302 South Riverside Drive, New Smyrna Beach 32168 // RiverparkTerrace.com
Interview by Tiffany Yancey // Photos by Kelsey Walters
From the moment you step onto the property at Riverpark Terrace you are surrounded by natural beauty. Follow the winding brick pathway to the heart of the venue and you escape into a tropical garden with beautiful flowers and fragrances and the wafting smells of divine dishes being prepared.
This venue may be a newer addition to the New Smyrna Beach Art District, but it has quickly risen to the top of everyone’s favorite place to dine or simply enjoy a drink in a relaxing atmosphere. Whether you are looking for a romantic date night, a quick lunch with the ladies, a venue for a special event, or a relaxing drink overlooking the river, Riverpark Terrace is ready and willing to accommodate.
Q: What inspired you to create Riverpark Terrace and when did you first open?
A: The minute we walked onto the property where the restaurant is located, we felt something magical. We pictured a relaxing environment where people could come to enjoy a great meal, a quiet drink and just escape from the stresses of everyday life. The property lends itself to that, and we tried to capture that essence. We opened just about two years ago, after a year of challenging construction. It is an ongoing project as we continue to enhance both the property and our menus.
Q: Your meals are like a work of art. Who comes up with your menu and does it change seasonally?
A: We are very honored to have Chef Nicholas Douchand at the helm of the kitchen. He strives for perfection in everything he creates and faces the challenges of delivering a creative menu to a high volume of people from a very small kitchen. He has a dedicated team whose number one goal is to provide satisfaction to all our guests. When we get compliments and have good feedback from our patrons, it is what keeps us going. Our plan is to have a seasonal menu and we are currently in the process of making some changes which we hope to have in place within the next month or two. We strive to use the freshest and most local ingredients and recently have even established a CSA delivery site at the restaurant for the local community and for our own use with Common Ground Organic Farm based out of Deland. Every Saturday, they deliver fresh hand-picked organic vegetables.
Q: Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring, and your restaurant has proved that. What is at the top of your list when it comes to creating a healthy and diverse menu?
A: A main part of eating healthy is creating a well-balanced, freshly made meal with no processed ingredients. We try to create a balanced menu that meets the needs of a diverse audience. A goal in the next version of our menu is to add some more vegetarian/vegan options and to capture enticing fresh ingredients. Of course, we have a wide range of dishes so people who love their indulgences can enjoy our hand-cut truffle fries, the Terrace Burger (which we believe is the best in town), and our decadent housemade desserts like the warm sea salt brownie.
Q: What are some of the rewards and challenges you faced when opening Riverpark Terrace and branding yourself as a locally sourced, scratch kitchen restaurant?
A: Opening and running a restaurant is certainly a challenging endeavor. We first had to come up with a strategy and how to convert a house that was almost 100 years old into a functioning commercial restaurant. We spent weeks with our architect, Jay Pendergast, and our contractor, Brian Bastian, trying to come up with creative ways to make it work. We had to lift the roof to accommodate a custom-made walk-in refrigerator, upgrade the electrical and water systems to account for kitchen equipment and proper ventilation, and determine how we were possibly going to have enough storage space. The owners worked tirelessly to make sure everything fit together to create a special atmosphere. We carefully researched the amazing establishments that already existed in New Smyrna Beach and wanted to come up with something that was a great addition and offered diversity to what we already have. Before we opened, we had a focus group and invited many people from the downtown district to indulge and give us constructive criticism. The continuing challenge is determining the needs of the community and making sure we are meeting them and thinking of ways to expand the kitchen to make sure we can service the number of growing people visiting the restaurant.
Q: What is your most popular dish?
A: That’s really hard to answer as we have so many popular dishes. Due to the size of our kitchen, our menu is very select, offering something for everyone’s tastes and budgets. We have some guests who come in and order the same thing every time, such as the Parmesan encrusted salmon. Our mussels are unique and filled with a fresh smoky flavor. Our curry is one of our most popular and people have commented on its authenticity. We get many calls each day asking what our specials are. We always have a fish special. It’s not just about dinner, though. We have a great lunch with a favorite being the salmon BLT with a housemade remoulade and a full service a la carte brunch with a favorite being “Oh My, Chicken Thigh” consisting of buttermilk chicken, poached eggs, buttermilk biscuit and sausage gravy or “The Southern Belle” consisting of fried green tomato, eggs your way, blackened shrimp, Creole hollandaise, roasted garlic potatoes and oven-roasted tomatoes. You also can’t forget our favorite appetizers of fried green tomatoes and the warm pretzel sticks with housemade cheese sauce and caramelized onions.
Q: Have you won any awards for your culinary creations?
A: We have received quite a few awards over the two years we have been open, starting with your very own Best Date Night 2018. We have received first and second place in the soup sampler two years in a row. We placed in the Seafood Fiesta where we literally brought our kitchen down to Flagler Avenue. And Cheeseburger in Paradise three years in a row – we participated before we were even open. For the past two years, we’ve received Trip Advisor’s Reward of Excellence and are ranking in top spots on Yelp, Google Business and highly recommended on Facebook.
