By Jennifer Lombardi
Partners Sid Hood and Sally Swineford opened the original River Room Restaurant in 1984 but quickly grew out of the location and decided to move.
They wanted to stay in Georgetown and luckily came across the perfect site just down the street two years later. In 1986, they bought the 100-year-old J.B. Steele building. The restaurant is located next to the city park in the historic waterfront district downtown.
After taking the building down to its original bones, they discovered beautiful hardwood floors and amazing brick walls.
According to the River Room Restaurant owner Swineford, “I think people are surprised to see how nice the historic downtown area is. Georgetown is the third oldest city in South Carolina. Most people bypass this part of Georgetown altogether when passing through town.”
The owners credit their longtime employees for the restaurant’s consistency. Chef Joe O’Hara has been with them since 1989 and most of their staff have been with them more than 10 years, some even for 20 years.
The menu items are prepared using mostly fresh local products.
“Everything we serve is prepared fresh here. We use fresh, local foods that are available to us, including Carolina grouper, which can be fished off our coast from May through October, ” said Swineford. “Also, we use fresh soft shell crabs in season for just a short time during the spring. We use Adluh Mills stoneground yellow grits and Allen Brothers flour, both come from Columbia and are available all year long. Right now it’s peach season and we prepare a delicious peach cobbler using McBee peaches.”
The appetizers are fairly priced and portioned to feed two or more. Some favorites include shrimp and stoneground yellow grits with smoked sausage and a light pork sauce; black-eyed pea cakes with red onion alioi; fried calamari; and house made potato chips covered in chunks of blue cheese crumbles and scallions. Prices range from $7.95 to $9.95.
“The McClellanville Crab Balls were lightly breaded and fried to perfection. The huge balls were filled with delicious fresh crab meat. They serving was enough for two people to share for sure, ” said diner Kenny Alan. “Then I had the grouper and it couldn’t have been prepared better. It was very fresh tasting and served hot. The grits were creamier than I have ever had before. A great meal from start to finish.”
Salads include Gorgonzola, Pear and Bacon, The River Room entree salad, or the baby greens with pistachio crusted goat cheese garnished with fruit. Prices range from $8.95 to $10.95.
The River Room specializes in seafood specialties. The fresh fish selection includes Carolina grouper, yellow fin tuna and Atlantic salmon, which can all be prepared several different ways.
Other seafood menu choices include seafood casserole, crab cakes, sauteed shrimp and scallops and a collection of fried seafood favorites. Chargrilled beef and pork options are also available as well as a couple of chicken dishes. Most dinners include two sides and a salad. Dinners average around $20.
Made in house, it is hard to resist one of the dessert options. The New Orleans Bread Pudding is the favored choice but they also have strawberry shortcake, sauteed pound cake, mud pie, key lime pie, peanut butter pie, brownies with ice cream, chocolate mousse, crème Brule and German chocolate cheesecake, at $5.50 each.
The extensive wine list is impressive. Swineford does tastings to find the best new wines to share with her customers.
The deep, rich wood-covered ceiling and floors coupled with the antique brick walls in the separate bar area are the perfect spot for a nice glass of wine from the collection. A full bar is also available.
The restaurant is located on the quaint historic downtown street, a great place to stroll around and look in the shops and museums.
The South Carolina Maritime Museum is located directly across the park from the restaurant. The back of the restaurant faces the waterfront and is a great place to dine while watching the boats go down the river. Public boat docks are available for diners who arrive by boat.
A nice walk down the riverfront boardwalk after dinner to look at all of the boats or watch the sun set on the horizon will make your experience at the River Room even more memorable.
If you dine
What | The River Room
Where | 801 Front St., Georgetown
When | Open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5-10 p.m.
Call | 527-4110