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An Ocean Gate Landmark Transformed - Yolanda's River House Open For Business

Bayville couple's new restaurant a family business in more ways than one


In these shaky financial times, Vaughn and Elizabeth Larsen are taking a chance and pursuing a dream.

The Bayville couple purchased the Ocean Gate House about six months ago, then began a rapid renovation of the landmark in this small town on the Toms River.

"It was almost in disrepair when we bought it," Vaughn said. "We had our contractors lined up. Where you would need 90 days, we did it in six weeks."

Today is the grand opening of Yolanda's River House, complete with a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Mayor Paul J. Kennedy, food and drink specials and live music.

The inside of the restaurant at 401 Monmouth Avenue has been completely redone. Windows in the first floor dining room have been replaced with larger ones, making the area light and airy. The sheetrock has been replaced, the rooms repainted.

"It was so dark in here," Elizbeth said.

There's also an outdoor courtyard off the main dining room. The upstairs banquet room offers a panoramic view of the Toms River, and also has an outdoor area for dining.

The restaurant features a mix of coastal and continental cuisine. There's a variety of menus - lunch, early evening dinners from 3 to 5 p.m., a dinner menu and children's menu.

There's also a Sunday brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., with an omelette station, waffle station and carving station, all made to order.

Yolanda's River House - named after Vaughn's mother, who died in November - will be a family restaurant, the couple said.

Make that family with a capital F.

"We are a family restaurant," Elizabeth said. "We want to keep it affordable. It's going to be a nice family place. We want to keep it year round."

Some of the items are named after family members. And the menu is not just burgers, pizza and paninis. The Larsens have a staff of six chefs, including two executive chefs, two line chefs and two sous chefs.

Some of the items on the menus are far from standard fare. There's coconut pistachio shrimp with raspberry horseradish sauce included in the appetizers.

The dinner menu has a wide variety of beef, seafood, poultry, pasta and even vegetarian choices.

Pecan-crusted salmon with Madeira cream sauce; pork chop Napoli pan-seared with white bean, tomato ragout, roasted garlic mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus; River House cavatappi pasta, with house-smoked chicken, sausage, mushroooms, roasted peppers and fresh tomato sauce are just a few of the choices.

The bar area has also been repainted and new floors laid. Bar manager Rich Lenkiewicz has been busy since the restaurant unofficially opened about a month ago.

"We've been busy," he said as he prepped for early evening clientele. "I'm usually busy until about midnight. We're starting to see repeat customers."

Mayor Paul Kennedy hopes the restaurant will succeed in this ratable-poor town of about 2,000 year-round residents.

"They are very nice people and have put lots of effort into this new adventure of theirs," Kennedy said. "And they are trying to keep it a family-type of place. I want any and every business in town - the few that we have - to be successful. I feel that's part of my job."

For more information, call 732-269-4300, or visit the restaurant's website at www.YolandasRiverHouse.com.

