New American, Pub
Outdoor Seating, Bar scene
This restaurant and pub serves pastas and contemporary American entrees, such as generous hamburgers, for lunch and dinner. Late nights are festive, with a strong bar crowd, especially on weekends.
Tues-Sat:11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun: 1 p.m.-9 p.m.
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There's plenty of good talk at F.H. Riley's. And some of it is about the food.
F.H. Riley's has opened where Il Panino used to be the toast of the town. The lighting is the same. But those snappy sandwiches are gone, and almost everything else has changed, too.
The new resident has turned the spot into a friendly, unpretentious meeting place, with an upfront bar, TVs tuned to sports; and an unfussy dining room, the best fare right with beer on tap.
F.H. Riley's succeeds with pretty straightforward stuff and full flavors. When things get a bit too complicated, you'll be ready for a second pint.
So, enjoy the meaty, satisfying sauteed crab cake, accompanied by a celery root puree; and the crunchy spring roll filled with chicken, Sonoma Cheddar, scallions and salsa.
Onion soup, however, materializes salty enough to require a side of beta blocker. And "crackling calamari" delivers tempura crispness, but the squid's sweet coating tastes just shy of candied. The spinach-artichoke dip, with tortilla scoops and grilled flatbread, suggests creamed spinach gone wrong.
You're much better off with "black & blue" tuna, charred and rare, sliced and draped on lo mein. Or with the respectable Caesar salad, tomatoes added; and the "autumn harvest," with a supporting cast of poached pear, roast beets, dried cranberries and Gorgonzola amid the greens.
The charred hanger steak also is recommended: juicy, beefy, with grilled portobello mushrooms and fingerling chips for company. The house's Black Angus burger on grilled brioche is deservedly popular. And the Gruyere-topped meat loaf, made with beef, veal and pork, comes across as a cheeseburger deluxe, user-friendly and husky.
Chef-owner Brett Hughes sends out a moist, thick, skillet-blackened swordfish, and mellow grilled salmon with a mustard glaze. The roasted salmon napoleon overdoes it with brie and toasted almonds but stays competitive.
The roast "prime rib of pork," while ample and amplified with pancetta, mushrooms and a bean puree, shows up on the dry side. Likewise, a tired, lunchtime turkey burger and chewy sliced steak sandwich.
Pastas aren't for the risk-averse. The gussied up macaroni and cheese, with bacon and tomatoes, tastes short on cheese. Farfalle Mediterranean is a hodgepodge of ingredients, from acidic artichoke hearts to tart feta, olives and spinach, that doesn't come together. You're far from Rome when edamame and pink sauce make it into the spaghetti alla carbonara.
A homey blueberry cobbler and a more modest apple crisp head the finales. They're trailed by a standard strawberry cheesecake and an Oreo cheesecake, the latter with a cookie at attention as if topping a helmet; plus a Belgian chocolate bread pudding that's suitable for gamblers.
Instead, pass the Brooklyn Brown.
Reviewed by Peter M. Gianotti, 3/26/06.