Dining at Riverwalk Restaurant: Dress accordingly
by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi
I was smart and wore a dress.
There were no tight waistbands to contend with or pant buttons to undo. It wasn’t Thanksgiving, but I sure felt stuffed after enjoying dinner at Yorktown’s Riverwalk Restaurant.
Tucked under the Coleman Bridge on the York River in Riverwalk Landing, the casual yet elegant restaurant offers dinner with a view. It was a comfortable, not-too-humid September evening when my husband, Chris, and I took the drive south on George Washington Memorial Highway to York County. Chris and I hadn’t enjoyed a date night in quite a while, so we opted for the romantic patio seating and dined waterside. Diners inside the restaurant are also treated to a river view through large windows and on cool evenings, there’s a fire crackling in the stone fireplace.
I normally enjoy a glass of wine as an aperitif, but I felt adventurous and ordered the mango mule, one of a list of 10 or so specialty drinks that evening. Made with mango vodka, ginger beer and lime, it was a tad too sweet for my palate, but for mango lovers, it would probably hit the spot. I persuaded Chris to deviate from his normal drink of choice—any kind of beer—and he ordered a cucumber collins. I’m a cucumber fan in all shapes and sizes. The cucumber vodka, fresh lemonade, mint and soda with a slice of cucumber made for a refreshing drink. We were torn about which one of the 12 appetizers to try. Aptly named, they all looked appetizing! I was intrigued by the spaghetti squash tater tots served with fresh herb and goat cheese dipping sauce and the burrata mozzarella and tomato caprese salad, always a summertime favorite of mine. But the menu said “a must try” was the calamari. Our waitress Caroline said it was a customer favorite. A nearby diner warned us that it was a “huge plate of calamari.” Both were right.
The lightly battered, crispy calamari over thinly sliced octopus was a hefty portion, piled high on a large dinner plate and was enough to serve four or more. It was served on baby arugula with heirloom tomatoes and sweet chili aioli on the side. It was a feast for the eyes as well as the belly.
I could have made a meal of the calamari and stopped there, but we’d already ordered our entrees. My choice was the signature fish fry, which came with a cup of soup or side salad, fried haddock, crispy oysters and panko crusted shrimp. I chose the she crab soup instead of a salad and wasn’t disappointed in my choice.
Apparently eavesdropping a little, a nearby diner said he heard me order the soup. His wife had just had a cup and he snuck a taste. “It carried me back to a restaurant in New York when I was in the service. Tasted just like a soup I had back then.” I’m guessing 30 or so years ago.
“When a food does that, brings up a memory like that, it’s a wonderful thing,” he said. The crab soup was creamy, with chunks of backfin crab, and served with a splash of sherry on the side. It was one of the best I’ve had and I fancy myself a she-crab soup connoisseur.
Chris ordered one of the two specials that night, seared rainbow trout topped with lump crabmeat on a bed of roasted potatoes smothered with anisette cream sauce. The sauce, made with anise-flavored liqueur, was a fantastic complement to the trout. It was rich and sweet but didn’t mask the flavor of the fish and crabmeat.
We finished our dinner with creme brûlée topped with fresh berries and homemade whipped cream and a slice of key lime pie with wild berry sauce and more of that decadent whipped cream.
Before leaving we were treated to a light show of fireworks beyond the bridge somewhere in Gloucester County. A band played next door on the patio at Water Street Grille.
Riverwalk Restaurant and Water Street Grille share the same owner and same executive chef along with many of the same menu items, including the popular jumbo lump crabcake.
For landlovers, Riverwalk Restaurant offers beef tenderloins, Kentucky bourbon ribeye, pan roasted duck breast and chicken pesto. Of course, the seafood options also include shrimp scampi, fried oysters and chargrilled Mediterranean octopus.
So many tempting choices. Remember to wear a dress, or at least loose-fitting pants.