Iconic River Cafe Badly Damaged By Hurricane Sandy

Sad news: With major flooding in low-lying DUMBO from Hurricane Sandy Monday night, eateries Bubby’s and Governor suffered major damage. But it appears that the iconic River Café beside Fulton Ferry Landing was all but destroyed by the storm. Huffington Post reports that water reached the restaurant’s doorstep by Monday morning’s high tide at 8 a.m.—and by nightfall, the evening high tide and the storm surge “completely wrecked the restaurant,” with water 3 to 4 feet deep in the dining room and kitchen.

Flooding covered the floors in mud and silt and knocked around the dining room’s red leather banquets, while completely destroying all kitchen appliances, except the range. A valuable Steinway piano made for the restaurant was also destroyed. Owner Michael “Buzzy” O’Keefe says, I built this place. I’ve been here since the beginning in 1977. I’ve seen lots of storms, but there’s never been anything like this.” He estimates millions in damages.

HuffPost adds that the restaurant was open for dinner Sunday night, after which O’Keefe and his staff moved all furniture into the terrace room, as far as possible from the river, then went home. O’Keefe was on the restaurant premises for part of the evening Monday, but with “the wind so strong that he couldn’t stand up straight,” eventually he was forced to seek shelter at his apartment in Brooklyn Heights.

He says, We won’t be able to open for a long time. Probably not for weeks or months. I had regulars calling me yesterday asking if we would be open. I said ‘no,’ so they asked if I would be open tomorrow or the next day. I didn’t quite know how to respond.” More, including pictures, at Huffington Post, here.

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  • Boerum Bill

    Seriously bummed about River Cafe, but Bubby’s can suck it.

  • DrewB

    Oh no! Had a wonderful meal at River Cafe just a few weeks ago. I hope they can rebuild.

  • Heightsman

    I second that…Bubby’s can suck it! One of the worst managed/food places ever!

  • SPM

    My father and I meet several times a year at the River Cafe and the last time we had a lovely chat with Michael (“Buzzy”). I wish him all the best and once it’s re-built, my Dad and I will be first in line for reservations!

  • Jorale-man

    Jeez, real nice. Knock people when they’re down.

    On the positive side, I know that Bargemusic got through the hurricane with barely any damage.

  • Monty

    Wishing damage on Bubby’s is pretty crass. It’s definitely taken a downturn since management changed a year or so ago, but it’s still a nice family place in a great location.

  • kathy

    I am so sorry to hear about the River cafe; we got engaged there and always look forward to returning. We lives in brooklyn heights so i see it almost every day. It’s part of our history.
    Buzzy, please rebuild.

  • Knight

    Monty expressed my sentiments about Bubby’s well. And I hope that the River Cafe will get lots of insurance money so that they can rebuild to be even better than they were before Sandy arrived. They are the anchor for many of the other businesses in DUMBO.

  • Lesley and Phil

    so so sad to hear the news, I adore this place, my son recently proposed to his girlfriend here, will be looking forward to the grand opening love from your friends in the UK.

  • someone

    There was a sign at Bubby’s in Mid-October that they were closing down for good sometime at the end October.

    On the other side I have heard that Almondine has major damage also and is likely going to be closed for months. Does anyone know if that is true?

  • David on Middagh


    I walked by Almondine yesterday. Water was being pumped from their basement, which I think is the kitchen. I will be happy to see them open again, but I can believe it will be a while.

  • Heightsman

    River Cafe is a special place. Didn’t go often – but always wonderful. I hope they rebuild. I’m sorry about Bubby’s. It wasn’t great. But it wasn’t awful.

  • Peter Sheppard

    Sorry to learn of this damage. At least the team is safe and sound for the most part and the restaurant can rebuild. Looking forward to that. Had an amazing mean there late on Christmas Eve, the staff were very accommodating, seating us just as the restaurant was closing for the holidays.. See you again soon

  • Andrew Porter

    Bubby’s closed forever on October 28th, and the water flooded a vacant store. The cookie store on the corner, however, was also flooded, as was Powerhouse Books, which had 28″ of water come in, ruining thousands of books—and they have no flood insurance.

    Almondine’s kitchen is in the basement, and even in normal times is likely at sea level. The water poured in and destroyed it totally. Also badly damaged were the other restaurants, includes Jacques Torres.

    River Cafe looks like it’s on a floating barge, but it actually rests on pilings, so when the water rose, the place filled up—unlike Barge Music, which actually floats at its mooring. The Icecream store, although slightly raised, also had water inside, though not up to to the tops of the counters. I saw standing water inside being mopped up.

  • Boerum Bill

    I hope when River Cafe rebuilds, the contractor puts a pin/eyelet system on the pilings, so when a flood threatens, the pins can be taken out, allowing the restaurant to float.

  • dana chan

    river cafe we hope to see you soon , when you reopen I will be in line for reservations , good luck for everything

  • Sheila

    The River Cafe is a great New York landmark and treasure that I miss already. Every visit there has always been special and memorable, including several significant personal events like an engagement. I missed a party there recently and now I feel very sad about it. As a Dumbo neighbor, the sheer beauty of the restaurant was a jewel in the neighborhood and I too will be there as quickly as the doors reopen..my heart goes out to Buzzy, but please know your old friends and neighbors are with you-

  • North heights res

    Can anyone recommend a decent, relatively quick place to get something to eat near the Barclays Center?

    Assuming everything around there will be heaving in the hour or so before a concert, yes?

  • Paul Lewis

    Fond memories of my 60th birthday dinner at River Cafe at Easter 2012. It was the highlight of a wonderful week in NYC and I’m so sorry to see how the place was affected by the storm. I dream of returning … please rebuild/reopen.
    Best wishes from the UK.