The River

February Fanfare

The River welcomes back Acqua California Bistro, and adds a newcomer in Fox & Fiddle.

Lori Cohen-Sanford Restaurants

The River

The Rancho Mirage dining scene is about to gain two new additions at The River. The popular dining, shopping, and movie complex has made updates to its outdoor mall, including parking improvements and luxury lobby and seating upgrades at the Century cinema. Notable for foodies are two new restaurants, Acqua California Bistro and Fox & Fiddle, which both plan to open their doors in February.

VIDEO: Jerry Keller of The Keller Family, owners of Acqua California Bistro, talks about a recent hit, Seafood Linguine, from the menu at sister location Lulu California Bistro in Palm Springs. Keller aims to replicate Chef Arturo Casillas’ proven recipe at Acqua at The River.

The Keller Family — who own the forthcoming Acqua California Bistro and Lulu California Bistro in Palm Springs — are glad to once again serve up a good time at The River. Jerry and Barbara Keller’s former restaurant, Acqua Pazza, occupied the same space. It closed two years ago after a successful decade of business due to failed lease renegotiations with new management, Keller says. During that time, the Kellers opened Lulu in downtown Palm Springs, which Jerry says he “thinks helped Palm Springs’ downtown revitalize, and the family wants to help do this again at The River.”

Seafood Linguine is loaded with scallops, shrimp, lobster, and mussels and tossed with a creamy tomato-basil sauce.

Upon being asked by yet another new management team to return to The River, and seeing the improvements being made to the theater, parking, and other amenities, the family found the offer attractive. The opening of Acqua California Bistro is truly a full-circle journey. “We moved Acqua Pazza to Lulu and now we have moved Lulu to Acqua,” Keller says.

Core to the success of the restaurants are an extensive offering of breakfast, brunch, lunch, happy hour, and dinner menus featuring California cuisine and a popular three-course “bargain menu,” priced at $19.99. A substantial remodel to the space includes a “dramatically redone kitchen with top-end and computer-controlled ovens and equipment,” Keller says.

The new restaurant also offers additional seating gained by taking over the space next door. The River Room can accommodate 250 guests for private events, or be split up to accommodate smaller groups. The Terrace seating area by the water has been redone for that open-air experience. At full-capacity, the new restaurant can seat close to 500 people.

A grand opening planned for February will include charitable donations to local organizations, in keeping with the Keller family’s long-standing commitment to the community.

71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage.

The Rancho Mirage location of Fox & Fiddle is the first restaurant opening in the United States. The restaurant is modeled after the idea of a British Pub, creating an atmosphere to be a hub and the heart of the community.

A second new dining addition at The River will take over the former location of Sam’s Sushi. Fox & Fiddle is an award-winning Canadian franchise based out of Toronto that offers “a modern twist on a British Pub,” according to Kurt Gardner, president and CEO.

Gardner says he is excited to offer guests menu items that are “prepared from scratch with fresh ingredients, including fresh breads baked on-premise.” While the location is a franchise, Gardner is proud of the locally-hired culinary team, which currently includes a chef, baker, and mixologist. The modern British pub fare is a unique blend of traditional items and new techniques. In addition to Fish & Chips, Anglophiles will delight in favorites like Bangers and Mash and the Scotch Egg.

Salads, flatbreads, nachos, sandwiches, and burgers will satisfy a variety of appetites. The bar bites menu is ideal if you want to enjoy a pint or two and a small plate while you watch a game; you’ll find TVs throughout the bar. Short ribs, wings, deep-fried pickles, and mac and cheese are among the modern pub morsels that will be available. A small brunch menu is offered on weekends.

With space to accommodate up to 250 people, the Fox & Fiddle aims to become your gathering spot of choice in Rancho Mirage.

71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage.

The Fish & Chips at Fox & Fiddle starts with the cod battered with soda water and English spices to create a crisp, light, nongreasy coating.