Royal River Grill House
The Royal River Grill House has an enviable location. The Royal River in Yarmouth is home to three different marinas and big picture windows in the restaurant overlook them all. There are lobster boats, sailboats, power boats of all sizes, gulls, and even the occasional eagle to observe from the comfort of your high-backed upholstered chair.
I’m greeted as if I’m an old friend by Boyd Allen from behind the bar. “You need a fancy cocktail,” Allen says convincingly. With that he starts muddling ingredients. “Every day I walk into the cooler and pick the freshest produce for drinks, “ he says. He was trained as a chef, and his creative cocktails demonstrate his ability to balance flavors. He mixes a concoction of vodka, tomato, basil, lemon, and Luxardo with a touch of salt. It’s like a caprese salad for sipping, perfect for summer’s last gasp. The rest of his cocktail menu is ready for fall, with a warming, but not too sweet Apple Brown Betty made with bourbon, cider, and cinnamon syrup.
The bar area exudes comfort and chic with cozy love seats and a warm, welcoming vibe. The entire restaurant has undergone a recent renovation by designer Nicola Manganello of Nicole’s Home. She brought her signature aesthetic to the space, filling it with inviting places to sit and relax with friends. Upholstered seating abounds in neutral tones with blue accents. There’s lots of warm wood, natural textures, and stylish lighting. It’s a fresh, sophisticated look for a restaurant that’s been going strong for 13 years.
Under the watchful eye of executive chef and general manager Tony Merrill, the food is a good match for the ambiance. Merrill has been at the grill house for the past eight years and has seen its evolution. “We’re trying to create more of an experience for our guests, beyond the meal. We’re a destination for tourists, but a home base for locals. It’s the locals that support us year-round,” he tells me. Merrill worked at Beckwith Farm in nearby North Yarmouth for several years. Now he visits there daily to see what’s available for the restaurant. On Sundays, he goes and picks his own vegetables. Clearly, the emphasis is on freshness in his dishes. Merrill says, “I like to use the same ingredients people might cook with at home, but prepare them in a different way.” Red and bright yellow heirloom tomatoes from the farm stand down the road top a brick-oven baked flatbread. A little fresh garlic, a bit of mozzarella, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar enhance the sweet tomatoes. The crust is lightly charred and chewy, the kind you wish you would find on pizza everywhere.
Wood-grilled salmon filet is a dish you’re likely to find in many places, but again, Merrill takes it to the next level. It’s cooked perfectly, just barely all the way through, keeping it moist. A honey-soy reduction with a hint of wasabi complements the salmon flavor without drowning it in sweetness. And the griddled sushi rice cake beneath it? That sublime combination of a crispy exterior with a melting, creamy interior. It’s so good, I consider asking for another one.
One of the most popular dishes is the paella. It arrives at the table sizzling hot and fragrant in a cast iron pan. The dish is filled with tender mussels, shrimp, spicy Andouille sausage, and chicken on saffron rice with a tomato base. It’s hearty and rich, piquant and so very delicious. The paella is on the menu all year, but with a change of season, comes a few new dishes. Two-textured duck, a confit leg, and seared breast, is tender and served with squash risotto and apple cider reduction.
If you haven’t been to the Royal River Grill House in a while, plan a visit soon. The new look, the varied and tempting menu and of course the fabulous view make it an impressive experience.
Royal River Grill House | 106 Lafayette St. | Yarmouth | 207.846.1226 | royalrivergrillhouse.com