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The Riverbend Bar and Grille – Philadelphia, PA

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A restaurant that encounters minimal turbulence.

Philadelphia Airport Marriott – Philadelphia, PA
One Arrivals Road
Meal: Lunch (3 people) at 12 PM on a Saturday
Price: Around $50 (excluding tip)
Website: Philadelphia Airport Marriott

With my dad in town, my sister and I decided to meet him for lunch at one of his favorite stomping grounds: The Riverbend Bar and Grille located at the Marriott Hotel at the Philadelphia International Airport. Although it might seem like a strange lunch spot, it is ideally located for catching up with an old friend or loved one who might happen to find himself in our glorious city for a layover. After a minor parking fiasco that involved lots of confusion and rides through more parking garages than I care to remember, it was finally time to get down to the business at hand: lunch.

On this particular Saturday, the restaurant was nearly empty. The interior was quite spacious and decorated with a type of nautical theme, almost reminiscent of a cruise ship, with hardwood used throughout. Tables and chairs were adequately spaced throughout the floor and comfortable booths lined the walls. One corner of the interior housed a good size bar while an empty buffet station was setup in another corner. In several past visits, I have found the brunch buffet to be very good. Overall, I would describe the interior as “upscale casual.”

My dad started with a bowl of the chicken noodle soup. The soup looked full of noodles, vegetables, and substantial pieces of chicken. It was served hot and my dad finished every last drop of it, so it couldn’t have been too terrible. For their lunches, my dad and sister both ordered the Marriott burger: a burger topped with crispy bacon, aged cheddar cheese, lettuce, and tomato on a sesame seed bun. The burgers were on the large side and came with a good helping of crispy fries. Each was correctly cooked to the ordered temperature (well done and medium well). My two lunch companions both enjoyed their burgers and one was too full to finish it. For reviewing purposes only (of course!), I sampled some of the fries and found them to be perfectly cooked (crispy brown enough to avoid the dreaded white starch interior, but not burned) and well salted (which I prefer). I got the cavatielli, pesto, and chicken lunch entree which consisted of traditional puglian style pasta tossed with basil pesto and olive oil and served with a single grilled breast of chicken. For those not familiar with the phrase “puglian style pasta” (I know I sure wasn’t!), the pasta reminded me a little bit of gnocchi, although smaller. My chicken was a little on the dry side, but I hardly noticed when I mixed it into the delicious basil pesto/olive oil sauce on the pasta. For the price of my entree, I would have expected it to be served with a second breast of chicken or a slightly larger serving of pasta. The total entree was still too large for me to completely finish and I took a small amount of the pasta to go, but I imagine someone with a voracious appetite would be better off with the burger.

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After lunch I ordered a cappuccino made with skim milk, a request they readily accommodated. After adding 2 packets of Splenda, I found the beverage to be very good and not bitter as I often find coffee to be. It was made-to-order (i.e. a real cappuccino, not from a “cappuccino” machine you would find in Wawa) and served with a biscotti. The biscotti was wrapped in plastic and, I’m assuming, not freshly made, although it was still good.

Throughout our meal, our waitress was genuinely warm and friendly. Of course, my dad is a regular guest at this hotel and knows most of the early day restaurant staff by name. However, even as a loyal customer, it was still nice to see that no service “shortcuts” were taken and that his patronage was not taken for granted. Our meals were served in a reasonable amount of time and our waters were constantly refilled. Any extra requests (ketchup for the fries and a new fork after one was dropped on the carpet) were promptly met. I’ve never been to The Riverbend without my dad in tow, so I can only speak from my experience that the service is terrific.

A warning to possible future patrons of The Riverbend Bar and Grille: take care to park only on level 3 in short-term parking garage C or the restaurant won’t validate your parking ticket. I’ve experienced this before firsthand and, despite my dad’s hotel track record, the hostess wouldn’t budge. Don’t quote me on this, but I believe the validated parking ticket is only good for about 1 free hour of parking. Anything beyond 1 hour is subject to the regular short-term parking rates set by the airport. There is a sign in the short-term parking garage C directing people to the correct level for hotel parking, but it’s easy to miss if you’re not looking for it. You’ll know if you’ve parked on the correct level in the correct short-term parking garage because the Marriott has an entrance directly from the garage into the hotel. From this entrance, you’ll take the elevators down into the lobby where the front door of The Riverbend Bar and Grille is located.

Pros:
– Comfortable atmosphere
– Friendly service
– Good food
– Good size portions

Cons:
– Not an ideal restaurant location for regular eating
– Will most likely have to pay something for parking, if you can even locate the correct parking for the hotel
– Prices on the high side
– No bathroom located in the restaurant itself (have to use the bathrooms located in the hotel lobby)

Autumn’s Score: 4 Chews
★★★★☆
Subjective rating: A river worth crossing.
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