If you want to take the '90s revival trend and translate it to your next nice dinner, you might as well do so at the River Cafe. The food at this special-occasion spot in Dumbo is prepared well, even if it’s a bit uninspired—but the real draw is the picturesque view from the main dining room, which is as close to eating in the East River as you can get.
Dinner is a fixed-price three-course situation, and the appetizers are by far the most interesting. We especially love the retro feel of the wagyu steak tartare, which is mixed tableside by one of several waiters who attend your table during your meal. (If there’s one thing besides the view that’s a real standout, it’s the service.) Mains like duck and black sea bass are enjoyable, even if they taste as though the top graduate of a very boring culinary school prepared them for their final exam. The desserts, sadly, are a miss.
But you’re not really at the River Cafe to have exciting food. You’re here to celebrate your 85-year-old grandpa’s birthday, propose to someone, or simply revel in the strangeness of watching kindergarteners in Gucci polo shirts toss back mocktails. Servers in matching cropped white jackets will perform a choreographed dance to simultaneously drop plates on your table as you gaze out at the Manhattan skyline, feeling fancy. The other thing we love about the River Cafe? The garden. It looks like it was airlifted from a Thomas Kincaid painting, complete with fairy lights in every tree.