River Station is the oldest continually operated pub/restaurant in the city of Poughkeepsie, dating back to Joseph Hemmingway purchase of the land and turning it into a river front saloon. It’s changed names and ownership, survived prohibition, economic collapse and natural disasters and yet remains a waterfront fixture situated beautifully between the old Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Mid-Hudson Bridge for US-44/NY-55 only a few yards off the east bank of the Hudson.
If the views weren’t satiating enough the general vibe of the place will certainly no leave you wanting for anything either as it stands up to the surroundings with gusto. It doesn’t have a choice between it’s century reputation, the increasing local competition for quality dining and, of course, the location it has to be good.
This wasn’t my first trip to the River Station and it won’t be my last so long as they remain open and I have an excuse to visit Poughkeepsie. My first recommendation is to taste the chowder. They chance daily and there’s usually at least three to select from. You cannot go wrong as it’s all made fresh, in-house and each small cup I had seemed expertly crafted. Singly, none of them would be my individual favorite of it’s style per se, but their existence on the menu is anything but a novelty and stood on its own as a quality addition to a meal.
The next note I will make is visit on a day or at a time when it’s a little slower and ask the bar tender what they will make you for a drink. Sure, the place has 21 mostly local brews on draught, but none of them are so local and so uncommon you can’t experience them otherwise, and yes, they do have an extensive cocktail list specifically featuring Martinis but it’s a dive bar feel on the inside and there’s something just not right about that angled glass no matter how creative the combinations might be. All I said was I want something with a bourbon in it and graciously he went to work on the rest:
Makers Mark, Sweet Vermouth, Tabasco, a twist of lime, shaken with ice, served with an olive.
Not sure what you want to call that but it was interesting. I guess if I had to liken it to something it’s cutting between making a Bourbon Mary and a Manhattan Martini in some ways. It’s dirty, there’s no two ways about it, but satisfying and left me actually curious to have another (I didn’t, yet).
I’ll also make one other suggestion as a huge fan of the classic Black & Tan (Guinness & Bass) … have them pour you one of their specialties, the Black Raspberry: Raspberry Shocktop & Guinness. I don’t normally go for fruit flavored beer (and I imagine a chocolate stout would be much better as the top) but I thoroughly enjoyed the combination.
As for food, the menu otherwise is a little bit of a train wreck but most of what they made tastes good which is all you can ask for when it lacks some kind of continuity. There’s some standard Irish style Pub fare which is where I’m usually drawn to on menus of this type. The fish & chips wasn’t among the best I’ve ever had, but they were definitely above average and the tartar sauce tasted homemade (if not from scratch it was definitely doctored up and not straight from a jar). The second place I usually gravitate to on a pub menu are the burgers. Again, not among the best I ever had but certainly above average – the patty seemed hand formed and they didn’t skimp on the 10 oz of ground Angus (undersized for the state portion is too common in my experience). The house special is the aptly named Station Burger topped with local bacon, swiss, sauteed mushrooms & house made brown gravy. The combination was sloppy (which is what I want out of a burger) almost to the point of being fork and knife worthy (because of the slathering of gravy, which ended up all over my shirt at one point, of course) but the combination overall complimented itself so that there wasn’t so much in toppings to mask the meat and even within the toppings themselves it was the right amount of cheese and mushrooms and bread.