Kathryn chose well. We met up at the old Rieger Hotel building at 19th and Main Streets. The first floor lobby has been converted into a restaurant (formerly called 1924 Main). Now called the Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange, the location sports both a restaurant and a basement speakeasy.
First, let's cover where we all agree. The space is beautiful and has a great atmosphere. The dining room is long with dark wood and light green walls decorated with art work. It is a tad noisy so you do have to strain to hear the conversation at your table. The owners have created a very inviting space. The bar is immediately to your right as you walk in the door. There is a parking lot on the south side of the building. It was full when arrived but it was easy enough to find street parking on a Thursday night. Some of us ventured downstairs to check out Manifesto after hearing an unsubstantiated rumor that it was some type of S&M dungeon at some point in its history. You do have to pass through a dark corridor to reach Manifesto but once you arrive you find a sophisticated basement lounge. We need to head back on a weekend night.
Second, they had us at the cocktail menu. We started the evening seated at the long bar enjoying cocktails. There is an eclectic cocktail list. We ran the gambit with sangria, vodka gimlets, dirty martinis and moscow mules. This would be a great place to meet for drinks whether you stay for dinner or not. The bartender was friendly and shared his recipe for whiskey cherries. After catching up at the bar, we were seated at the back of the restaurant. There was also seating in the back where you could watch the sous chefs preparing your meal. I would love to try this some time.
Our waitress was Sarah and she was extremely attentive. She obviously knew the menu well and offered some suggestions. We started with the Salmon Tartare which was a chopped mixture of watercress, sauce gribiche and cucumbers and the Beef Carpaccio. The Salmon Tartare was delicious but wasn't served with any crackers or bread so it was a bit awkward to share among six people. Double dipping abounded at the table. The Beef Carpaccio was fine but definitely second to the Salmon. We each ordered a salad. The Farm salad made of organic greens, local vegetable and garlic herb dressing was tasty if a bit skimpy. In fact, the appetizers seemed skimpy for six people. Our waitress should have stressed the size of the appetizers because we only had a enough for a couple bites a piece. (Perhaps that was the point but we are Americans afterall-so we like generous portions.) Holly raved about the Melon salad which was served with pistachio vinaigrette.
For entrees, a few at the table ordered the special which they regretted. It was an unusual fish--not a white fish more of a muscular fish but not an oily fish. It was stringy. The sides included in the special were excellent but the fish didn't really sit well. I ordered the Braciole which was braised flank steak, Italian sausage and tomato sauce. It was mouthwatering. Perfect proportion and served with polenta, kale and chickpeas. Kim and Holly ordered the side order of seafood risotto with scallops, shrimp, heirloom cherry tomatoes and basil as an entree. It was rather small but our waitress did point out that many people do this and order a salad. For dessert, we ordered the bread pudding and the fresh mint baked alaska. Very tasty.
Towards the end of the meal, Maggie fielded a call from her husband who wanted her to stop for milk on the way home. Sarah to the rescue. She asked how much milk she needed. When Maggie told her enough for a couple bowls of cereal in the morning, Sarah was back with a portable container filled with milk. We were definitely impressed. Sarah also gave us tips on where to buy some quality bras and overheard us discussing Michelle's birthday the next day so she brought out a flaming shot. Definitely a renaissance woman/waitress!
Overall, our reviews were positive with some of us liking Reiger more than others. We loved the space, the cocktails and dessert. The reviews were mixed on our entrees. There definitely was some entree envy going on at the table. Everyone enjoyed at least one course and if we return would likely find something to enjoy. We do recommend people try The Reiger. The prices are very reasonable and the service was excellent.