Well, we tried to get away with out “Let’s stop because of a billboard on I-94″ trick. After we left my parents to head back to Kalamazoo, we started talking about lunch. I said there was a place in Buchanan that I’ve seen the billboard for and wanted to stop. Right after getting in to Michigan, I saw the billboard for Wheatberry Restaurant & Tavern. We pulled off and started heading down M-12. Neither of us thought to check the website to see if they were open.
We finally found the place on Red Bud Trail just outside of Buchanan. The parking lot was empty. I pulled in so I could see the sign on the door that said they didn’t open until 4:00. It was only 2:30.
We needed a backup plan so I got on my phone and started looking on Urbanspoon. I went to Niles because it seemed to be close and found a website for a really neat looking cafe along the St. Joseph River in downtown Niles.
The Riverfront Cafe is on Front Street just north of Main Street in Niles. It’s a large brick building that really doesn’t look like a whole lot from the outside. There’s a large sign across the top, but other than that, it just looks like a large brick box. It’s a nice looking building, but nothing that would make me say, “Wow!” What’s the old saying? Don’t judge a book by it’s cover.
We parked across the street in a public lot and walked to the main entrance which took us to a hostess station. It was then we immediately started to notice some of the unique features of the place.
The inside is all exposed, weathered brick. It has a very cool industrial look. Right near the entrance, there’s a staircase that leads to an upper level martini bar that overlooks the main floor dining room. On one of the interior walls in that dining room, there is a sign painted on the wall that made us wonder if the Riverfront Cafe used to be two buildings that were separated at one point. The dining room also has a beautiful bar with a mirror backing the liquor that is surrounded by an ornamental wood frame.
We were there at a pretty weird time. Our detour and earlier mistakes pushed lunch back to almost 3:00. There was one group eating at a booth and another guy working on his laptop when we were shown to a table along the windows that overlook Front Street.
I started with a Coke, but J went with some kind of fancy lemonade. She was really wishing it wasn’t the middle of the afternoon on Wednesday because they have an interesting drink list. All of the wines on their wine list are made in Berrien County and there’s a pretty large Martini list.
The menu is described as Contemporary American. We both went right to the “Sandwiches and Such” and picked out two three options that we had to narrow down.
I passed on a burger which is very unlike me and went with the French Dip. This sandwich comes on a crusty torpedo roll filled with shaved roast beef, Swiss cheese, and horseradish sauce. There is a cup of Au Jus on the side for dipping. The sandwich was delicious. The beef was nice and tender and the roll was amazingly good. It was a really nice, crusty piece of bread that softened up nicely in the warm Au Jus. I was a little surprised to find the horseradish sauce didn’t leave more of a mark. I knew it was there, but I was expecting something with a little more bite. All the sandwiches come with choice of side. I went with the fries which were pretty standard restaurant fries.
J ordered the Grille Chipotle Chicken. Before I even describe this, I have to mention J called this the best chicken sandwich she’s ever had. Keep that in mind as you continue reading. The sandwich is a grilled chicken breast with a thick slice (very thick slice) of smoked cheddar cheese, bacon, ranch dressing, lettuce, and tomato on a toasted Kaiser roll. She was a big fan of the thick slice of cheese. She said it didn’t get lost in the package like it usually does. As for the Chipotle chicken, she said it wasn’t overpowering. There was a little bit of spice, but not a lot. She loved that. It’s always a game when she orders something like that because some places make it so hot she can’t eat it. The Riverfront Cafe made it perfectly. For her side, she also went with fries. She went to work on the sandwich and left me a few of the fries. I have to say, I sort of wish she would have went the other way. The bite of the sandwich made me want to order another one to take home.
Our bill was right around $20, but our meals were worth so much more. Everything about the Riverfront Cafe made for a memorable experience. The food was great and the atmosphere is fantastic. If you ever have business in or near Niles…aw heck, if you ever want a date night road trip, the Riverfront Cafe deserves consideration.