Foodie Road Trip: Enjoy Finger-Licking Treats At Riverside Brewing Company

On the banks of French Creek in Cambridge Springs, Riverside Brewing Company creates decadent craft brews, cocktails and dishes on the grounds of a former hotel.
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Once upon a time (really — near the end of the 19th Century), Cambridge Springs was a destination for those looking to partake in the area’s mineral waters, which were said to possess magical healing properties.

Hotels catering to these tourists soon popped up around the little town situated along French Creek in Crawford County; among the finest was the expansive Riverside Inn and its adjacent springhouse at One Fountain Avenue.

As the popularity of the mineral springs craze began to fade in the early 20th Century, so too did the demand to visit Cambridge Springs. Other hotels closed or were demolished, but the Victorian-style Riverside Inn remained a stalwart in the area.

Over the years, the inn reinvented itself as a gathering space, restaurant and popular wedding venue — and it might have stayed that way. But in 2017, as many of the townspeople looked on, the historical building burned to the ground after a fire started in the kitchen.

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For a while, the property sat vacant. In 2019, however, a new business rose from the ashes. Like its predecessor, Riverside Brewing Company has become a bustling hub for locals and visitors alike.

Owned by Jason and Deanna Howles, who also run nearby Howles Maple Farm, the “new” Riverside is housed in a red, 1800s-era barn originally built in Cochranton before being deconstructed, moved and reconstructed on the Cambridge Springs property.

Among the brewery’s amenities are a spacious bar and seating area filled with nods to the original Riverside’s history, a gift shop, an outdoor stage and an indoor/outdoor patio that includes a bar made from a silo alongside a scenic view of French Creek. Every February, Riverside hosts the Tap That! Maple Festival, featuring live music and maple demonstrations.

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The farm-to-table restaurant also collaborates with a variety of local partners, among them SB Wolfe Farms and Sam’s Hog House; because the owners’ roots are in maple-syrup production, there are plenty of maple-inspired dishes, brews and cocktails on the menu.

Riverside came to my attention about a year ago, when I was learning to ski at Mount Pleasant of Edinboro, a small, family-friendly ski resort just down the road. While my daughters, then in kindergarten and second grade, took part in the excellent Snow Kids program, I grudgingly enrolled in the Snow Parents program in the hopes that one day we could all ski together. (For the record, my husband has been an accomplished skier since childhood.)

On one of the trips up the lift (as I was preparing to blunder through another ski drill), I asked the instructor where we could get a bite to eat after lessons were over. He enthusiastically recommended Riverside Brewing Company. Try the Parmesan Crusted Chicken, he suggested, it’s a chef specialty.

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Hours later, as we sat in the high-ceilinged, rustic-chic restaurant and brewery, I ordered the tender, panko-covered chicken accompanied by roasted-red-pepper fettuccine alfredo — and the Ginger Shred Man, one of RBC’s many craft beer offerings.

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Since then, we’ve been back to Riverside several times, including taking a day trip there with friends in the fall. One of the huge hits at our table, for kiddos and adults alike, was the giant hanging Bavarian-style pretzel, which came with the choice of maple pepper jelly, spicy maple mustard or beer cheese.

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Another friend had the crispy, wood-fired pizza, an RBC specialty featuring crust that’s handcrafted from the brewery’s spent grains and maple syrup, while my husband enjoyed the hearty maple-bacon burger made from ground Maple Valley Farms beef.

My favorite, though, were the sweet potato fries, which were accompanied by the signature Howles Maple Cream dipping sauce. It was a perfect, indulgent combination of salty and sweet; I may even have licked my fingers after I was done.

Drive Time
1½ hours

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Categories: Foodie Road Trip