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Oct 18, 2019

Inside the Long-Awaited RIVERCREST on Ditmars (+ What’s on the Menu)

One of the top things we’ve gotten questions from readers about this year has been Rivercrest. We reported in January that the restaurant was taking over the long-vacant space under Acropolis (…)

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One of the top things we’ve gotten questions from readers about this year has been Rivercrest. We reported in January that the restaurant was taking over the long-vacant space under Acropolis on Ditmars. Since then, though signage went up and construction appeared to be finishing up, the space was still not opened.

Over the last few months the owners ran into issues bringing it up to code with the NYC Department of Buildings (since it was a very old building), getting gas from ConEd, and waiting on a liquor license.

BUT earlier this month the paper in the windows came down, and the restaurant has officially been in its “soft-opening” phase.

We checked out the completed space, perused the menu, and chatted with the team running the space about inspiration and goals. Enjoy and let us know if you have any further questions!

You can get a sense of how long the space is from the photo outside the restaurant.

Inspiration

Ciara, who has been working with the restaurant team who opened Rivercrest for the past 10 years (they also own One Mile House, Stout NYC and Maggie’s Place), said when they decided to take over the space in Astoria, they sought inspiration from local history.

“The initial concept for Rivercrest was based on a former sanitarium that was opened in 1896 in Astoria, right down the street from our location,” she explained. “It housed famous celebrities like Drew Barrymore’s great grandfather, famous actors like Della Fox, and poets during its time. It currently serves as one of the off-site campus for St. Johns.”

You can see this influence throughout the design and art in the space, which we’ll get into next…

The Layout and Design 

The Rivercrest space is a very large entertaining space for Astoria—encompassing the entire bottom floor of the building. It’s semi-divided into three sections: the main middle section, which includes a large circular bar as well as high-top tables (that you order from the bar from).

A shot of the main wrap-around bar.

The left and right sides of the space encompass the dining area, with sit-down tables and waiter service. The right side has a few TVs and old framed photos of people who were patients of the sanitarium. The left side has its own smaller vintage-inspired bar, as well as other tables and a projector (though less TVs) that can be pulled down over a unique mural. Both of these side spaces can be rented for private events (Ciara says they already have six events in the books).

The left side dining space.

“[The] separate cocktail bar will be offering new and exciting cocktail specials,” she said of the left side dining space. “It has a speakeasy feel, so if someone doesn’t want to watch sports on one of our ten TVs and projector, they can experience a more intimate time.”

The “back bar.”

As for decor, Rivercrest follows the typical gastropub aesthetic of Edison bulb lighting, dark wood features, exposed brick walls, and iron accents. It adds some unique design elements with its colorful mural art—done by artist Dan Birch, who does lots of design work for breweries—inspired by the sanitarium as well. One is a play on the words “losing your mind” (two photos above), and one is influenced by electroshock therapy…forming a Medusa type look-alike (below).

The stairwell to the bathroom is covered with local beer labels (local brews are a big part of the concept, more on that next), and the bathroom itself has large blow-ups of newspaper articles about the sanitarium.

Food & Drink

Rivercrest boasts 20 beers on tap which will rotate, and many are from local breweries in NYC like Singlecut, Finback and Gun Hill (most range from $7-9 and during happy hour a select group is $6).

There are also a large selection of cocktails, including some on tap. There is also wine and canned beer, and a part of the menu devoted to nonalcoholic options.

The food menu offers quite a variety as well. There is typical bar fare like burgers, sandwiches and wings, plus a selection of flatbreads, tacos, and even a “loaded” tater tot section. There are also grain bowls and salads, and a devoted vegan section.

“We tried to make our menu as diverse as Astoria is,” Ciara said. “Our hopes are that we have many offerings for everyone, including people with dietary restrictions, people that choose to eat Vegan or vegetarian, healthy options, and good options for watching sports.”

Goals & Events

“The community has been so amazing,” Ciara said of the response since opening. “We are so excited to get more involved with the community as we exit our soft opening phase. We plan to have trivia, daily specials of the week, music, themed movie nights, and more!”

Some specific plans she shared include movie nights on the projector with a themed menu: like “Lady & the Tramp” with spaghetti and meatballs, and an upscale TV dinner night (served in the iconic trays) with a throwback film.

