Review: Riverbend Restaurant and Bar in Soulard

Editor’s note: Riverbend Restaurant and Bar has closed. 

Riverbend, a new Creole bar and restaurant in Soulard, brings the tradition of New Orleans cooking to St. Louis with a local river city flair. Although significantly renovated from the previous watering hole that filled this space, the building retains much of its historic charm – on a recent Saturday night it felt as though the restaurant had always been there. With black ceilings, the original bar, new shiny mirrors and brightly colored New Orleans posters, Riverbend strikingly synthesizes old and new. But the restaurant’s real draw is the care and love poured into the food and the hospitality offered by the staff.

Starters are found on the menu’s Temptations section. It includes peel and eat shrimp, but before you think, as we did, “It’s boiled shrimp, how good could it be?” let us reassure you: The large, head-off shrimp were fresh and masterfully cooked and arrived with a house-made, Louisiana-style remoulade whose kicky Creole mustard, subtle spice and bright acidity paired beautifully with the shrimp. The Doc Sewall Oysters, shucked, seasoned and baked with breadcrumbs and cheese, arrived at the table piping hot. This simple dish needed only a fresh squeeze of lemon and a little patience, so as not to burn oneself. Don’t miss the oyster bread, a concoction of oysters, green onions and other goodies, puréed and spread on crusty French bread, then baked till warm; it left us yearning for another helping.

The menu features a selection of sandwiches, paninis and salads, but we suggest passing over these in favor of the Creole fare – the chef is a New Orleans native, after all. Po’ boys, Louisiana’s version of a sub sandwich, are traditionally dressed with lettuce, tomato, pickles and mayo. Riverbend offers several versions. Cochon de Lait, traditionally made from suckling pig but more often featuring pork shoulder, features wonderfully seasoned, slow-roasted, porky goodness. The Roast Beef and The Riverbend, identical except for the latter’s addition of ham and Swiss, were very messy – and by messy, we mean awesome and messy. The warm brown gravy was rich and savory and the house-roasted beef so tender, you almost wouldn’t need to chew if not for the bread. We would and will order all of the po’ boys again.

The specials vary daily. We tried the crab cakes featured on one of our visits; they were a bit too mushy but had a pleasant flavor with a spiciness that was nicely cut by the creamy aïoli. One evening’s fish special, baked pompano topped with oyster dressing, was delicately roasted, finished with a light sherry-cream sauce and served with inviting peas with garlic and lemon. Unfortunately, a chicken breast special was unrelentingly dry; the meal was saved by a side of corn and sweet roasted red peppers and a memorable cornbread and crawfish pudding. If we could order tubs of this, we would.

Riverbend’s delightful Creole cooking, neighborhood feel and laid-back simplicity make for a very enjoyable dining experience; we’ll be back for more.

Where: Riverbend Restaurant and Bar, 701 Utah St., St. Louis, 314.664.8443
When: Lunch: Mon. and Wed. to Sat. – 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner: Mon. and Wed. to Sat. – 5 to 10 p.m.
Dine-in-Ability: A laid-back vibe and occasional live music make this neighborhood spot a great place to go for a beer or dinner with friends and family.
Try it, You’ll Like It: Any po’ boy, oyster bread, house-made stuffing

Tags : Reviews, Restaurants