Riverfront Café A New Twist On Flavor

By+Shelly M. Kurz

Looking for an escape from the ordinary?

I’m not talking about a trip to the islands or even a weekend getaway. It’s a diversion from your “same old same old” noon or evening repast that I am suggesting. Everyone needs a change now and then, even when it comes to food. That doesn’t mean you have to step so far out of your culinary comfort zone that you can neither pronounce what’s on the menu nor identify what’s on your plate. After all, it’s tough to argue with the palatable pleasure and fulfillment that’s served right alongside your helping of comfort food.

The Riverfront Café in downtown Niles is just the place to embark on your adventure. Andrew Thistlethwaite, co-owner and executive chef, explains the menu as contemporary American cuisine. “It’s traditional comfort food with a trendy twist. I like to introduce new flavors to old favorites,” he says. Take, for example, the turkey sandwich. You’ve probably eaten quite a few of these in your lifetime and by now you know what to expect. Comfortable? Yes. Boring? Maybe a little. Now, imagine that sliced turkey piled high on garlic-herb foccacia bread. Fresh mozzarella and avocado salsa are the out of the ordinary condiments that awaken your taste buds and send them into a flavor frenzy. Another favorite at the Riverfront Café is the chipotle chicken and penne alfredo. Tucked into this traditional chicken and pasta dish are red onions, bell peppers and flavorful smoked bacon covered with a zesty chipotle alfredo sauce. “It’s a little southwestern Italian fusion,” explains Andrew.

The ample menu also boasts such appetizers as Asian style fried calamari, sesame-crusted ahi tuna and chicken wings. Soups, salads and sandwiches provide a lighter fare while dinner entrees range from steak, pork, veal and chicken to seafood and portabella and vegetable prima vera. A delectable selection of miniature pastries creates a sweet finale. On Sundays, the regular menu is replaced with a buffet that includes a kaleidoscope of items including omelets, bacon, sausage, French toast casserole, carved meat, salads, seafood, breads, desserts and more.

In addition to excellent food, the Riverfront Café is proud to serve wines that are exclusive to Berrien County. “There are twelve or thirteen local wineries that make outstanding wine,” claims Bill Thistlethwaite, co-owner. “We work with about six of them and serve over 47 different kinds of wine.” You can also select one of several microbrews or domestic beers.

The menu isn’t the only thing you’ll take pleasure in while dining at the Riverfront Café. The atmosphere is as enticing as the food. Vintage charm provides a relaxed and cozy setting while contemporary décor and lighting give it a refreshingly trendy and hip feel. And if you like dining outdoors, you’re going to love the patio.

The Riverfront Café isn’t new to downtown Niles. Previous owners completely restored the interior of this historic building and ran the restaurant and bar for about three years before deciding to close. Bill and his son Andrew became the new owners last March. “After retiring from 30 years as the landscape superintendent at the University of Notre Dame, it was just time to try something else,” said Bill. Andrew completed his three-year apprenticeship working under the executive chefs at Notre Dame. He also earned a degree in hospitality management from Lake Michigan College. Prior to opening the Riverfront Café, he spent seven years as the executive chef at an Elkhart country club.


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