Riverview Cafe Reopens With Everything New (Except The View)
By Jamie Larson
With its million-dollar view of the Hudson River and a just-completed total renovation, The Riverview Café at the Stuyvesant landing in the rural northwestern-most corner of Columbia County, is back and better than anyone had a right to expect.
Under new, local management, and with a very affordable farm-to-table menu prepared by one of the Capital District’s best young chefs, the new Riverview Café is well worth the scenic drive just 15 minutes north of Hudson. The original Riverview Café shut its doors more than five years ago after a decade in business, and ever since there’s been a hole in the community that one business or another has tried to fill. But this new version of the café is no fly-by-night affair; in fact, it’s destination dining that doesn’t disappoint.
New owner Roby Whitlock, manager Meghan VanAlstyne and head chef Daniel Cunningham are rightly confident that their menu and mission will attract foodies and casual diners from across the region with their locally sourced, healthier versions of unintimidating American cuisine.
“Dan’s done a great job making a menu that’s approachable, not pretentious,” says VanAlstyne. “We want to show that you can have great fresh food that’s a little healthier, fills you up and doesn’t break the bank.”
Despite the care and effort dedicated to the thoughtful menu, lunch never tops $11 — and even that is for a house-smoked, pulled-brisket sandwich. For dinner service the café becomes slightly more elegant, with an inventive and tightly crafted list of specials that changes weekly and with the season, and highlights the deep range of skill Cunningham crafted working at Yono’s Restaurant, The Albany Pump Station and most recently as head chef at FinnBar’s Pub, in Troy, where he was awarded “Best Pub Menu 2014” by Metroland.
“I’ve been in the industry 15 years but it’s different what I can do here. I’m so close to where I get my ingredients that it helps me put out some really high-quality food,” says Cunningham. “And, when I get a break, I get to look out my window and see the river. No other kitchen has this view.”
The chef sources as much as he can locally, getting produce, meat and dairy from a variety of farms including Monkshood, Kinderhook Farm, Ironwood Farm, Ardith Mae Cheeses and others. Fresh bread comes from Bonfiglio and Bread in Hudson and Pigasso Farms supplies the pork that goes into the addictive house-made sausage.
The quality ingredients show: Even an item as classic as a two-egg breakfast (only $6) is elevated by the “farm freshness” and the attention to detail. If you’re in the mood for something else, try the biscuits and sausage gravy ($7) or sauteed kale and tomato confit with poached eggs ($8). For lunch, in addition to the brisket, there’s a sausage burger with bacon relish, local greens and spicy mustard ($9, or $10 with an egg on it). A superbly crafted massaged kale salad sparkles with fresh herbs, lemon, feta and pickled onions ($7); another choice is a perfectly balanced roast chicken and hand-cut bacon sandwich with garlic aioli on Bonfiglio quinoa bread ($9). Craft beer and wine is served and the renovated bar is an elegant place to elbow up for a chat.
Since opening in early October the café has been packed for breakfast and lunch Wednesday through Saturday, dinner Friday and Saturday, and Sunday brunch. Reservations are suggested for dinner and brunch service which offer specials like the unexpectedly delicious beet fritters pictured below.
“We’ve been getting a lot of people who stay and hang out after they’re done eating or go for a walk by the water,” says VanAlstyne. “There’s a different pace here, set by the river, than any other restaurant. If people come here once they’ll see it’s worth the drive — and it’s a beautiful drive down 9J.”
But it’s not important just to the Riverview Café’s crew that they draw visitors; it’s as important (if not more so) to the locals of Stuyvesant that the café recaptures its place as a town hub. So while the aesthetic, and Cunningham’s culinary nuances, have added an upscale feel, the café is as approachable as ever, with takeout sandwiches and to-go coffees for those running in on their way to work or after stopping by the post office next door. This down-to-earth approach already has locals pleased and translates to a warm atmosphere for visitors no matter from where they hail.
The flow of the river, which dominates the view out the wall-to-wall front windows, seems to slow time and adds a calm ambiance to the café. As momentum builds, VanAlstyne intends to curate a schedule of community and art events. The goal is to be as available as possible for a community with no other restaurant in their rural, spread-out town.
“I give Terry (the café’s previous owner) a lot of credit for creating a community around this place,” says Whitlock, who lives just up the street. “The community is still here and we wanted to bring it back for them.”
48 Riverview Street, Stuyvesant NY
Thursday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Sunday brunch, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Dinner and brunch reservations recommended.