Kingsport’s Riverfront Seafood Company is located on Netherland Inn Road just past the traffic circle where it, West Center Street and West Industrial Drive all come together. Once you get close to the Interstate 26 overpass, turn left, or you’ll overshoot their parking lot. The outside of the building is done in a gray-painted shake shingle with white-painted colonial windowpanes. Around back is their boardwalk and patio offering unparalleled views of the Holston River. The overall effect is pleasant and inviting.
Inside, you pass through their foyer with a long set of benches for those walk-ins who are waiting for a table. With the hostess leading your party, you proceed into the depths of the building, past the inside dining room with great views of the bar and other wall-mounted nautical décor, and out to your table on their glassed-in back porch overlooking the river. Here, try to get window seating rather than “on the aisle.” Be mindful that early arrivals get the best seating out here.
If the weather is amenable, you might also consider the back patio mentioned earlier. It is my experience that warm sunshine, gentle breezes together with the pleasant sound of river water over river rocks makes for good digestion.
As our server Amy was placing the last of the dine-around bunch’s drinks order on the table, the Carnivore spotted Riverfront Seafood’s mixed grill ($19.99) a platter full of his three favorite fishies; salmon, tilapia and brown trout, all grilled to his satisfaction and served with a fist-sized loaded ($1 extra) Idaho baked potato as a side order. With two of the Carnivore’s personal food groups accounted for, he decided the Dieter’s quiet suggestion about having a garden salad ($2.49) as the Green, Leafy Vegetable Food Group entry was a good idea; as long as it came with a double helping of Riverfront’s in-house blue cheese salad dressing. The platter’s contents pleased the Carnivore very much. The salmon was seared just enough to maintain the moisture level in the filet. The tilapia’s earthy flavor was enhanced by the simplest of garnishes, a squeeze of lemon. The brown trout filet was (nearly) boneless and butterflied before grilling, making the meat flake into flavorful morsels that, per the Carnivore, only needed a dash of pepper for perfection. The potato, while good, received scant attention, especially with the Carnivore delighted by finding chunks of blue cheese in the salad dressing.
I also wanted something from the sea, but not in the quantity that my Paleo friend had ordered. I chose an appetizer portion of Riverfront’s coconut shrimp, sided with a garden salad ($11.98). The menu says the size of shrimp used is due to their being of Louisiana origin, though I’ve seen some of their cousins coming ashore at the fish dock in McClellanville, South Carolina, that could give their Creole cousins some tips on growing up. In any case, coconut is one of the best partners for shrimp no matter how it is cooked, and having a ramekin of marmalade alongside (orange usually, though I prefer lemon) makes a delectable dish indeed. The garden salad was a good accompaniment to the shrimp, being topped with a little olive oil and some balsamic vinegar for bite.
Riverfront’s House Salad
The Dieter, knowing that there were sun-filled, sandy beaches in her immediate future, was especially mindful of her caloric intake and ordered Riverfront’s House Salad ($8.99) with “some modifications.” She went light on the bacon and hard-boiled egg crumbles, and had a sprinkling of the roasted sugared pecans instead of a fistful. Finally, instead of the usual hot bacon salad dressing, the Dieter asked for raspberry vinaigrette “on the side.” Our friend took her time, first dipping her fork in the raspberry vinaigrette, then spearing a portion of the salad, making sure that ‘variety’ was the watchword of each forkful that passed her lips. The bacon was fresh-grilled, thick, center-cut and “hill country delicious.” The egg crumbles were firm and tasty. The sugared pecans were quietly moved to the perimeter, to be leisurely consumed a crunchy one at a time at the close of the meal.
My dining partner had brought her appetite with her on this trip, ordering Riverfront’s Captain’s Platter ($19.99). This is their take on what my Dad used to order at Crescent Beach Hotel’s restaurant way back when. Riverfront’s kitchen uses, as the menu entry says, “a large plate” and fills it with fried Alaskan whitefish, a freshwater cousin of the vaunted Alaskan salmon. Next on the large plate are the same Gulf shrimp that I was enjoying enrobed in coconut and marmalade, but breaded and fried here. My favorite fried food, some sizable fried oysters, (not the Apalachicola variety, surely? Probably Chesapeake) joined the mix; they looked and smelled delicious. Last was a double handful of clam strips, fried until golden and piled in a heap. As her side order, my dining partner added a garden salad, also with raspberry vinaigrette dressing. Never a fan of tartar sauce, my dining partner asked for some tomato ketchup to be used sparingly so as not to overwhelm the flavor or the aroma of the Captain’s Platter. Seeing that there was a lot on her large plate, my partner wisely decided that we all could do with a taste from each of Neptune’s subjects. I enjoyed my portion of the whitefish, as did the Carnivore while the Dieter had a shrimp or two. Of oysters and clams there was none to be shared around the table, as my dining partner laid claim to every one of them for her supper.
Our dine-around friend the Retiree was back in town and, though not a big fan of fish, bravely joined us for supper. With her menu in hand for some tasty, land-based prey, her eyes found the Riverfront Burger ($8.99), a viable alternative to seafood. Naturally, the Retiree had to have it “her way,” telling our server Amy that mayo was a no-no, as was American cheese. Aged, smoked cheddar was a better cheese, please. In place of the mayonnaise, having some good yellow mustard on her onion roll would go better with her half-pound of ground Angus chuck. As for the toppers, sliced onions, crisp leaf lettuce and ripe red tomato were in the stack with a dill pickle spear as the finisher. Plated open-face fashion, there was some assembly required on the Retiree’s part before she could take a bite of her burger. My one bite taste of her Riverfront Burger brought back memories of Saturday backyard cook-outs with my family: the sizzle of ground beef on the grill, air thick with smoke and redolent of burgers done rare to well done, and cooked just the way you wanted.
Food is powerful. Not only does it provide sustenance to keep each of us going for one more day but, in the right circumstance, good food can evoke memories of good times in good places with good friends. There is no place better for this ol’ Yankee transplant to do just that than Riverfront Seafood Company. Why not stop by and see what memories you take home?
Riverfront Seafood Company
1777 Netherland Inn Road
Mon-Sat 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
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Credit cards accepted