By TERESA HAMMOND
One might say The River’s Edge owners David and Debbie Tokar are living the good life.
If subscribing to philosopher Bertrand Russell’s quote, “A good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge” then they would be absolutely right. The Tokars have a love of good food and exceptional service.
Fortunately for patrons of their Knights Ferry-based restaurant, they also have decades of industry knowledge to their credit.
The husband/wife team took ownership of the uniquely set eatery in November 2016. The River’s Edge is one of few dining locations in the 209 offering a tranquil waterfront setting along the Stanislaus River. Thanks to the help of Mother Nature and a bountiful winter season, the river is higher than ever, offering serene sounds as the restaurant’s back drop.
Since taking ownership, they have built a staff, quality menu and a clientele with a fond appreciation for the total package offered by the uniqueness of their business.
David Tokar spent 37 years with Marie Callender’s in varying capacities before taking over the business from previous owner Connie Mei.
“That was all my life,” David said. “I was ready and looking to do something different.”
So when his wife proposed the idea of purchasing from Mei who was looking to sell, David dove in.
“It’s a beautiful location,” he said of the establishment sitting along the scenic Stanislaus River. “My wife said, all we have to do is provide great food and great service. So I gave notice at Marie Callender’s and we began building a team.”
To date the Tokars employ close to 30 staff members, including Chef Sherise Miller and Sous Chef Juan Soto. Between the two of them, they have 38 years of cooking experience.
“We really try and showcase the view and take our food to the next level,” Miller said of the menu and the influence of the breathtaking setting.
The variety and the flair of the menu perfectly suits the rustic elegance of the restaurant and its setting. The presentation, that of a fine dining experience with a mid-range price. The setting, overlooking the Stanislaus River among lush green scenery is enough to make one feel they’ve been transported well beyond the Central Valley.
“We lowered the prices on the menu,” Tokar said of the changes made when taking ownership. “We wanted to make it a friendly place and have people come back once a week versus special occasions.
“I’m at the point in my life where I want to have a fun restaurant,” he continued, “and have fun people working here, which we do.”
One need not sit in the establishment long to see Tokar’s words and vision come to life through action. The staff is friendly, helpful, accommodating and equally passionate about what they do.
The pride of the kitchen is evident as the presentation of such specials as the Hunter Grilled Salmon, served with a citrus glaze/pineapple salsa or the not so simple Dagwood sandwich, piled high with meat and fixin’s leave one speechless. Not an adventurer, looking for something a bit more mainstream? The Chefs shared the pizzas are among one of the most popular items.
Tokar said they aim for quality over quantity, yet upon serving and tasting one can’t help but feel treated well by both.
Yet the staff knows the Valley and the area for which they are serving. Just a stone’s throw up the hill from Oakdale, the Cowboy Capital of the World, the menu offers plenty of meat, including a Prime Rib special on Friday and Saturday nights.
“That’s really popular,” Tokar said. “It’s served with a Chef vegetable and a starch of their choosing.”
As the Chefs are happy to prepare and plate the popular items, it is their equal pride and passion for what they do that translates most through their product.
“We specialize in scratch cooking,” Miller said. “We’re focused on non-processed quality food. I’m more home cooking. Juan brings in a little Latin fusion.”
“It’s amazing,” Soto said of working as part of The River’s Edge team. “We get to play around with a lot here. There isn’t ever a dull moment.”
As both have a skill for creating and plating mainstream, as well as specialty meals, the desserts are just as memorable. Miller is known for her cheesecakes and they do not disappoint. Nor does the bread pudding or Crème Brule.
“Knights Ferry is just a beautiful, quaint little town from the Gold Rush days,” Tokar said. “This is just an awesome destination spot, but you don’t have to drive forever to get here.”
The River’s Edge at 17525 Sonora Road, Knights Ferry, is open six days a week and closed on Tuesdays. They accept reservations during the week, patio seating is open to first come, first serve on weekends. They also cater to special events such as parties, weddings and the like. For additional information call (209) 881-3466 or find them on Facebook or Instagram.