Philly Alternative: Dinner from a Different Perspective

Sitting beside the Delaware River is one of my favorite activities in Philadelphia (especially under the Ben Franklin Bridge), but let’s not forget about the land across that river, my homeland – New Jersey.

I’m not here to blow smoke – I’m not recommending you pass up a night in the city if you’re in town for the weekend, but frequent visitors and locals looking for a change of pace shouldn’t be afraid to make the trek across – I found an awfully nice spot to sit out for a drink and a summer meal.

When I was on my East Coast trip in July (Ocean City, New York, Baltimore), I went out for dinner with my old man. I told him I wanted to do something different – something that would impress me – and we drove out to the east bank of the river and stopped in at Riverwinds.

The place is quite beautiful – when you walk in you are greeted by a circular bar, and large windows provide a wonderful view of the river and the Philadelphia skyline. You can see the planes coming in and landing at the airport, and the bridges that connect the two states. It can be as classy as you want it to be – I wore jeans and a collared shirt and did not feel out of place, yet there were men in jackets and women in dresses (they have a dining room, a “garden” room, and a “boat bar” room, as well as outside seating).

I had a chilled Grey Goose (up) with the dirty rocks on the side, a trick I learned in Baltimore to get the most bang for your buck. Sometimes when bartenders chill booze they end up with leftovers in the shaker, and if you don’t ask for it, they pour it down the drain.

I had another after and my pops was putting down 18-year Glenlivet, and he asked me if I was happy, if I was enjoying my life as a writer.

I told him there are sacrifices, I told him sometimes the money is tight, that my unstable lifestyle is insane at times, and that women laugh at me when I tell them I’m a whiz with the pen and that I spend my mornings in my room talking to a piece of paper.

He said to hell with the women – they will make you happy at times and sad at others – and he told me to keep going. He said he saw something in my writing that he didn’t see anywhere else. He asked if Wake and Wander was rubbing any industry people the wrong way.

I told him I didn’t care what anyone else thought – that the site makes me smile and that I write every word for myself – and he smiled and said I was on the right track.

“Do it as long as you love it,” he said, “And when you don’t love it go and do something else.”

Fair enough, pops, you’ve got a deal.

We chose to eat outside due to the nice weather – the breeze by the river rather pleasant on the humid evening. As the sun went down the colors in the sky changed and the plans became easier to see. I started off with Top Neck Clams on the Half Shell ($7).

You put a glass of vodka in front of me with fresh seafood and a calming view, and I’ll pretty much entertain myself. There is also something about eating seafood when you’re sitting by the water – something about it just makes complete sense.

I should have followed that theory into the entree course, but the waitress said there was some competition happening – one of the chef’s dishes was in a local South Jersey contest – and she recommended I try the blackened steak dish with sweet potato fries.

It wasn’t that the dish was bad – the steak was cooked properly and the sweet potato fries were creamy inside – but I should have asked a few more questions before I ordered it. If you are a fan of blackened burgers – the kind where the exterior sort of dries your mouth out – you will be a big fan of this dish. For me, it didn’t pair so well with the vodka – it made me want to drink it too fast.

My pops got a 12-ounce filet ($34) and he really enjoyed it – and I think I would have as well. If my steak hadn’t been blackened beyond my taste, it would have been a fine dish.

The menu is very diverse, be sure to check it out. Pasta, seafood, pork, veal, or steak, anyone can find something they’d enjoy, and everyone will dig the view of the river and the city skyline.

All right, the summer is almost over, but you still have time before the chilly nights set in. Those in the Philadelphia area should dine with confidence – head on over the next night you find yourself with nothing to do. Grab a drink and an appetizer at the bar (at the very least), and take in what I’m talking about.

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