River Bend Bistro & Wine Bar
By the Gastronomes
River Bend Bistro & Wine Bar
In October of 2013 Bill Ross and his wife Caroline Bruder Ross opened their dream…River Bend Bistro in the Hollin Hall shopping center. An accomplished chef, Caroline had always wanted her own place. In 2013 they made it happen and today have a very popular and successful restaurant catering to the locals as well as some of their longtime friends from Old Town.
Conveniently located between Mt. Vernon and Old Town Alexandria, River Bend has become a go-to place along Fort Hunt Road. The restaurant features wines from around the world and their seasonal menu relies on locally sourced products. I might mention here that the wine selection is one of the most rounded out and complete in the area. There are offerings in each area that run the gamut and are sure to please any palate. Another bonus is that the wines are very reasonably priced, which is a testament of Caroline’s years of managing a local wine store years ago.
The restaurant is casually comfortable with tables along the far wall, four tops throughout the dining room leading up to a very comfortable L-shaped bar. The staff is well trained and very friendly. We try to make it up there at last twice a month for lunch so we can visit Kathy Coombs behind the bar.
We thought that March would be a good time to write about River Bend because on March 19th Caroline will introduce her spring menu. You can go early in the month and then again later in the month to see what changed. The quality of the offerings are top drawer and the portions are a perfect size to allow room for an appetizer or one of their enticing desserts.
Appetizers or “Snacks” range from grilled flat breads, a daily cheese selection, Caramelized Onion Tater Tots, Sweet Potato Biscuits with Edward’s County Ham to local Oysters. Starters include Warm Spinach Salad, Crispy Duck Confit, Oyster Stew and Warm Raclette over New Potatoes. There is normally a seasonal soup of the day and every one of them that we have had has been a standout. Be sure to try Caroline’s gazpacho this summer. All these items, and more, are under $10.00 except for the oysters.
Lunch Entrees range from Local Farm Raised Cheddar Cheeseburger, Liverwurst on Rye, House Smoked Eye of Round Steak, a Grilled Ham and Brie Sandwich, Fresh Tagliatelle Pasta (my favorite), Quiche Lorraine, Oyster Pot Pie, Cassoulet with Garlic Sausage and Cotswold Mac and Cheese, Poached Salmon and a Wild Mushroom Omelet. You have a choice of a side salad or fries with most of these. Before I forget, let’s talk about the French fries at River Bend. Do you remember the days of “Potato Sticks” that came in a cardboard “can” back in the day? These fries are a gourmet version of those delicious things. These are thin and crispy and hot! Don’t pass them up even if you are trying to save a few calories. Prices range from $8.00 to $15.00. We have tried almost all of these and the sweet sausage on the Tagliatelle stands out. Other favorites for lunch are the quiche and the mac and cheese! I also must mention that there are usually one or two specials daily. Try to catch a shrimp and grits day…they got it right and are one of the very few establishments that serve the grits that are made down the parkway at George Washington’s Grist Mill.
For dinner the appetizers are consistent with the lunch menu as well as the starters. The dinner entrees are different ranging from Rainbow Trout, Broiled Wild Blue Catfish and grilled Salmon to Braised Lamb Shank, Roasted Duck Breast, Roasted Chicken breast, Grilled Rib Eye and Today’s Risotto.
On our evening at River Bend I had the Broiled Catfish. I remember the days of my youth when we would have a fish fry with grits at my grandparents’ farm in Georgia. It was good…but this was way better. Fresh and cooked just right, the paprika butter added a little oomph to the tender white meat. The entrée was accompanied by sautéed asparagus. Some restauranteurs that I know have always said that if you get the French fries right, everything else will be great. I think getting asparagus right says the same thing. The accompanying asparagus was cooked perfect…not overcooked but just al dente enough to have that nutty crunch. My partner ordered the Roasted Chicken Breast. It is served with the aforementioned tagliatelle pasta with a wild mushroom and sherry cream sauce. This was a perfect combination and a little bit “outside of the box” since many places accompany this dish with mashed potatoes.
As I mentioned before, save room for dessert. It is available at both lunch and dinner. The desserts will delight you and, in some cases, surprise you. River Bend has a fresh warm apple cobbler topped with ice cream as a staple but change out the fruit seasonally so the cobbler is our “go to” choice. However, we stepped “outside of our box” and tried the Mascarpone Cheesecake and the Upside Down Pear Cake. Both didn’t disappoint. The chocolate mousse and Linzer torte are next on our list. Ice cream and sorbet as well as espresso, lattes, and cappuccino are available. Several after dinner cordials are available as well.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of dining at River Bend or you haven’t been back in a while, put it on your To Do list this spring. Caroline has a special knack and combining flavors that might surprise you and the spring menu is sure to be stellar – not to mention, lots of free parking!
River Bend Bistro
7966 Fort Hunt Road