Friday, Nov 01 2013 09:50 AM

The Dish: Riverwalk Cafe takes on new ownership, name, menu

By PETE TITTL, Contributing columnist

The Riverwalk Cafe at 9450 Stockdale Highway is now The Old River Grill, still open for breakfast and lunch.

Roger Coughenour, co-owner with David Nickell, said the ownership transfer started in late July, with the name change coming on Oct. 7. They've turned what used to be a sandwich shop in the mold of Sequoia Sandwich Co. into a full-service restaurant. Gone are the display cases near the kitchen, and booths have been added. Coughenour worked at 24th Street Cafe many years ago, then later with Nickell at The Bistro, and their goal is to create a place as revered and busy as the downtown coffee shop.

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"We're aiming to provide a breakfast destination, especially on the weekends," he said. "There's room for more places like that in the market."

For breakfast, you can order one of five omelets, a "chunky monkey" French toast offering made with deep-fried Texas toast layered with bananas sauteed in butter and brown sugar with walnuts, topped with a white chocolate drizzle. Or maybe the banana nut oatmeal brûlee.

The lunch menu features six cold sandwiches, five big salads, nine hot sandwiches and five burgers. The star of the menu has got to be the 50/50 burger ($8.99), similar to what we have sampled at Slater's in Orange County: made from an even mix of ground chuck and ground bacon. We'll share more details in a future report. Hours are 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day. 282-8860; oldrivergrill.com.

Wine and dine

Hungry Hunter Steakhouse on Rosedale Highway has an event coming up on Nov. 12 and 13 at 6:30 p.m., featuring five Central Coast wineries, including Wente and Paso Robles-based Daou. Cost is $40 a person, which is all-inclusive. Call 328-0580 for reservations.

New and different

Subway is featuring the Tuscan chicken melt and chicken cordon bleu melt this month, $6 each for foot-longs ... Jersey Mike's has brought back its rosemary Parmesan bread for a limited time ... Macaroni Grill has a new four-course tasting menu for a limited time, starting at $15. Items include toasted ravioli, Caesar salad, spaghetti Napolitano or fettuccine alfredo and, for a final course, a choice of four "spiedini" (grilled skewers) of chicken, sausage, steak or shrimp. They have extended their half-price house wine promotion to the end of the year. The new lunch menu at Mimi's Cafe includes a warm turkey, brie and apple croissant ... McDonald's has introduced a new Southwest Chicken Premium McWrap as a limited-time offer through the end of the year, either grilled or crispy chicken with a habanero-ranch or cilantro-lime sauce ... Carl's Jr. is using "fresh baked buns" on its sandwiches now, as well as offering a maple sausage/egg/cheese biscuit for breakfast ... Black Bear Diner has added, on a temporary basis, four menu items made with cubes of filet mignon beef ... Jack in the Box is bringing back its BLT Cheeseburger, a limited offering from last year ... California Pizza Kitchen has rolled out a Brussels sprouts and bacon pizza ... Tahoe Joe's has added a "large party takeout menu" for feeding five to 30 people. Menu items include chicken, beef roast, ribs, appetizers, pastas and salads ... Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers is offering pumpkin pie concretes and meatloaf sandwiches (with grilled onions and Heinz ketchup on butter-toasted bread) for a limited time ...

Pucker up for sour beers

One of the new trends to watch out for in the U.S. is an old one: sour beers. They've never taken root in the U.S., but a report in the Nation's Restaurant News said the oldest style of brewing in the world was a huge hit at the Great American Beer Festival.

The beers were described as "like biting into a Granny Smith apple soaked in a French red wine: crisp, refreshing and a bit odd." The beers are made with few to no hops, so they're typically a favorite of wine drinkers.

American sour ales on the market already include La Folie, a brown ale from New Belgium (best known for Fat Tire), and Festina Pesche, a Berlin-Weisse from Dogfish Head.

The beers are turned sour by the same microbes used to make yogurt. For a time in world history, all beers were at least partly sour until refrigeration and pasteurization got bacteria under control.

New Hot kiosk at Valley Plaza

Got a note from reader Ray Hammond, a former wrestling coach at Bakersfield High, to tell me that he and his wife have opened a rub and hot sauce kiosk at Valley Plaza. "The focus will be prize-winning hot sauces, and complementary products, like spicy jams, jellies, and what-not," he wrote. "Some of the products we will be carrying have won awards at various spicy food competitions, like the Skovie Awards, and will come from CaJohn's, Dave's Hot Sauces (now Dave's Gourmet), Born to Hula, and Torchbearer."

Hammond is also promoting the kiosk on Facebook under the name "Ray's Gourmet."

The kiosk at the Center Court is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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