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35 Years of the River Palm Terrace

John Campbell of the River Palm Terrace in Edgewater - Fall 2018

John Campbell of the River Palm Terrace in Edgewater

For decades, The River Palm Terrace {416 River Rd., Edgewater, NJ; 201-224-2013; riverpalm.com} has painstakingly upheld its reputation as one of North Jersey’s finest steakhouses. Serving top-grade steaks and chops, fresh seafood from the waters of Africa and Alaska, creative sushi, and a medley of seductive desserts, The River Palm Terrace is committed to delivering the best dining experience.

Constantly touted as a premier destination for impeccable fare and service, co-owner John Campbell is always striving for greatness. “The only time we’re satisfied is if people say, ‘That’s the best we’ve ever had,’” Campbell says.

The Irish-Italian co-owner—who oversees the Edgewater property, as well as the Fair Lawn and Mahwah locations—prides his restaurant on achieving high standards of excellence. From how the food is prepared, cooked, and served to the furniture upholstery, Campbell has the specifics of his restaurants down to a science. Members of his team—a number of whom have stayed with him for over two decades—shares his vision of success with humility as the main ingredient.

“I don’t tolerate complacency,” he admits.

A SELF-STARTER FROM THE BEGINNING, Campbell’s first foray into cooking was at the tender age of 10 after a valiant effort to cook steak. The end result, according to Campbell, was a slab of tough—shoe leather tough—meat. Luckily, the failure didn’t extinguish his tenacity to get better.

“I learned the hard way,” he explains. “It’s the costliest way, but it’s the best way. I learned my lesson.”

Perseverance pushed him to work at a few local restaurants in his teens in the 1970s, dutifully working his way up from a dishwasher to a cook to a bartender.

Following stints at Fordham University and the restaurant program at Bergen Community College, Campbell landed at The River Palm Terrace in 1983. He has since served as the concept’s partner.  “[With] creative freedom [I was able to] implement new ideas and try new things out without the fear of failing,” Campbell states.

After more than three decades of running a restaurant loved by local families, A-list celebrities, and sports teams, the father of two says he attributes his continued success to the mentality of any good performer—to put on a good show.

“I’m more passionate today than the first day. Every day we walk in here like it’s opening night—it’s like a Broadway show. You have a whole new audience, so if you put on a lackluster performance and say, ‘Yeah, but we were great for the last 30 years’—who cares? Every day you have to be prepared.”

River Palm Terrace Dining Areas

Setting the stage for this spectacle is the main dining room. Comfortably seating 110 guests, the space hearkens back to the classic steakhouse era with white linen tablecloths and leather upholstered chairs. Distinguished guests decorate the walls in picture frames, including Martin Scorsese, Ice-T and his wife Coco, and a slew of regional sports teams, including the Yankees and Giants. Adjacent to the main room sits the restaurant’s private dining room, The Palm Room. Furnished with plush booths, the space can be sectioned off for a more intimate affair.

THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THIS PRODUCTION? THE FOOD, OF COURSE.

On the lip-smacking menu with seemingly endless dishes is the char-grilled Prime Tomahawk Rib-Eye Chop served with a piquant shallot butter for two; Grilled Plume de Veau Rib Veal Chop with sautéed wild mushroom; and the pan-seared Wild Alaskan King Salmon dressed in tropical salsa and rum-guava glaze. Among the à la carte entrée options—which includes Prime New York Shell Steak, Prime Sliced Filet Mignon, and Live Lobster—Campbell recommends the Prime Porterhouse Steak for Two served with their signature house salad.

River Palm Terrace Dry Aged Beef

The River Palm Terrace culls their famous meats from a variety of states in the Midwest. Executive Chef Luis Montesinos dry-ages the cuts for 28 days. Butchered in-house, the meat is trimmed and dusted with the house’s special seasoning before hitting the grill.

Working alongside Chef Montesinos stands his right-hand man, Sous Chef Hugo Malera. Beginning his career as a dishwasher, Chef Malera worked his way up the ranks, sharpening his skills at Villa Amalfi for nearly a decade. Now working as the sous chef at The River Palm Terrace, Chef Malera takes pleasure in preparing signature sauces and pasta dishes, including Linguini Shrimp Marinara and the classic Penne ala Vodka.

River Palm Terrace Edgewater NJ Wine Excellence

The River Palm Terrace has received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for three years running

This attention to detail also extends to the wine list, thanks to restaurant’s sommelier, Joe Iurato. “I always feel the wine list should be just as important as the food,” Iurato comments.  A former wine critic, Iurato constantly travels to wineries throughout the world in search of new varietals. Carefully curated, the wine roster reflects the restaurant’s “playful and sophisticated character” and has nabbed the coveted Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for three years running. In the mood for a prime cut of meat? Iurato recommends a cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley or an Argentinian malbec. Ordering sushi? The Gewürztraminer, a spicy white wine with floral notes, “elicits the essence of the fish and acidity.”

Wait, wait, wait—sushi at a steakhouse? At The River Palm Terrace, this combo has proven successful, serving over 35,000 rolls per year. “Almost every table orders sushi,” Campbell smiles. Try Andy’s Special Roll. Christened after Head Sushi Chef Andy Lin, this specialty roll consists of spicy yellowtail (hamachi) topped with tuna and Hass avocado.

River Palm Terrace Sushi

Head Sushi Chef Andy Lin’s Masterful Creations

From sushi rolls to steakhouse cravings, keeping up a variety of palates is a task Campbell and his team are equipped to handle. “We keep the specials menu diversified so that guests are always interested. They come in for lunch and see that River Palm has an Italian hero and [a guest says,] ‘Let me try it! It’s the best Italian hero I’ve ever had.’” Campbell continues, “Why? It’s the bread, the freshness, the quality of the meat. We didn’t just put it on [the menu for the sake of putting it there], we made it as good as you can get anywhere else.”

Satisfying hungry people with wholesome meals takes center stage here, which has customers coming back for more.

“Not only the food, but the service they provide exceeds any expectations one would have,” says Edgewater Mayor Michael McPartland, a regular of the restaurant. Without a doubt, one of the finest restaurants in the tri-state area.”

Experience all the trimmings of this juicy spectacle yourself. To learn more, visit RIVERPALM.COM.

By Lianna Albrizio

Brunch at City Perch in Fort Lee NJ - IPIC