Frank McClelland’s Riversbend Is Now Open in Essex
Frank McClelland’s newest restaurant is personal: Over the weekend, the L’Espalier chef debuted Riversbend in Essex, his hometown, with fare inspired by his upbringing as well the New England agricultural community.
At Riversbend, expect the same improvisation, based on ingredient freshness and availability, that the James Beard Award-winning chef has become known for over 30 years at the farm-to-table pioneer, L’Espalier, in a casual, family-friendly environment.
Located at the Essex Marina, McClelland is calling Riversbend “seaside campfire cuisine”—oysters on the half-shell, fried clams, wood oven-fired pizzas, rotisserie chicken. McClelland spent formative time camping in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, cooking on an open fire. At Riversbend, it’s a wood-fired oven, grill, and rotisserie equipment custom-made by New England company Blue Barn Builds, but the inspiration is the same, he says. Inspiration also comes from the bounty around him: There is fresh burrata; a salad with Maine kelp, sesame, and ginger; rib-eye with summer corn and fried green tomatoes, and more. Check out the opening dinner menu below.
On the bar, local spirits, fresh-squeezed juices, and house-made infusions support a craft cocktail menu, including sippers like Cape Ann, with rosé, Privateer Rum out of Ipswich, and fresh strawberry, and Green Head, with house-infused jalapeño tequila, Combier, cucumber, and lime.
McClelland purchased L’Espalier in Back Bay in 1988. He also opened and operated three locations of Sel de la Terre, which have all since shuttered. He was a founding partner of La Brasa, along with former Sel de la Terre and L’Espalier chef Daniel Bojorquez. He is no longer involved with that Somerville spot.
A former Essex farm owner, McClelland has long eyed the North Shore community for his next venture, he says, with the longstanding relationships he has developed with New England producers and purveyors on full display.
Riversbend is a partnership between McClelland, his wife, Heather, and Essex Marina owners Curt and Lindsay Bergeron. The restaurant takes over a former boathouse, an airy A-frame with panoramic views of the Essex River. The space was redone with blonde pine, a warm color palette, and local art and accents for a sense of place. It seats 98, including 24 at the bar. In the coming weeks, it will get an outdoor patio.
Riversbend is open Wednesday and Thursday from 6-10 p.m. and Friday-Sunday from 5-10 p.m.
35 Dodge St., Essex, 978-890-7098, riversbendessex.com.