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.
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.