bridge dessert. We did both.
Upon reserving our table online - as mentioned in another review - there was no mention of a jacket required. Before leaving, at my wife's insistance, we called to ask if a jacket was required. Low and behold, it was required on Friday nights, which is when our reservation was booked. Glad we called and asked, but we wouldn't have otherwise known. Also - it would have been helpful if the website maybe had some options of how to get to their place. There are ferries that dock within a few feet of River Cafe, but depending on where you start on the Manhattan side, the ferry can cost $26 or $5 depending on the pier you leave from. Wouldn't a restaurant expecting people from out of town have the foresight to include that klind of helpful info on their site? Maybe it's too obvious for me since I was the out-of-towner.
We flew into NYC on a Thursday and had dinner somewhere in the city and got a call from the River Cafe reminding us of our dinner reservation the next night - and informing us that men are required to wear jackets on Friday nights. Oh - now you tell us? Glad I called ahead and had a jacket packed.
It's the wrong way to treat a guest before he ever reaches the front door.
However, the experience at River Cafe only went uphill from there. The staff was very friendly and seemed to go out of their way to be friendly. Then again, because of the sticky reservation process, we could only reserve 6:00, fairly early on the dinner side, so were were one of the first guests of the evening. Being that early, we did get a window seat, which was a bonus.
The food, again, was really, really good. It was not the best thing we'd ever eaten, but was commendable and will get a solid four stars (circles?) on my review here. Actually, the best part of our meal was the appetizers. We had an all-inclusive meal for a flat fee of $100 that included an appetizer, entree and dessert. Both our appetizers rocked and were an incredible start. My wife had a lobster ravioli and shrimp dish that was not on the menu, something of a special of the day, and knocked our socks off. I had the River Cafe oysters with hollandaise and bacon and about fell out of my chair. For entrees I had the New York Strip and my wife the salmon. Good, but nothing to rave about. Actually ... not just good, it was really good. No disappointment. For dessert I got the recommended Brooklyn Bridge chocolate dessert. The fudge and seltzer drink is a bad idea they could do without. The crafted chocolate bridge and chocolatey mousse was really good. Not the best dessert I'd had in my life, or even in the month, but it was really, really outstanding.
What's so wrong with really, really outstanding and very good? I'm surprised at the bad reviews this place got because everthing wasn't the best thing anyone had ever put in their mouths. What's so wrong with having a really great meal and a great view? We found nothing wrong with the experience and lots of things right.
We will pass the torch and recommend this place to the next person we know going to the city - offering some pointers about the dress code on Fridays and how to get there, since the restaurant itself won't do so.