When Liza and Gigi Meoli's Anise restaurant closed, it was a loss to the neighborhood near NE 79th Street and Biscayne Boulevard. But the opening of River Shack with Executive Chef David Long and Sous Chef Alan Harst provided hope.Anise did Greek so well! But I was hopeful the food at the new place would be tasty enough to carry the restaurant through the opening months while the gastropub worked out any kinks.
My first review attempt was telling. Though the website said the place was open Tuesdays, the phone message said they were closed Tuesdays. Take two, I made a reservation for 8:30ish and headed over Friday night. But there was nobody there. I asked to be seated outside and ordered a bottle of tempranillo, an olive plate and spinach pies.
Then I asked our server where the restaurant got its seafood. Her answer: The catch-of-the-day Corvina was from the ocean and the Mediterranean Mussels were in fact, from the Mediterranean... cue awkward pause.
Since the spot was now technically a gastropub I also asked about their fish 'n chips. They were out. I opted for the Mediterranean Mussels, steak fries and the 'sexy sangria'. Then I sampled some old menu items like the drunken cheese and mama's meatballs.
The vibe in this place was just plain awkward. I felt like a guest who had arrived too early. There was no music, the staff was not familiar with the menu yet, and the only other guests were elderly French diners who seemed angry that the restaurant had the audacity to change their menu so drastically.
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It seems that arriving too soon may have been the problem. River Shack has yet to open the game room-- the space currently serves as a storage room. Also, there were no DJ's or jazz band as some reviews have said.
It would be a shame for all the Meoli's hard work in building a name for the location to go to waste. With restaurants in the Biscayne corridor like Ni.Do seriously stepping up their game, River Shack will need to get rolling quickly.. I know they have the talent, and the food (especially the spinach pie) was decent, so I'll keep my fingers crossed that they will get through their opening months and create an amazing atmosphere and tasty riverside eats.