Last night was the first chance I've had to eat at River Run with the new boss and the new cook in place. I've been eating there once a month for about three years now (with a few missed times because of Question Derby being canceled or conflicts). It's always been a consistently solid restaurant with a few things that could have benefited from some changes. Though I must admit, after three years, I was getting just a little tired of the regular choices on the menu, though the specials were usually nicely different, the price often kept me from trying them.
For those of you who don't know, Jimmy (the previous owner and business founder) fairly recently sold River Run to Ignacio (sp?). Ignacio kept the menu and staff but with just a few minor changes here or there. He introduced a tapas night, and he's exploring other menu options, hopefully doing tapas in the evenings. They've kept the same breakfast and lunch menu, so don't despair. :) Then last month they suddenly lost their cook (he'd been planning on leaving any way, from what I'd heard) and Ignacio hired someone new, whose name I didn't hear last night because I was talking when Jenn mentioned it at the end of Question Derby (which is one Thursday a month and a total BLAST!).
The specials last night sounded so yummy that we both had specials for dinner. My husband got roast pork with apple brandy sauce, mashed potatoes, and braised spinach. I got deep fried and/or grilled oysters on skewers served over a large house salad with two thick slices of fresh local bread. I ordered a side of cornbread and traded that with my husband for his spinach. We shared a piece of pecan pie. They must both have been well under $15, because our total bill for the night (which included a soda for my husband and a generous tip) was $40. That's a little high for what we would normally spend simply because we usually get out of there for about $25, but I think it's a reasonable amount for a nice dinner for two in the area. :) Especially considering the food!
The pork was a little less cooked than my husband usually likes but he said it tasted really good. He said he wished there had been more sauce, because the potatoes were on the dry side (they were basically naked, but tasted good for all that), and that the sauce was really outstanding (everyone at the table, all five of us, agreed on that point, and kudos to Suri, who made it that night ;). The cornbread has been vastly improved from what you got in the past. I don't know what they did, but it is now tender and flavourful where before it was usually crumbly and mostly flavourless. I'm looking forward to seeing if they'd done more to improve the hushpuppies next time. I thoroughly enjoyed the braised spinach, it being perfectly cooked though a tad on the salty side, I love that, so it was fantastic to me.
My oysters were great. I normally only like oysters in stew. That's it. Last night I got adventurous and gave them a go, and I'm glad I did. I ordered the buttermilk dressing with my salad (which was HUGE), and it went very well with the oysters, too. The breading on the oysters wasn't too thick or too thin, and they were cooked very well. It could have used a bit more salt added to the batter but shaking salt on 'em at the table worked, too. I tried dipping one in the dressing and liked that so much I kept up that practice. The bread they served was nicely chewy and they brought me some butter (real butter, and just exactly the right amount) for it when I asked without adding it to the bill (which is what I expected and is always nice to have happen).
The pecan pie was the best pecan pie I've had in Vermont in -years-. They get it from a local woman who lives up the street. I wanted another piece, it was so good.
The portions were very large, and fortunately for us Question Derby lasts several hours, so we could eat slowly and enjoy. We both managed to finish our meals in time. There were two large slices of pork roast and two large skewers of oysters. I wasn't able to finish all of my salad, but I didn't mind that. I have always enjoyed the salad mix they serve there, though.
The service has improved, as well. Not that they were -bad- servers before, just not great. Our waitress last night, Rosemary, was just wonderful. She was clearly harried (Question Derby nights are usually pretty busy and hectic with a large crowd all showing up around the same time and ordering meals) and it was a little bit slow, but not seriously so. Certainly not as bad as some times it has been in the past. She knew what the specials were off the top of her head and was able to answer questions about them intelligently (which I can tell you IS a difference). She listened and got our orders right the first time, and had no problem adjusting our order when my husband suggested a different way of handling it so we weren't paying for an extra side we weren't going to eat after I'd ordered an extra side. The ticket had been totted up right, and included all the appropriate things. The food came out in good time and was served at the right temperature, though initially my salad had the wrong dressing, they swiftly corrected that (they give it to you on the side, so it was no problem, just swapped one cup for another).
I am very much looking forward to tapas night, and we might even go there on a night other than Question Derby night just to enjoy them (though, honestly, with so many great restaurants in the area now, I wish he'd just do tapas on Question Derby nights just once).
I strongly recommend a visit to this restaurant. They've maintained and exceeded their already good standards, and I'm very excited about Ignacio's plans for the future.