It feels like it happened so fast.
Smith and River has already opened on the Riverwalk, taking over the previous Campo location (once owned by local restaurateur Mark Estee). It celebrated a soft opening with family, friends and media on July 13, followed by a public opening the next day.
The new space brings to it two other big names in the local food scene: Colin and MaryBeth Smith, the couple behind Roundabout Catering for the last 15 years. The pair earlier this year also took over Mark Estee’s Chez Louie location inside the Nevada Museum of Art and made it their own.
The riverfront restaurant at the base of the Palladio didn’t undergo too many big changes aesthetically. The Smiths opted to paint the inside a forest green and add glittering chain-link accents to the back “room.” The bones of the establishment, however, stayed the same, which likely contributes to the fast turnaround.
That said, the menu underwent a complete overhaul, debuting a brand new, custom cocktail list that winks to its surroundings with drinks like Tip the Kayak (a pink and purple Empress Gin and tequila concoction that features lime and grapefruit soda, plus a sugar and spice rim), Mt. Rose (a refreshing sipper made with Tahoe Blue Vodka, muddled cucumber, rose syrup, ginger beer and a Pimm’s float) and The Riverwalk (Sip Smith Gin, St. Germaine, cucumber, thyme syrup and soda).
Another aptly named cocktail is the Mr. & Mrs. Smith, evoking images of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie but more realistically drawing a connection between the cocktail list and its owners.
If you’re a fan of a smoky beverage, Smith and River bartenders have perfected the “smoke top.” While the cocktails were no longer letting off puffs of smoke when they made it to the table, the drinks were heavy with the flavor and aroma. The Upper Truckee is a mezcal-based cocktail finished with a smoke top while the Smoke on the Water is a twist on the Old Fashioned boasting the same topper treatment.
While the cocktails undoubtedly deserve the attention we’ve given them—and we fully recommend treating Smith and River as your happy hour spot on the river for small plates and drinks service—there is also food and dessert worthy of a review.
An extensive appetizer list makes it easy to share plates or start your meal with something hearty. There is everything from salads to pizzas, vegetable plates to seared tuna. My personal recommendation would be starting with the artichoke, a wood-fired bud, halved and filled with garlic croutons and served aside a lemon-thyme aioli.
The lamb meatballs, plated over basmati rice and complemented with mint, garlic, herb yogurt, cucumber salad and sumac, is also delightful and provides a hint of Mediterranean cuisine not heavy on the menu.
The entree list is short and sweet. Instead of the, perhaps expected, list of steaks, Smith and River commits to items a tad less traditional. For example, if you fancy yourself an octopus lover (and no, we don’t mean calamari), a grilled option finished with paprika aioli exists here.
There are also racks of tender and delicious bone-in pork, pastas marinating in hearty red sauces and a light and buttery halibut. Guests can also dive into tri-tip, chicken, risotto and more.
The dessert menu includes a full line-up of coffee drinks including Blind Dog regular and decaf. After dinner, this is often the most decadent indulgence, and perhaps a necessary one to pull you out of the food coma you’ve fallen into. For those who have saved room, the Key Lime Possett is divine: a creamy custard served in a glass jar with coconut cookie crumble. If you order that and the Black and Tan Gelato, we recommend alternating bites or even mixing the two for a surprising, yet satisfying, taste.