About the River Cafe
The River Café, located on a former coffee barge under the Brooklyn Bridge, has a rich history dating back to its opening in 1977. Michael “Buzzy” O’Keeffe, a former Wall Street executive, and his friend Roger Baumann, discovered this unique location on the Brooklyn waterfront, which was then a barren and desolate area by the docks, largely unused except by trucks waiting to enter the piers.
O’Keeffe, who also operates other venues like Manhattan’s Water Club, embarked on a journey of obtaining permits and preparing the site for twelve years before opening The River Café. The restaurant’s location, leased from New York City, played a significant role in influencing the development of the surrounding area, which is now known as Dumbo. Interestingly, the restaurant had its own ferry service from Wall Street long before the neighborhood was accessible via NYC Ferry.
Known for its pioneering efforts in promoting locally sourced and organic food, American cuisine, and high-end California wines, The River Café was one of the first fine dining establishments in New York City to adopt these practices. Its culinary significance extends further, as it is recognized for incubating American chefs like Larry Forgione, Charlie Palmer, David Burke, and Rick Laakkonen. Brad Steelman has been the head chef since 2000.
The River Café’s journey, however, hasn’t been without challenges. In October 2012, the restaurant suffered significant damage from Hurricane Sandy, leading to corroded electrical wiring, loss of food and wine, and the destruction of antiques and a piano. The damage was extensive enough to necessitate a closure of over a year for repairs, reopening only in February 2014. This reopening marked a change in its wine focus and the regaining of its Michelin star later that year, although it lost this star in the 2023 rankings.
Throughout its existence, The River Café has not just been a restaurant but a significant part of New York’s culinary and cultural landscape, contributing notably to the development and reputation of its Brooklyn neighborhood.
DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) is a neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York City, known for its historical and cultural significance. Originally a ferry landing with 19th and early 20th-century industrial and warehouse buildings, the area has undergone significant transformation. David Walentas and his company, Two Trees Management, bought Dumbo in the late 20th century, turning it into an upscale residential and commercial community. Initially a haven for art galleries, it has evolved into a center for technology startups, earning the nickname “the center of the Brooklyn Tech Triangle” and becoming Brooklyn’s most expensive neighborhood
A popular photo location in DUMBO, Brooklyn Bridge Park spans several distinct sections, including Piers 1 through 6, Fulton Ferry Landing, Brooklyn Bridge Plaza, and Empire Fulton Ferry, each featuring unique topographies, plantings, amenities, and cultural artifacts. The park also integrates the Brooklyn–Queens Greenway.