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Jan 12, 2008 08:24 AM

Pushy Service at River Cafe

Went there last night for my wife's birthday, after consulting with various posts here. I don't think anyone mentioned the pushy service. It certainly didn't ruin the evening, but who needs it? I know that what we ordered was a "cup of coffee" by their standards, but for us $300 is an amount we spend maybe 2-3 times a year. While we had no rule against spending $400, having my finger steered toward the $68 wine as opposed to the $34, or my glass stolen away before i had my last sip if anything made me want to spend less money, not more.

The food was mostly good, not great--an event I was prepared for. Though I actually had to send the rock lobster back as it was not fresh. Totally disagree with those who say not sitting near the window is the same or similar. We weren't near the window and really regretted it. The view is spectacular, and its harder to look at it if the people at the table next to you think you're staring at them.

All that said, it is still a kind of kooky place, filed with tourists and New Yorkers having, mostly, celebratory dinners. Everyone seemed a bit drunk but not rowdy and it was fun to people watch and stare at the river over my neighbor's dinner.

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  1. dan1970
    "Totally disagree with those who say not sitting near the window is the same or similar. We weren't near the window and really regretted it. The view is spectacular,"

    While the view is lovely the food is sub par. They cater to tourists, thus the pushy thing. Aside from the view, the entire experience is very forgettable.. The view of the NY skyline is even nicer from the New Jersey side. Better food, better service, better prices, better view...

    1. dan1970, thanks for posting a report. I'm sorry the service you experienced was "pushy." We went to the River Cafe twice last year and our experiences were very good (food, service, atmosphere, music, views, etc.). I respectfully disagree with Tay, our food was not sub par. That said, the River Cafe is not known for innovation and being cutting edge.

      5 Replies
      1. re: financialdistrictresident

        The River Cafe used to be one of the best restaurants in NYC, but no longer. However, I also strongly disagree with Tay's assessment. The food is still much better than most places, the prices fair (not anywhere near as expensive as the best places in NYC either) and the service has always been excellent when we've gone. Additionally, the wine list (including the half bottle list) is way above average. I feel bad that dan1970 had the experience he did, but I'm pretty confident it's not the norm & that management would like to hear about it. And, by the way, it most definitely does NOT cater mainly to tourists. Each time we go (twice/year on average), it's 50/50 at most and the setting enchants both locals and tourists alike. Magical.

        1. re: Steve R

          I'm very happy that you guys have had such good experiences at this restaurant. Everyone else I know who has dined there has felt significantly less enthused about the food and ambiance, specially considering the cost. I'd have to respectfully disagree with you on 2 points:and say that:
          1) The food is definitely not much better than most places in which I eat.
          2) Any restaurant that regularly maintains a 50% tourist clientele is a restaurant that caters to tourists,
          I do, however agree with you that the view is stunning (if you are seated at the right table.) and I also agree that a word to the Mgr is always in order, especially if the OP felt he was being 'pushed' by the staff to order above his comfort level. They must have mistaken the OP as being from the other 50% :-}

          1. re: Tay

            "or my glass stolen away before i had my last sip"

            you have the power to stop this from happening if you want. it's very simple.

            1. re: TBird

              Technically speaking you may be right, but when you go to a pricey special occasion restaurant you do not want to have to police the staff and tell them how to do their job. You want them to know in advance.

              1. re: gnosh

                "when you go to a pricey special occasion restaurant you do not want to have to police the staff and tell them how to do their job"

                gnosh, stating "i'm not thru with that yet" isn't exactly "policing" anything...

      2. My mother likes going to RC a couple of times a year, and my wife and I take her although we would prefer another place. I think the food is completely underwhelming relative to the price. It is mostly 'safe' risks or rewards past a certain point. Decent overpriced wine list. However it has gone downhill in recent years more than I had thought based on my last visit. I am lobbying to not go this year.

        Go to a great small place like Al Di La in the slope instead!!!!

        6 Replies
        1. re: NYJewboy

          Won't you miss the smell of all those fresh flowers when you walk in the door and the complimentary pink champagne? It's so nice to do once or twice a year . . . Food was very satisfying when we went, just not innovative. As bobmartinez wisely suggests below, you might have drinks at the RC and head elsewhere for dinner. This approach might also keep mom happy :)

          1. re: financialdistrictresident

            Ahhhh... But think of all the $ he'll be saving. With that he can purchase lovely flowers and wonderful champagne for both his wife and the all important M-I-L and STILL have $ leftover for a nice, neighborhood secondary meal elsewhere

            1. re: Tay

              Tay, I like bobmartinez' drinks before dinner suggestion better. Filling a room full of flowers and hiring a pianist/singer can add up quickly :)

              1. re: financialdistrictresident

                When you put it that way, I totally agree! :-} I don't like to bar/restaurant hop, so that wouldn't be appealing, but I can certainly appreciate how it might be for others.

            2. re: financialdistrictresident

              Nothing spells "special occasion restaurant" like a no reservation policy. Aside from that, Al Di La has that communal picnic table seating that is more like a cafeteria than a place I'd pick for an anniversary. Don't get me wrong, I like Al Di La well enough but comparing it to River Cafe is really an apples and oranges analogy.

              Looking at the original post it looks like Dan1970 got a less than perfect waiter. Upsell is often a fact of life at many New York restaurants. The thing to do is to be ready for it and don't be rattled by the implied pressure.

              "Will you be having sparking or still water sir?"

              "We'll have tap water, thank you."

              Eventually they get the picture.

              As a number of people have mentioned, the food at RC is fine. Not cutting edge, not life changing, but fine. And really, who ever confused RC with Tailor or WD-50? There's no bait and switch here. They come through on their promise to deliver mainstream food.

              With all due respect to the poster who said that the views of Manhattan are better from New Jersey, *no*. RC is located right across the East river from lower Manhattan and the skyscrapers are close and spectacular. The waterfront restaurants in NJ are on the other side of the Hudson, miles away. Their views are pleasant but the skyline is relatively far away.

              While I like River Cafe just fine I usually recommend it more as a drinks venue. That way you get to enjoy what it does best (atmosphere and view) and can select a restaurant that serves better food at more attractive prices. Some suggestions - Saul, Chestnut, and Tempo.

              1. re: Bob Martinez

                I actually had a really great entree here for lunch last week - the shellfish trio. A little boring, but all very good. A companion had a lobster grilled cheese sandwich that looked outstanding and not at all out of place. I was impressed by the food and it's a great business lunch type of place. (Fairly empty at 1 pm on a weekday afternoon.)

                The service was fine - no pushiness, no pretention. Didnt mind that none of us were drinking.