Last Friday, we stumbled into Riffs on Pearl Street not quite knowing what to expect. We had just popped into a handful of West Pearl restaurants, to find the same thing at all: 45 minute wait, overflowing with students and visiting parents, or overpriced.

As many wonderful things as I had heard about Riffs, I had only enjoyed a drink or two at their bar and never actually ordered their food. We decided to see that it was all give it a whirl…

What a surprise! A pleasant, excellent, tasty, and affordable surprise! We were seated within 2 minutes of walking through the door (refreshing since every restaurant seemed to be full to the brim) and presented with a fantastic daily specials menu. We were seated near the kitchen (a plein air type, similar to that of a diners cook window but in a hip industrial kind of way) and watching all the plates go out I felt myself get hungrier by the minute.

After our wine and beer arrived, we decided to start with the flash fried brussels sprouts, topped with browned butter, hazelnuts, and crispy shallots. Amazing! I’ve had fried brussels at Bitter Bar (which were more like a popcorn or chip) but these were heartier, more like a salad.

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Luckily, we managed to order the last braised short rib, which my boyfriend claimed to be “the best short rib” he’s ever had! It was pretty fantastic, braised in wine and served over mashed potatoes and mushrooms. I secretly wished I had ordered it for myself!

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However, my dish did not disappoint. I went with the “gyro” lamb burger. Heavily seasoned like a gyro, my lamb patty was served over couscous with goat feta, kalamata olives, and harissa sofrito. Just a tad overcooked (I think I’ll go with medium rare next time), but nothing I couldn’t work with considering the sofrito was a delicious pairing with it. All the flavors jumped out and made a spectacular plate.

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I was sad to find myself eating the last bite… but dessert needed to be had! I made the executive decision to split the lemon olive oil cake with basil ice cream. An olive oil cake is ultra indulgent and should leave you feeling like you never need to eat again…While the lemon olive oil cake was delicious, it lacked in the aforementioned richness that I love (it was more of a very rich lemon cake). Our basil ice cream though was perfection! Light and refreshing and just a little delicate to round out a fantastic dinner!

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The food and service are impeccable at Riffs. Expect a great night out, without outrageous prices (our entire bill was about $60!) and a casual atmosphere. Definitely recommend it as a first date spot, dinner with parents, or for drinks and small plates with friends. I can’t wait to head back and sample all their starter plates!

One thing to remember: they cannot seat a party greater than 6 people so be sure to plan for that!