River House Bar & Grill Opens In Port Chester

New owners revamp an old sports bar, offering more than just pub grub.

Restaurants come and go, but pizza ovens remain. When I walked into new River House Bar & Grill (which used to be JT Straw’s), a few blocks past the main part of Main Street in Port Chester, the handsome wood-burning oven set it apart from other low-key sports bars. “That oven was here before,” I was told.

The pizza oven may be the focal point, but the hub is clearly the bar—conveniently near the oven. The pizzaiolo extracted a smallish, thin-crust pie that happened to land on the bar, in front of the people next to me. “Which one is that?” I asked, scanning the seven pizzas on the menu.

The oven at River House came with the premises; bay scallops, topped with with creamed corn, tortillas, and cilantro, prove there’s more to the menu than pizza.

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“Oh, that’s just one I brainstormed,” he said. “I’m not fooling around when it comes to food.” Turns out it was braised short rib, cherry peppers, diced tomato, and red onion with garlic and basil, on a white pie. The people offered me a slice, and I accepted. No indeed, he was not fooling around when it came to food.

But should you not like the heat of cherry peppers, there’s also, for instance, the Pharaoh Calzone Burger (yes, that is a pizza): bacon, lettuce, onion, tomato, provolone, and River House sauce.

The specials menu and all-important bar at River House.

The bartender switched TV channels to suit customers’ preferences. The NFL special was on, with $5 margherita pizza, $6 Buffalo wings, and $2.50 drafts of PBR and Bud, but taps beckoned with Dogfish Head 60, Magic Hat, and Guinness. But the night to be there is Thursday, which is Taco Night from 4 pm to 4 am: $2.50 tacos (chicken, chili, steak, carnitas), $4 guacamole, $5 Mexican pizza, 25-cent jumbo wings, $8 burrito with rice, beans, and guacamole, $5 fresh lime Margaritas, $3 Jose Cuervo Gold shots, $2 Modelo, $3 Corona/Corona Light—I mean, 3 am, people, 3 am. All that, and an electronic dart board, too.

Sadly, I have not yet made it to Taco Night. But I did get to sample the mac ‘n cheese appetizer—rich, cheesy shells with a large clump of the pretty much perfect short ribs in the center, sprinkled with parsley ($9). Good-looking quesadillas and burgers were also floating around (such as the “big boy” burger, topped with bacon, sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, mayo, and a fried egg). People poke gentle fun at kale salad (warm kale with goat cheese and walnuts) and then order it again. Desserts include house-made ice cream in flavors such as salted milk chocolate.

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Above two photos by Leslie-Anne Brill

River House Bar & Grill may emphasize pizza, but the rest of the menu, including the macaroni and cheese, isn’t just tacked on.

River House Bar & Grill
435 N Main St
Port Chester
(914) 937-9695

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