Riverwalk Restaurant Is Back in Yorktown

FRESH CATCHES The Seafood Givesti, a pasta dish inspired by a bit of local restaurant history, the eye-catching tuna stack, and craft cocktails at the recently reopened Riverwalk Restaurant in Yorktown.

Take Me to The Riverwalk: Destination for seafood lovers on the Yorktown Waterfront reopens in celebratory style under new ownership

By Leona Baker | Photos By Jacqui Renager, Performance Foodservice Virginia

The vibrant Shrimp Givesti on the menu at the recently reopened Riverwalk Restaurant in Yorktown is a delightfully simple dish of sautéed shrimp, caramelized shallots, fresh herbs and smoked tomato ragu over shell pasta. It’s also both a nod to a storied past and a celebration of the future.

That’s in part because the dish is based on a fan favorite by the same name from the venerable Nick’s Seafood Pavilion, which sat just across Water Street for decades and counted international dignitaries and Hollywood legends among its guests before Hurricane Isabel led to its closure in 2003.

There are few spots in the region bursting with as much historic, coastal charm packed into such a diminutive area as the Yorktown waterfront, where Riverwalk and its popular adjoining sister restaurant, Water Street Grille, share prime real estate today.

Tucked into hillside at the base of the Coleman Bridge, Yorktown’s family-friendly beach and easily walkable shops and attractions are set off by stunning views of the York River.

Diners, too, have long been drawn to this handsome bit of shoreline, where a handful of destination restaurants like Nick’s and casual eateries like Yorktown Pub have captured the hearts and palates of locals and visitors over the years.

Those diners have reason to celebrate this summer with the triumphant return of the seafood-centric Riverwalk Restaurant, which closed its doors during COVID and has since been utilized primarily for private events.

Staying true to its date-night roots, this much-anticipated refresh was once part of a plan to combine the side-by-side restaurants, an idea that was eschewed in favor of redefining and refining the two concepts instead. The new Riverwalk features a smartly updated interior that is elegant but unstuffy with calming blue and silver accents—aesthetically flexible enough to host both the fine dining crowd and the lunch crew.

There’s a new menu with modern takes on local seafood, a raw bar featuring oysters from Big Island Aquaculture just across the water, She Crab Soup, a variety of salads, apps and handhelds alongside some classic upscale favorites from land and sea. 

There is expanded seating including at the bar, more casual lunch offerings designed to attract still-sandy beachgoers and families, and a patio boasting that legendary vista and room for up to 50 guests. The main dining room seats 120.

For 30-year-old Williamsburg native Sid Hall and his staff, it has been an exciting and nerve-wracking time leading up to a special Mother’s Day brunch and ribbon cutting ceremony at Riverwalk in late May. Hall assumed ownership of Riverwalk Restaurant and Water Street Grille along with nearby Waypoint Seafood earlier this year.

Hall grew up eating at beloved local spots like Sal’s by Victor, Opus 9 and Pierce’s Pitt BBQ and took his turn in a pancake house kitchen or two. With an education in finance, he spent time working for Smithfield Foods and Amazon Grocery and has many connections to the restaurant industry through his family. 

Before he took over the three restaurants in April, he was serving as righthand man to then owner and long-time restaurateur Mario Buffa: “Mario was a very good family friend. I had the opportunity to come work for him and the rest is history now.”

The Menu: Crab Is King. But a Little Bit of Everything.

A recent food photo session doubled as a tasting tour during which Hall and Riverwalk’s head chef offered a menu preview to invited guests, who were able to sample some of the restaurant’s signature dishes, beginning with shareables.

It’s hard to miss their visual stunner of an Ahi Tuna Stack, deep red cubes of sashimi-grade tuna with avocado, corn and mango salsa and lump crab topped with high-flying wisps of crispy rice noodles, dotted with a little sriracha for heat.  

There’s more lump crab adorning their Chesapeake Deviled Eggs along with bacon jam and crispy fried shallots. Their Fried Green Tomato Caprese strikes a satisfyingly sweet-tangy balance with more of that bacon jam and herbed goat cheese medallions nestled between firm, lightly fried tomatoes over arugula.

And even Oysters Rock traditionalists will want to kill the motor on their deadrise for the aptly named Oysters Bubbafellar, oysters on the half shell baked with pimiento cheese, collard greens and bacon, dressed with hot sauce aioli.

There are a couple of bangers for burger lovers including the Classic Burger, eight ounces of locally sourced beef with cheddar, roasted garlic aioli, red onion, pickle and an heirloom tomato slice on brioche. The Riverwalk Burger makes a statement with the addition of a house-made crabcake and Chesapeake remoulade.

Other between-the-bun options keep things accessible and are big on presentation and flavor—from the Chesapeake Crab Cake sandwich to the Yorktown Philly, the Fried Rockfish to the Fish and Oyster Tacos, the Hot Honey Chicken to the buttery Lobster Roll—because, as Sid notes, there wasn’t any place nearby to get a good lobster roll.

A veritable pasta-palooza includes the aforementioned Nick’s Shrimp Givesti; their decadent Seaford Mac & Cheese featuring cavatappi in a lobster Romano cream sauce with crab, poached shrimp and scallops; Berkley’s Beef Stroganoff with braised short rib and wild mushrooms in a gorgonzola brown gravy on pappardelle; a creamy Chicken Carbonara; and light and lemony Pasta Primavera.

Among their seafood entree showstoppers are dishes like the Tuna Oscar with lump crab and blood orange hollandaise; the Pan Seared Scallops with goat cheese risotto and lemon herb beurre blanc; and the Seafood Newburg with poached shrimp, scallops, spiny lobster and a lobster sherry cream sauce and pastry.

Those craving premium chops can select their Battlefield Ribeye with gorgonzola and wild mushroom demi-glace or Blue Gouda Filet Mignon. Also on the dinner entrée menu is a Wiener Schnitzel featuring breaded veal cutlets with lemon basil beurre blanc and the Chicken Chesapeake, a chicken breast topped with lump crab, country ham and Old Bay cream sauce over goat cheese risotto.

Riverwalk’s wine program echoes that of Waypoint Seafood. Riverwalk also has local craft and domestic beers on tap and a colorful cocktail menu with selections such as a Cran Orange Whisky Sour, a St. Germain Lavender Spritz and a Pineapple Ube Colada.

With so much for patrons to experience and enjoy at Riverwalk and its sister restaurants, says Hall, there’s no shortage of challenges behind the scenes—as any restaurant owner (new or otherwise) will tell you. Which is why it’s important to stay focused on the key ingredients that can make it all work: people and service.

“It takes a team of good people to do this and we’re essentially inviting strangers into our home,” he explains. “Because we spend so much time here and we’re hoping that they leave as friends and family. We have to approach it that way, and if we do, we’ll be very successful.”

Riverwalk Restaurant is open for lunch and dinner daily. Learn more at riverwalkrestaurantva.com.

Cocktail photo by Crow Renager

Leona Baker

Leona Baker is the Editor-in-Chief of Coastal Virginia Magazine, a writer, creative, communications professional, food freak, news junkie, nature and travel lover and mom. She holds a degree in English from James Madison University and a degree in Dance & Choreography from Virginia Commonwealth University. She previously served as Senior Copywriter for Spark 451, Director of Marketing & Communications at Virginia Wesleyan University, and Senior Editor of Port Folio Weekly.

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