‘Concept’ Dining – RiverMarket Bar & Kitchen Strives to Be Organic, Biodynamic, Natural and Sustainable.

31-Oct / 0 COMMENTS

The Wall Street Journal
By Lettie Teague
Sept. 26, 2013 9:39 p.m. ET

Glenn Vogt with some of the wine in his new RiverMarket restaurant in Tarrytown.

Adrian Fussell for The Wall Street Journal

It took a full two years for RiverMarket Bar & Kitchen in Tarrytown to open—a length of time that would drive most restaurant owners to despair or bankruptcy (or both.) But for Glenn Vogt, the restaurant’s owner and managing partner, it offered a “wonderful benefit”: The long gap allowed Mr. Vogt and his partners to refine their concept and figure out what they wanted the restaurant to be, he said.

The “concept” of RiverMarket Bar & Kitchen, which opened a little more than two weeks ago, can be described in four words: organic, biodynamic, natural and sustainable. And throw in local—as much as possible. This applies to the food and the wine and even the décor, and it is also the guiding principle of the food market and wine shop, which opened this week.

The restaurant complex—which looks a bit like an oversize Adirondack Lodge—is situated in the riverfront Hudson Harbor complex and near the Metro North train station. It’s a desirable location, but one that actually contributed to the delay. Because the Hudson Harbor condominiums were already established, the restaurant’s owners were not able to bring equipment onto the site. “It was a very raw space—there was no electric, no plumbing and no machinery was allowed. We had to dig everything by hand,” said Mr. Vogt.

While Mr. Vogt has been on site pretty much the entire two years (save for trips to upstate New York to source wood or Pennsylvania to buy apple crates), he is also the general manager of Crabtree’s Kittle House in Chappaqua. The Kittle House is the sister restaurant to RiverMarket, and the two share many of the same suppliers.

In fact, RiverMarket has much in common with the Kittle House save for its wine cellar. While Crabtree’s Kittle House has one of the greatest cellars in the New York metro area and, at 60,000 bottles, also one of the largest, the wine selection at RiverMarket will be around 250 bottles or so, at both the restaurant and the store. Of the Kittle House cellar, Mr. Vogt said that he and owner John Crabtree kept adding wines out of a shared passion, “though maybe it wasn’t the greatest business plan.


The exterior of RiverMarket.                      Adrian Fussell for The Wall Street Journal

The current RiverMarket wine list is very short—about 50 choices—but the full list will be ready in a couple weeks, said Mr. Vogt, who noted that the restaurant already has its own allocation of DRC (a.k.a., Domaine de la Romanee Conti, the greatest domaine in Burgundy). This is something that very few restaurants receive.

The current wine list is printed on the same simple card stock as the menu (they’re awaiting the real paper, said Mr. Vogt), and it holds some choice picks, including a bright and minerally Terroir de Chablis from Patrick Piuze ($53), a great Muscadet (Domaine de l’Ecu Granite at $45) and a range of reds from Italy, France, Spain, California and upstate New York (the 2011 Millbrook Cabernet Franc at $40).

“We hope to have a real, progressive wine list,” said Mr. Vogt, who has put together many great wine lists during his career, which included stints at Windows on the World. “We’re focusing on organic, natural and biodynamic.” (This will be noted on the list.)

But Mr. Vogt insists he will not be dogmatic; he will also include wineries that he simply loves, like Ponzi Vineyards of Oregon. “They are doing the right thing” in the vineyard, even if they don’t have the words “organic” or “biodynamic” on their labels, he said. “Ponzi will always be on the wine list no matter where I am,” Mr. Vogt vowed.

In keeping with the local focus, there will also be more New York wines on the list, though Mr. Vogt confessed he’s never been a “huge fan” of the state’s wineries. On the other hand, the opening of RiverMarket has enabled him to learn a bit more about them, he noted, and he has a few particular wines from the Finger Lakes and Long Island he’d like to add. “I’m a big fan of Ravines wines—they do great work—and Paumanok Chenin Blanc is terrific, I’d love to put that on the list.”

New York farms are already well-represented on chef John Holzworth’s menu—among the restaurant’s current offerings are a Hemlock Hill Farm pasture-raised chicken from nearby Cortlandt; Hudson Valley foie gras and beef from Kniskern Farm (an Amish farm that provided RiverMarket an entire steer for its New York strip steak as well as its burger). The seared sunburst trout comes from a farm in Canton, N.C., but Mr. Vogt said it won a blind tasting because “it’s really, really good.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Vogt has one more dilemma: While the RiverMarket wine store and restaurant will feature the same selections (at different prices, of course), patrons will not be able to bring bottles into the restaurant—even if they pay a corkage fee. “I’ve been debating about this,” he said, especially since Crabtree’s Kittle House allows patrons to bring bottles for a $35 corkage fee for wines that are not on the list and $70 for wines that are. He’s decided not to allow the practice—at least for now.

There will be plenty of time in the future to make further adjustments; RiverMarket has a very long lease. That might sound unusual in the restaurant game, except its sister, Crabtree’s Kittle House, has been in business more than 50 years.

Write to Lettie Teague at lettie.teague@wsj.com