CRANFORD, NJ — If you look hard enough, you can still find a variety of old tavern-style bar and grills in New Jersey, but none may be more resilient or enjoyable than The Riverside Inn, located at the edge of downtown Cranford. For almost a century, generations of satisfied patrons in search of a cold drink, warm meal and, on some nights, a few good tunes performed by live acts, have been coming to this local landmark. Affectionately nicknamed “The Dive” by loyal regulars, The Riverside Inn is a true Union County gem.
Perched slightly above the banks of the Rahway River, The Riverside’s idyllic locale was almost its undoing, when Hurricane Irene ripped through the state in the summer of 2011. Entire sections of Cranford remained submerged for days and the venerable establishment sustained heavy structural and electrical damage. Thanks to the combined support of local contractors, laborers, electricians and even a fundraiser later that year named Divestock, the owners were able to reopen and start a whole new chapter, which continues to this day. Despite the extensive remodeling, which claimed the vintage brick exterior façade, the interior of The Riverside Inn still retains the old-school coziness and roguish charm that most modern-day franchises fail to create. The walls are covered with fascinating and odd artifacts, while the bar area is gloriously cluttered and constructed of refurbished wood, with various colorful hand-written paper plates proudly advertising the daily food and drink specials.
Live music is a longstanding tradition at The Riverside Inn, with countless local and regional acts performing near the front window, as soon as a few tables and chairs are cleared away. The Brother John Brown Band has been setting up and performing on most Sunday evenings for the last several years, boasting a solid set-list of classic rock songs by The Beatles, Allman Brothers, Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Lynyrd Skynyrd and dozens more. The Sunday night crowd is a healthy mix of rowdy regulars, band devotees and curiosity seekers simply in search of a good time. For upcoming Brother John Brown show dates and additional band information, visit www.brotherjohnbrown.com.
The Riverside Inn is located at 56 North Avenue East, near the intersection of Springfield Avenue. For any questions concerning hours of operation, menu selections or drink specials, call 908-709-9449 or send them a message at their “Riverside Inn Dive Bar” Facebook page.