COFFEE @ The River Cafe – Water Street, Dumbo, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Situated by the river with panoramic views of the Statue of Liberty and New York’s inimitable skyline is River Café, right under the Brooklyn Bridge. With such an iconic position and serving classic New American cuisine, it’s a destination eatery for sure and definitely not your everyday café experience!
River Café opened in mid-1977 in an abandoned and highly neglected spot alongside the Brooklyn docks. When the owner discovered it years earlier, he had a grand vision for its evolution into a prestigious restaurant but had to convince the City to let him make it happen. Today, River Café has been awarded a Michelin Star among countless other high distinctions.
It has a very grown-up aesthetic and feel so probably not somewhere you would take your kids for a frothy bubbaccino. Its renovation since Hurricane Sandy (2012) has been touted as a “museum-quality restoration”. The property nearly succumbed to surge tides and when it reopened, it was with brand new ships’ deck floorboards, new walls, a new grand piano and a completely refurbished wine cellar. Most impressively, it’s not possible to determine what is new and what was there before, thanks to owner Michael O’Keeffe’s determination to apply tender loving care to every detail.
We stopped by for a lovely breakfast in the gorgeous garden. Though the setting is quite formal, it’s also very serene and relaxed and you can simply sit and enjoy the atmosphere while enjoying Waffle Benedict, Eggs with Wild Hackleback Caviar and toast soldiers. The coffee is good and they also serve breakfast cocktails (yes, with alcohol) and freshly squeezed juices.
NOW & THEN around Dumbo, Brooklyn, NY
Dumbo was known previously as Fulton Landing, Rapailie, Olympia and Walentasville. In the 1970s, artists who occupied the area between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges coined the term ‘DUMBO’ and it stuck.
DUMBO = Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.
Originally, DUMBO’s location along the East River facilitated movement of goods by barge or boat. Factories produced machinery, shoes, paper boxes, paint, kitchenware, metal springs, shoe lasts, soap, steel wool and many other items. Because of its proximity to residential neighbourhoods, it was the ideal location for employees to walk between work and home.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, transportation challenges arose for crossing the river because of the sheer growth of the manufacturing industry. Originally served by ferries and then with more steamboats added, a tunnel was proposed in 1830 to carry carts, carriages and pedestrians but was abandoned.
In 1883, thanks to important advances in engineering and technology, the Brooklyn Bridge – the longest suspension bridge ever built – was opened.
Brooklyn was officially named a borough of NYC in 1898 which brought many benefits and more growth. The Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges were built in 1903 and 1909 respectively and subway lines were installed. All these developments made Brooklyn even more appealing for manufacturing businesses.
A photographic record of my visit to Dumbo, Brooklyn, NY
Following the exodus of its manufacturing base in the 1970’s and 1980’s, Dumbo has transitioned into a mixed-use area. Many of the old warehouses and factories in and around Dumbo have been adaptively reused and transformed into high-rent commercial and residential buildings.
The following images demonstrate some of the changes that have been made to the buildings in Dumbo.
Location Map – The River Cafe