“We hope to offer a little bit of everything to the community,” she said.

Have you been by? What do you think of the photos? Let us know in the comments!

11 Comments

LG

I have NOT been here yet. But I find the comments re: their lack of identity very interesting, because those of us local to the area have seen this issue bring down other businesses before. Example – what was formerly known as 60 Beans. Which was a fantastic coffee shop during the daytime. But then, they decided to hire a chef and become a rather expensive place to eat at night. It ended becoming an identity crisis, and frankly, a turnoff. If I’m the owners of this place, I take these comments to heart. The consistency of them is very, very telling. It’s evident that a lot of blood and sweat went into this place and I would like to see them succeed. Just my two cents and I hope to visit soon.

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Meg

This place is great. The draft list is stellar. They poured hill farmstead! Had the ditmars flatbread and it was great also. I see a lot of comments about issues with service. All new places have growing pains like that. The owners are such a hard workers and they are committed to being a part of the neighborhood. I know that this place is just going to get better and better.

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Emilija Nakas

Loved everything about it! I really enjoyed the way they worked in tasteful nods to the history of Rivercrest and I also thought the beer label wall leading down to the bathrooms was cool! The beer list is stellar and well curated. The cocktail list also looks fun. I was so busy with the beers that I didn’t really venture over to the cocktails this time around but I plan to on my next visit. The food was tasty and came out quickly and correct. The staff was friendly, attentive and knowledgeable. In my book this is a ten out of ten and I’m thrilled to have it in the neighborhood!

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Mark Misrok

Scoped it out last night, with a good crowd there for a Monday, likely for the football game on their MANY TV screens. I admired the diversity and creativity of their menu. With the emphasis on the TV screens and the bar, I wonder if they’ll be committed to high quality implementation of that menu, and maintaining that quality over time. I also wondered why me and my friends would go there if we could sit at a table without TV screens in our face to enjoy (and hear) each other.

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Mike N

Poor service at the bar. The bartenders need to be in sections instead of tripping all over each other. I also didn’t like that there was no uniformity. You can do so much. Put the Medusa logo on the wall on shirts.

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Ashley

Food was amazing! As vegetarians there were plenty of options and great quality food- but service was lacking. Not sure what they want to be- gastro-pub or sports bar. It was busy with sports fans, but when you want to enjoy a great meal around yelling fans and lacking waitresses it’s tough. We would go back over and over for the food- not for the service and vibe. I personally Think they need to divide the space- dining on one side and bar/high-top bar on the other.

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Amy

Not really impressed. I went there for a drink before we headed out a few weeks ago. The place is “confused.” It doesn’t know if it wants to be, there are too many vibes going on. They have a very limited liquor selection, which is overpriced. The bar service is okay, and it doesn’t make sense that the high tops in the bar do not get service. They definitely have some growing pains to deal with.

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Jo

Burger left a lot to be desired. The crinkle cut fries sucked. Tots were ok. Buffalo wings were good an meaty. Service was sub par; no one wiped our table clean from previous guests, had to ask for silverware after food was dropped, they gave us tiny bar napkins instead of dinner napkins with the wings- and it wasn’t busy. All of that said, new places always have some growing pains and I hope the can work theirs out. I like the big space and it has potential.

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F. DeChirico

Very disappointed with this place. They need to figure out where and what they are. I enjoyed the beer list with its variety, although pricier than most. (I dont mind paying premiums for good products. So my disappointment doesnt stem from this) they have a very limited and even pour liquor selection, which they also have the nerve to charge over $9 a shot of tullamore dew. The bar service is absolutely terrible. The time it took to get a drink was ridiculous. The bar was busy as the yankee playoff game was on, however not that busy. With 2-3 bartenders behind that bar there shouldn’t have been any reason it took over 20 mins to get a drink. Hopefully this will improve as the business grows as I want to love this place as i am a huge fan of the idea of the rotating beer menus. I’ll wait a few weeks and give it a second chance.

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Demetra

Have gone twice and had a great time! Great beer selection, affordable prices and I loved the Fish Tacos. Nice crowd as well!

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Johanna

Caught a few yankee games there. Great crowd and beer, but they really need to work on the food.

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