Note: The Riverdale Garden closed in February 2007. The owners said they would re-open if they could find fifty couples to purchase $5,000 apiece in dining credits. Eater.com reported that they had found just 16.
The Bronx is not exactly a hotbed of fine dining. The Zagat guide lists but twelve restaurants in the Bronx, and very few of them appear to merit a trip out of Manhattan. Well, at least one of them does. The Riverdale Garden is an oasis well worth the trip. Located just a block away from the 242nd St terminus of the #1 train, the restaurant is extremely easy to reach, and in a safe neighborhood. Valet parking is also offered.
Inside the Riverdale Garden, you are transported by a cosy farmhouse décor, with white tablecloths and an exposed wood-burning furnace. There are a couple of sofas by the furnace, and on a cold night it was wonderful to relax there and soak up the heat. As you’d expect, The Riverdale Garden has…an outdoor garden. As you’d also expect, it was not open on Saturday night in January, but we peered outdoors, and it looks like a lovely romantic setting for a return visit in summertime.
I ordered a wild mushroom risotto, followed by a braised lamb shank. The risotto was terrific, and the lamb so tender that a knife was entirely superfluous. My friend was equally pleased with the soup du jour and a tuna steak. For dessert, we shared a heavenly fruit compote with cinammon ice cream. We each ordered mint tea, which came in personal-size tea pots in a witty design I’ve never seen anywhere else.
All of that, plus one glass of wine (my friend does not drink) came in for under $100 before the tip. I can’t remember the last time I had a meal this good that stayed under $100. I was particularly struck by the fact that I had ordered practically the identical items recently at Café Gray (wild mushroom risotto and braised shortribs), and paid more than double that figure, although at CG we drank a bit more. There’s no contest as to which restaurant I’ll return to sooner.
The restaurant was full on a Saturday night, with what appeared to be an upscale clientele. Service was friendly and efficient. Appetizers are in the $6-10 range, mains $16-27. The menu changes seasonally, and the version shown on the website isn’t current.
Riverdale Garden (4576 Manhattan College Parkway, Riverdale, Bronx)