Blame it on the Butcher & Larder. If I hadn’t heard that Bridge House Tavern was carrying charcuterie from Rob Levitt’s new butcher shop, I might not have expected much difference between this new riverside restaurant and its former tenant, Flatwater, where a colleague once bit into a hot dog that was cold in the middle. But Bridge House’s menu had those locally cured meats, a locally sourced cheese plate and “Green City Market veggies” as a side. In other words, Bridge House Tavern was trying.
Alas, it’s also bombing. Over the course of two meals, I was introduced to chewy shrimp awkwardly combined with sauce tableside in a cocktail shaker; a generous iceberg wedge topped with a couple strips of cold, limp bacon; and evidence that the easiest way to render unappetizing an impressive range of dishes—from a shaved-vegetable salad to “fish sticks” (just fish-and-chips) to a grilled-cheese sandwich to that “market veggie” side (ramps and mushrooms)—is to serve them soaked through with oil.
The range and severity of execution errors combined with the limited, mass-market beer list and lack of cocktail program seemed to negate any reason for visiting this place. But then one beautiful day, I was waving from the striking riverside patio to a team of junior-high baseball players on a Wendella boat when I tasted the Bridge House burger: two thin patties with melting American cheese on a potato bun, a steroidal take on the Shake Shack cult object. If Bridge House Tavern can make a burger this awesome in a space this coveted, its only mistake is trying to do anything else.
By Julia Kramer