A Dream 12 Years in the making and still going strong. The River Café opened in June of 1977 in an abandoned neighborhood by the Brooklyn docks – desolate except for trucks waiting to enter the piers. When Michael “Buzzy” O’Keeffe first “found” this spot – barren and devoid of life – he didn’t see a chaotic waterfront that lacked any civility, he saw wonderful possibilities and the oasis he had been searching for.
It took him 12 years of pestering the city before he was granted the building permits he needed. It was 1974, and New York was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.
Friends, business associates and government officials told him he was crazy, and every bank turned him down for loans.
"Not one person said it would work", he says. But with uncommon resolve, he kept pushing forward, and never doubted his vision. And when the restaurant finally opened, it was an immediate success.
Buzzy, a dapper New Yorker and now a celebrated restaurateur, was a waiter at Schrafft’s as a kid. As a young man, he began throwing elegant parties at his modest home near the Bronx waterfront – what he called “a poor man’s paradise” – and he just kept doing it at better and better venues. He has always strived for perfection.
The intent from the beginning was to serve some of the world’s finest food, with professional service, in a warm and relaxed atmosphere. “There is no compromise with quality; every item has to be the very best,” Buzzy explains. “We were the East Coast forefront for the new American cuisine, searching out the finest and purest ingredients in every aspect.”
But the most desired goal in building a great restaurant, he says, “is to create the most wonderful setting possible – so the customer is transported to a beautiful, peaceful and very special place. I believed I could create something special, an oasis in New York.”
In fact, the River Café draws more New Yorkers and visitors into Brooklyn than any entity since the heyday of Coney Island. And with its decades of success – and countless awards – it anchored the redevelopment of the Brooklyn waterfront that millions enjoy today. It’s also been called “the Harvard Business School of the culinary world” by Bryan Miller of The New York Times, having produced many culinary firsts and world-class chefs. We’re all glad Buzzy O’Keeffe couldn’t take no for an answer.
“This is the way we’ve done business over the years, your word is your bond. IDB understands this time-honored tradition -- the importance of trust. That’s why IDB is my banking partner.”Buzzy O’Keeffe, Owner
The River Cafe