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The Riverhead Project Welcomes Friends, Family as Opening Nears

Dennis McDermott's downtown restaurant hoping to open its doors "later this week."

Perhaps after the past year  —  which has consisted of finding a space for a restaurant, conceptualizing it, drawing up plans, getting permits, removing a vault to make room for kitchen space and a list of other things  — it was OK for Dennis McDermott to be a little overwhelmed on Saturday night.

"You're hurting my head," he said with a smile, when asked what he's learned about Riverhead since he started work on The Riverhead Project, a new restaurant taking shape at 300 East Main St. "I'm actually working right now."

And just like that, a guest pulled McDemott away and he was back to work.

Hundreds of guests  — mostly McDermott's friends and family — swept in and out the door of the Riverhead Project on Saturday evening as the restaurant completed a handful of courtesy cocktail parties to kick off its upcoming opening.

Charmaine Guest, the marketing director, said they had hosted industry-specific gatherings throughout the week to introduce the community to the restaurant, located at the home of a former Chase bank.

McDermott called Saturday's gathering a "stacked deck," with the friend-and-family crowd, and said he's "very excited to have made it this far" thanking the town on a few occasions for helping him open as quickly as he hopes to. Though he hesitated to give a specific date the restaurant would open to the public, he said he's "hoping later next week."

The former bank - whose vault, teller windows, and lock boxes had all removed - was chosen for the Riverhead Project for a few reasons, McDermott stated in previous interviews. Having called Route 58 "saturated," he sees potential in downtown Riverhead. The full-facade windows on the west and south sides of the building provide ample natural light, and the stone's throw proximity to the Hyatt Hotel under construction - which will not have a restaurant of its own - will add to the ambiance and customer base McDermott hopes to draw.

"The design gets you in, and the service and food is what keeps you coming back," said Harold Gordon, a former regular at the Frisky Oyster, McDermott's previous restaurant located in Greenport.

McDermott and others have likened Greenport's downtown a decade ago, when McDermott opened there —  vacant storefronts,  room for potential —  to Riverhead's today. 

"He came in when Greenport was way down, and really helped bring it back up," said Sue Hanauer. 

dmunny May 15, 2011 at 06:41 PM
Its a great idea. But why do we need another Lowes. How about a multiplex and an Ikea.
thomas carson May 22, 2011 at 01:03 PM
I think this a another great addition to riverhead which is the last frontier on the north fork to be turned around. It will soon be a more solid down town as more business minded people get in volved. Take Farm Country Kitchen who has blazed a path for seven years and is part of the rebirth of riverhead being a destination for many. A little place thats out of the way and found by many is indeed why riverhead can be on the map again.
April Pokorny May 22, 2011 at 02:56 PM
Boy - Riverhead is now bookended by two great restaurants! Farm Country Kitchen on the west end and The Riverhead Project on the east end. I'm a long time fan of the hidden gem on the west end, but just ate at TRP last night. Only the second night it was open and food and service was terrific. Now we'll be hard pressed to choose, but what a delightful dilemma :D
Daveid March 31, 2012 at 04:10 AM
Riverhead has the same issue as Worcester, MA ... people want to turn it into an upscale place with nice restaurants and boutique stores and hotels. Yet, nobody will touch on the issue of the surrounding area being high crime and low income. You cannot put upscale restaurants and shops in an area full of drugs and crime (downtown Riverhead) and expect people to want to travel there at night or to shop. Clean up the city and this will work ... leave it as a welfare area with drugs and crime and any efforts to bring in businesses will fail.

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