Q: People are raving about using your property as a venue to host events. What are some of the details for hosting at Riverpark Terrace and how can our readers find out more information?
A: We are pretty unique in this arena. We will occasionally close the restaurant venue for a private event, but we like the restaurant to stay open. If we close, we can hold up to 120 people. A smaller event where the restaurant remains open is approximately 50 to 60 people. We have an exclusive area in the front that overlooks the park and the river and we found that these private events work really well there. They are still on the property, but have an exclusive dedicated area. For larger parties, we offer a buffet style menu and for smaller parties, we usually do a sit down dinner. Some people elect to have just heavy appetizers. We have a full liquor license, so we can fit the needs of all – beer, wine, cocktails, etc. We are a small, locally-owned venue, so every occasion is unique and different. We consult with people on a one-on-one basis to come up with the best menu and package that fits their vision and budget. We have hosted all sorts of special events – weddings, rehearsal dinners, graduation parties, milestone birthday parties, bridal showers, baby showers, etc. – and, of course, we recently partnered with East Coast Current to host the W.I.N.E. event, which was a huge success, bringing over 100 women to the restaurant for appetizers, wine and music, highlighted with displays from local vendors.
Q: What sets you apart from other restaurants/venues in our area?
A: Wow! There are so many great restaurants in New Smyrna Beach and what sets us apart is our service and food quality. Customer service is number one to us and we do our best to make sure every guest leaves happy. Of course, we’re human, and since every dish is made fresh, if something is not to a person’s liking, we always offer to make it over. The owners are always at the restaurant, ensuring that everything is running smoothly. Many of our visitors are repeat customers, and we’re honored to now call many of them friends. We like to say, “Riverpark Terrace offers food with a soul.” During its early development, the owners envisioned a place where all could be comfortable and enjoy a relaxing drink or a great meal and throw their cares away. Our menu is very unique for the area as well. We tried to move away from the typical “beach town” offerings and combine an intimate environment and unassuming setting.
Q: When it comes to thinking outside of the box, you have really set yourself apart. What are some of the recurring events/specials you offer?
A: One of our goals when we opened the restaurant was to be a restaurant, and a little bit plus. In our short life, we have instituted many events. Meatless Monday has been a huge success and started at Riverpark Terrace when we learned that our Chef Josh Klimkowski had started a business called the Vegetable Butcher. The rest is history. Yogamosa started as a collaborative effort with Shushanna Tamman, a licensed yoga instructor and massage therapist, where every first and third Sunday, those looking for a great way to start the day can participate in an hour of yoga followed by a mimosa – and better yet, receive 10 percent off a scrumptious brunch. This year, we established a CSA pick up right on site in partnership with Common Ground Organic Farm in Deland. An always-fun event is Corks & Canvas with Heather Pastor where you can mingle and create an artistic masterpiece while sipping wine. Our Wines Around the World event was also a huge success where people were able to taste a wide variety of wines, accompanied by appetizers indigenous to the featured wine regions and buy the wine at discount. Probably one of our biggest collaborations was the S.H.O.R.E. event from Daytona State College focusing on the preservation of the Indian River Lagoon. We have sponsored that event two years in a row, along with the Brannon Center, Harris House, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Arts on Douglas and the Marine Discovery Center. And you can’t forget about our wine dinners. We hope to have them on a regular basis going forward. We offer an exclusive five course dinner paired with carefully chosen select wines. We hope to continue bringing fun events to the community that are a good fit with the restaurant’s values.
Q: Like many companies in Volusia County, being a part of the community is just as an important as providing a quality service or product. How have you achieved this?
A: It was very important to us to become an integral part of the community. While I feel we have achieved that, it is a continuing effort and we hope to become a staple restaurant in New Smyrna Beach. We have been part of the chamber since before we opened and took advantage of SCORE which provided invaluable assistance through our opening process. We are also members of the Canal Street Historic District and will host the monthly get-together in March. We have participated in a slew of fundraisers for B.I.G., Cudas Unhooked, local school fundraisers, and we continually provide support through donations and gift certificates to all sorts of non-profits. One of our most exciting community events was hosting a fashion show with Pepper’s Boutique. Unfortunately, the day turned rainy, but we pulled it off by moving to the Woman’s Center and it was a great night of fashion, great food and drinks, silent auctions and spending time with family and friends.
Q: What can we expect in the future for Riverpark Terrace?
A: Well, some of that’s a secret. One day I overheard some guests leaving and it was with great pleasure when I heard them say, “Every time we come here, there’s something new and different.” We plan to keep the mystery as we grow into our space and expand into the community. What will stay the same is our focus on creative quality food, outstanding customer service and offering all a beautiful and calming atmosphere where people want to while away the days and nights. There is still a lot of charm in New Smyrna Beach and we are thankful to be a part of it.
Owners: Beth Bay and Mary Finn
302 South Riverside Drive, New Smyrna Beach 32168
386-427-2903 // RiverparkTerrace.com
Facebook: RiverparkTerraceFL // Instagram: riverparkterrace // Twitter: RiverparkTerrace