A while back, I worked as a front desk clerk for a hotel and restaurant in the area. Because we had no formal concierge, the front desk was expected to manage visitor requests and questions, among the most popular being, “Where should we go to get dinner?” Many times, this question would be coupled with additional criteria: “Where should we go to get dinner on the riverfront?”
To that question, there isn’t an easy answer. While we have many restaurants on the river, so where can you go is not an issue. Where should you go… well, that’s an entirely different story.
Like any waterfront real estate, properties by the riverside are highly sought after. The ability to dine while overlooking a body of water will never go out of favor – just ask the fine folks of some of the most mediocre restaurants lining our East Coast beaches. It really doesn’t seem to matter to most waterfront restaurants whether their food is of decent quality, their staff well trained, efficient, and friendly, or even their interior atmosphere welcoming. The whole sell is that they’re on the water, which puts their diners that much closer to the water, and that setting in of itself is enough to get people through the door.
There are exceptions, of course. And then there are places like Silky’s Crow’s Nest, which is neither the exception nor the rule waterfront dining, but instead inhabits a limbo between above-par dining and sub-par riverside stride. But, as with many places of its type, the bar and restaurant requires the diner to set their expectations realistically. When reaching for a menu item just a bit above ordinary, the chances of their kitchen turning out something splendid is fairly slim.
Our dining experience started off a little rocky. After about twenty minutes of trying to flag down the waitresses zooming past our table, we were briefly visited by a very terse, abrupt server who took our drink order. The drinks took another fifteen or twenty minutes to appear, upon which we finally were able to order our actual meals.
The meal itself didn’t start off so great either. The lobster bisque had a orangeish-brown color and the consistency of Manhattan Clam Chowder, only thinner and with salt in place of any other significant flavors. At a mere cup, the sodium level was intolerable to most of our tastebuds, so we gave up about halfway through to concentrate on our shared appetizer.
The shared plate of crab fritters were considerably more successful than the soup, due mainly to the sheer amount of crab stuffed into each of the fried cakes. Each fritter was about the size of child’s fist and packed about as much flavor as there was crab, but it’s the breading that deserves special mention. Reminiscent of a hush puppy, it was crunchy and savory and showed the kind of restraint with salt that would have been welcome in the lobster bisque. One minor criticism: The texture was a bit too uniform for a fritter this size, but throwing in some small addition would help break it up.
Meg’s mom ordered the Shrimp Isabella, with shrimp, prosciutto, spinach, and tomatoes in a garlic alfredo sauce. The prosciutto and tomatoes gave a necessary pop of salt and acidity to the heavy cream sauce, which was also well supported by the choice of penne as the pasta. The heartier pasta noodles threaten to overwhelm slighter sauces, but they are perfect for an alfredo. The spinach was nicely wilted but not overcooked, and the shrimp had a nice resistance to each bite without being rubbery.
Meg’s scallops boasted the same good eye for preparation. Scallops are easily ruined, so we all appreciated how tender and flavorful these were. The cream sauce was a little lighter than in the Shrimp Isabella and even boasted a mild kick of spice. The proportion of the other ingredients in the dish was off, however, relegating the other featured items to minor textural counterpoint.
I should have followed the other ladies’ lead and ordered a pasta dish, but I was tempted into the lobster roll special. It was an overall disappointment, starting at the very foundation of the sandwich: The bread. Instead of a robust loaf or bun, I received a thick slice of Italian bread halved to accommodate the lobster salad. The result was a soggy mess, as the improvised bun was no match for the wet, heavy weight of the lobster. Even toasted the bread was wilted before the first bite.
But even proper bread would not have saved the dish. Whereas the other seafood entrees at the table had the benefit of sauce to cover possible notes of the freezer, the lobster was unadorned and served in all of its defrosted glory, the dominate flavor in an otherwise bland mix. It wasn’t inedible, but it wasn’t exactly tantalizing either. Thankfully, between the large slice of watermelon and the robust side dish of veggies (including a mini corn on the cob), I had more than enough food to satisfy my appetite. If I had not, my fellow diners would have been more than happy to unload some of their ample portions onto my plate.
Silky’s Crow’s Nest could easily skate by on its location, and there’s no arguing that there’s some of that attitude present in the way the restaurant is set up and the manner and presentation of their servers. But aside from a few missteps, the overall quality of the food was higher than one might assume. Stick to basic sandwiches, burgers, and pasta, and you’re likely to have an enjoyable meal in addition to the enjoyable scenery.