Sunday, September 12, 2010

River Bay Roadhouse Is Up and Running!

After a summer of anticipation, the River Bay Roadhouse opened this weekend in the Cape St. Claire shopping center.  The new owners hosted a couple of private evenings for family and friends before throwing open the red doors to the public on Saturday the 11th.  We've been watching it emerge from the bones of the old Bella's for months now, and the time has finally come, just in time to welcome college and professional football fans on Saturday and Sunday and Ravens fans for their first Monday night game of the season.

When I first heard about the sale of the place, I feared that the new owners might not go far enough with a redesign to banish the ghost of Bella's.  I know there are many who are sentimental about the closing of Bella's, but personally, I think it was overdue.  The place catered to just a small clientele, and the rest of us only dared to pop in for a carry-out order of wings (the wings WERE good).  Broadneck Grill was the only other Cape option for a good dinner out with friends and/or family.

Well, I certainly don't see Bella's anymore when I drive by the new exterior of the River Bay Roadhouse.  The rustic wood siding looks terrific, and I love all the little touches - the wrought iron hardware holding up the beams, the red tin awning and red door, the little black outpost lights.  The place has great character from the outside that invites you in.

River Bay Roadhouse

As for the inside, I got a sneak peak on Friday night, and by now some of the rest of you have had a chance to check it out as well.  It's really remarkable what has been done to the interior.  I was impressed by the amount of space, both wall to wall and floor to ceiling.  The exposed duct work looks sharp and adds a lot of height to the place, and they have room to accommodate a crowd.  A garrison of ceiling fans and rows of track lighting keep the air moving and the room well lit.

Roadhouse Interior

Gone is the too-dark and hazy ambiance of Bella's and in it's place, fresh, clean, and open walls with more rustic wood panelling up to chair rail height and pleasingly worn wood floors that cut the newness of the place.  The decor is a work in progress and the walls will eventually be covered with an assortment of memorabilia.  The all important flat screen hangs above the fireplace where it can be viewed by all, and if you want to see what's going on in the sports world at large, you can mosey over to the cool bar area which has bar-height tables and walls lined with flat screens tuned to a variety of sporting events.  I was told there are 16 beers on tap, including my favorite, Sierra Nevada IPA.

Dinner service on Friday evening was also a work in progress, which is to be expected from a spanking new restaurant the day before the Grand Opening.  The owner, Danny Miller, jokingly commented to our table that this is why it's called a "soft opening" on his way to the restroom with a plunger in hand (good thing he's a plumber by day!).  I personally would not want to know the stress of being the owner of a new place.  We laughingly noted that we felt like we were eating at Hell's Kitchen - Gordon Ramsey's show where you never know what a dinner service will produce - where the kitchen and staff are racing to hone their skills on the fly and serve an impatient crowd of self-proclaimed food critics.

My wish for the the Riverbay Roadhouse is that it becomes a terrific gathering place for Capers and our neighboring communities - a place where families and friends can meet for a dinner out occasionally, enjoy a good band, stop in after a ball game, watch one on the weekend, celebrate happy occasions, and enjoy some good food or maybe even an occasional chili cookoff.   It's got the makings of just such a place.  The Broadneck Grill has served that role solely over the years, and I think the addition of the Roadhouse will be a terrific compliment.  The Cape can certainly support two community friendly, well-run establishments.

If you haven't done so already, stop in and see for yourself.  I'd love to hear your impressions and constructive comments, as would the owners, I'm sure.  This is no small undertaking, and we all want to see them succeed.  The winning formula for a restaurant/bar can be tough to pin down, but we all recognize when a place gets it right.  Fingers are crossed for the Riverbay Roadhouse to establish its place in the hearts (and bellies) of us Capers.


Anonymous said...

Your just a candy ass who didn't belong in bellas.

Christy said...

You are correct, Sir! (or Madame)! You've got me pegged (or should I say, Youv got me pegged:)... I AM sorry for the loss of your favorite watering hole, but you make my point exactly. I, and a majority of Capers, "didn't belong in Bella's". I love a great dive of a bar, but I'm happy to see a new place that will perhaps welcome both Cape candy asses and Bella's rats at once. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, the greatest candy ass of all time, "Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become." Hope to see you at the Roadhouse.

Papa said...

Your not their as a blogger until your flamed by Anonymous.



Louise Z. said...

Well, my husband and I decided to give the new kid on the block a try tonight. We went to the Riverbay Roadhouse this evening. We’ve been devoted patrons of the Broadneck Grill for many years and thought it was time to give this new restaurant a try. Unfortunately, our first dinner at the Roadhouse was very disappointing for my husband and me.

We ordered two simple hamburgers and one cup of crab soup and that simple order seemed to take forever. We were the only people in the restaurant so we could not understand why it was taking so long. Two burgers and a cup a soup took almost a half hour! We noticed things seemed to be taking long but tried to be patient. What irked me even more was it was at least 20 minutes of waiting before the waitress apologized to us for our dinner taking so long and explained the food should be up, momentarily. We asked why it was taking so long and she told us that they overcooked my medium-rare burger and had to throw another one on the grill. Fine, mistakes happen, but then it was still another 15 minutes to get our dinner. I have to wonder how long our dinner would have taken had we ordered something more exotic.

I might mention that two burgers with fries, a pickle, one cup of soup and two soft drinks cost $25. I’m thinking that’s a bit high for such a simple meal.

The interior is quite pleasant, and the staff is friendly. But, I think we will wait awhile before we give the Roadhouse another try, maybe in a year’s time, by then they will have fixed any problems they’re having now. I wish them luck; we certainly need another alternative restaurant in the Cape.

Christy said...

Yes, I hear service can still be an issue. Hopefully it won't take a year to sort things out. I'm not sure Capers will be that patient.

SarahM said...

I had tried Riverbay twice when they first opened and I was completely unimpressed. And had no real desire to go back. Then one afternoon friend of mine from work was telling me how she had gone in for dinner the night before and had a FANTASTIC meal. I told her about my experience and she said that she was also turned off when she had gone in a few moths ago. Then she read an article about how they had hired a new kitchen manager and figured she would give it one more try. She loved it so I decided to give it another go.

Let me tell you that there has been a world of change since they opened. The service was prompt and friendly and the food was awesome. I had the smothered chicken and my boyfriend had a steak and both were great. The soup, bean and ham was out of this world. Reminded me of the soup my mother makes.

All said, Riverbay Roadhouse has a new fan, Hopefully those who have had bad experiences in the past will give this place another try.

Christy said...

That's GREAT to hear, Sarah! We need to get back in there and give it another try, as well - haven't tried it since early days when things were a little rough. I think it calls for a family outing this weekend. :) Thanks for the comment and updated review!