Friends on the eastside bend my ear about the dearth of good restaurants in that part of town; they complain that there are numerous chain joints, but not a lot of local joints.
Well, eastsiders, listen up! There's now a small, cozy spot on the eastside that offers good food in a comfy atmosphere—and it's run by two local guys who seem to know their stuff.
Dry River Company offers salads, sandwiches, hand-crafted Neapolitan-style pizzas, pastas and a nice assortment of sweets. While the breakfast menu is a bit limited, there are plenty of choices during the rest of the day.
The place is bigger than it appears from the outside. Reds dominate, and large windows offer views of the parking lot. There are also two nicely shaded patios—but again, they face the parking lot. Both were filled on our Sunday visit; they seem like a nice place to linger.
We started our meal with salads. One, the fruit and nut salad ($7), is a take on the classic Waldorf. Baby greens are topped with paper-thin slices of apple, walnuts, dried cranberries and feta cheese before being tossed in a lively vinaigrette. Nicely balanced with the sweetness of the apple, the saltiness of the cheese, the crunch of the nuts and the tartness of the dressing, this salad would make a great stand-alone lunch.
The same could be said about our other salad choice, a Caesar ($7). Romaine lettuce chopped into bite-size pieces had been tossed in a flavorful Caesar dressing. The croutons were house-made and added a nice crunch.
The Greek salad ($7), sampled on another visit, also pleased. While it contained all of the yummy items normally found in a Greek salad (cukes, feta, olives, red onions), the dressing was smooth and delicate—a most enjoyable change.
We ordered the meatball sandwich ($8) and the fettuccine Bolognese ($8, from the mix-and-match menu of pastas and sauces). On the former, dense meatballs were stuffed into a sturdy bun. Mozzarella had been melted across the top, and the sauce was thick and slightly spicy. This was a most satisfying sandwich—you need a fork and a knife to eat it.
The sandwich came with an interesting and tasty side salad that consisted of cannellini beans, chopped red onions, celery and red peppers, with a dash of feta and a bright vinaigrette.
The pasta was a hefty portion of tender noodles tossed with a rich, meaty sauce. I've had better, but this was worth ordering again.
In spite of all that food, we ordered dessert: a red-velvet cupcake ($4) and a brownie ($2). Our server told us that some of the sweets are made in-house, but didn't elaborate. The brownie was dense, chocolaty and filled with nuts. (A no-nut version is also offered.) The cupcake was moist with a nice cream-cheese frosting. Both were nice versions of these classics; my only gripe was that they were served chilled, so the full flavor didn't shine through until they'd reached room temperature.
On our other visit, we wanted pizza, and chose the traditional and the potato (both $10). They were nothing short of great, thanks in part to the perfect crust. Thin almost to a cracker-y crunch, the crust also had just a bit of chewiness. The mozzarella is house-made and yummy; the other ingredients are fresh and often local.
The traditional was topped with the house marinara, sausage, pepperoni and banana peppers. That may sound like a recipe for sensory overload, but it wasn't. The folks at Dry River, according to the to-go menu, don't put too many toppings on their pizzas, to allow them to "retain their rustic nature"—and they are succeeding. The sausage had just a hint of fennel seed; the banana peppers added a pleasant sweetness. This was a perfectly balanced pizza—and was still great when eaten cold.
The potato pizza was as pretty as it was tasty, with a layer of onions—sweet and cooked to near translucence—plus papery thin potatoes, a smattering of grana padano (a high-quality Parmesan-like cheese) and fresh rosemary. Yum!
We finished off the meal by splitting a chewy chocolate-chip pecan cookie ($1.75). In spite of our best efforts to just eat half of the big cookie, it was too soft, chewy and sweet to not polish off.
We didn't drink alcohol on either visit, but Dry River offers a full bar with some interesting wine and beer choices, all very reasonably priced. Service was down-home and friendly; families would feel at home, as would a group of friends or even two people on a date.
We didn't eat breakfast there, but we did take home a couple of lemon scones ($1.75 each) for breakfast the next day. They were exactly what a scone should be: slightly sweet and crumbly, with just a hint of whatever flavor it's supposed to have.
I highly recommend Dry River Company. Were it closer to home, it would become part of my regular dining rotation.