judy ptak June 10, 2012 at 01:19 AM
went to the restaurant this evening we sat upstairs outside had melissa as a waitress got us our drinks and took our order. we received our appetizer and salad sat there for an hour not once did she come over to see if we needed anything or to tell us why we waited an hour for our food when other patrons were seated and waited on by a trainee got their food, we left without our entree but paid for our drinks and apps.. i do not recommend this place because the server could not care less whether you were served or not
Mattie June 10, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Well if you saw that other customers were served well and had no complaints, then apparently it was an issue with ONE server. It's a brand new place, I'm sure they need to work out a few kinks. Maybe your particular waiter wasn't very experienced. Doesn't mean you should pan the whole restaurant. How were the drinks and appetizer you did get?
WhyohWhy June 10, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Judy ptak... its a new place and I'm sure they are still working out the kinks. You have to expect a few glitches when a new place opens. Gotta love people like you who could ruin a business with a comment like that. Give people a break. If all this happened to you then you allowed it and shame on you. After the first 20 minutes you didn't get your meals I would have grabbed the "other" server and asked what the problem was or for them to get your server so you could ask them yourself. There is always a way around rather then just complaining about the service.
sandy bottom June 10, 2012 at 01:47 PM
try the window at mcdonalds
Eggs-n-Toast June 10, 2012 at 03:11 PM
I'm going with Red and Mattie on this one, Judy -- sounds to me like you have an axe to grind. This new restaurant wouldn't be any sort of 'competition' to you or yours now, would it? Because your negative post seems somewhat contrived. It's also very interesting how that is your one and ONLY comment on any Patch anywhere.
Jackie June 10, 2012 at 07:10 PM
We ate their and had great food and service! Staff was very friendly and the menu had a nice selection and variety. We will definitely be back! Next time I want to sit outside upstairs...love that they added that!
mary hines June 10, 2012 at 08:37 PM
We ate their saturday nite, service was very slow but food was good and so were the prices. Only thing I would recommend is serving the food on hot plates because our food was not hot when it arrived.
Patricia A. Miller (Editor) June 12, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Hi, It is not an advertisement. It's a business story about a Bayville couple revamping a longtime Ocean Gate and Ocean County landmark. They have not taken out any ads with us.
SUE June 22, 2012 at 12:53 PM
I have got to say that there have been servers that have come and gone but to be honest Melissa was the BEST server that we had there and have requested her actually. She is one of the best servers that we have had and to be honest she is the one that we go there to see. If you were unhappy with the service did you go and talk to either owner or manager ??? If you had then you would have known that they were short staffed and that Melissa had that night ( which was Saturday I am sure) 12 tables besides your table. Also she is not the one that brings the food they have a man that comes out with the food. It is not the servers fault nor is it the fault of the business for your food being late. Also that night the other food runner fell up the stairs with food SO that was probably your food and they were SOOOO busy so if you want to complain try and do it elsewhere. Melissa is a great server as well as the rest of the staff. Try and keep the negativity to the "other" restuarants like the chains that you go to. This is a small one that deserves to be praised not slandered. OH and try to go to the drive thru since you dont like fresh food made fresh and served with a great smile from the staff.
WhyohWhy June 22, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Ya know what Sue...you should always give a new place the benefit of the doubt . After all they are new and it does take time to iron out the kinks. But really ? If its not the servers fault and its not the owner of the business's fault then who's is it ? If the kitchen is not getting the food out in a timely manor then I would think that the owners or manager should be on top of it and making sure it does get out and its hot. After all it is their business. And sorry to say it is First impressions that make or break a business. I do take offense at your tone about going to a "Chain" that some are use to going to. How do you know where these people go to eat? Everyone is entitled to their opinion good or bad and it doesn't matter whether you like it or not. We call all agree to disagree on many things...You may have had a good experience there and someone else may not. Just like you saying you had a good dinner and great server, some one else may not have been as fortunate. THEY have every right to express their opinion just like you... JMO...
Jane Doe June 22, 2012 at 04:53 PM
'It is not the servers fault nor is it the fault of the business for your food being late." Ask yourself as a server: 1. WHEN do you put in my order? Do you wait or do you go put it in immediately after taking it? If you are double sat or triple sat, you can still go put in each order into the computer after taking each table’s order. 2. FORGETTING to put in an order. My husband and I have experienced this for REAL that servers ADMITTED to our faces they have FORGOTTEN TO PUT ORDERS IN. All of them were appetizers, bar drinks, and a cup of soup. 3. Did you put in the order CORRECTLY into the computer? Have had many times servers ADMITTED to our faces they did not do that correctly. 4. Did you FORGET ANYTHING I ORDERED such as a SIDE DISH? We have had this happen a number of times as well. 5. Did you DROP anything I ordered? 6. Did you remember to GET my food? We have had a server do that before. Also, we have had a number of servers forget bar drinks. 7. Did you bring out my food obviously correctly if you bring my food out? Do you realize how many times OUR OWN SERVER brings out DUH mistakes like the side dish is wrong, the entrée is wrong, etc.?
Jane Doe June 22, 2012 at 05:01 PM
"Also that night the other food runner fell up the stairs with food SO that was probably your food and they were SOOOO busy so if you want to complain try and do it elsewhere." So if that was the case, the TIP should STILL BE ALTERED since that person is **********PART OF THE SERVICE*********** DUHHHHHHHHHHH!! It's ONLY FAIR!!
skizma July 08, 2012 at 12:31 PM
OMG you all must be kidding? slow server is all you can find to comment on? happens in EVERY restaurant one time or another. And, if you were outside in a more remote area, that happens by nature. I have never been there, but if we ever sit outside we don't expect tip top service. Actually, I'd be more inclined to sit outside for a drink only. Not food. ANY new place, this or another, will have Newby issues. You should expect that when you go. Sorry....but, how was the food? That's why most people go. Food, dinner, quality, affordability. Good luck Yolanda's. Anchor Inn needs some competition. They haven't put a penny into their place in over 25 years. Wooden foldup tables, expensive spaghetti dinner....nothing special at all. blah. and talk about interior, updating. Nothing. Cash only only makes you wonder......where are you hiding all that cash? Go Yolanda's.......
Michael July 15, 2012 at 08:38 AM
Went to the old Ocean Gate House last week,and could not have been happier with the appperance.It is a real joy to see all the changes.Frank must not even know the place anymore.I had the Ribeye med rare and it was fantastic.It was nice to see Garrett there in the new place.He is a bundle of laughs and in a very crowded dining room he makes you feel like you are the only one that matters when he talks to you.Very happy to hear Megan was also still around.Had a couple of drinks at the bar after dinner and it is like you step into a whole new place.So much fun getting to know Rich the bartender
Michael July 15, 2012 at 08:40 AM
To contribute to the slow service debate my service was outstanding!Although i can not remember her name it's the short haired curly brunette.If you see her request her.You want bad service head over to Martells or The Anchor go to Yolanda's and make sure you go to the bar have a drink or three and talk to Rich and Rachel first.I'd reccomend the Ribeye I also had I believe peach flavored sorbet which was great as well.If you are a Ocean Gate House fan request Megan who was not there when I was otherwise I would have or Garret he will be in the nice shirt and tie.He is a great manager although he said he is an assistant.Next time i go with my girlfriend I have to try the Seafood platter and meet the new owners who I was told are a joy to work with.If you read the negative comments do not be fooled this place is worth wild
Joe B August 20, 2012 at 05:13 PM
Ate there a while back and the service was just about okay, but the food was not particularly good. For a place with so many chefs it should have been much better. I would not spend my hard earned dollars in this mediocre place again.
Joe B August 20, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Everyone, (including you...) is entitled to their opinion. ONE server was no the sole issue - where is the accountability? The problem was with poor training, and obviously a lack of owner oversight. Who cares if the waiter was not experienced, management should be involved - snide remark at the end of your post removes all your credibility..
Joe B August 20, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Why should a customer care if a waitress had 12 tables or one fell on a stairs??? As customers we expect decent service - it is up to the owners to ensure adequate coverage (which obviously they did not). Apparently you have an axe to grind with anyone who has a subjective opinion (i.e. if it is not positive you insult them..) Perhaps you work there?
Gary F September 14, 2012 at 07:08 PM
I had a horrible dining experence and after talking to the manager who thanked me for telling him , I was told that the owner would call me. HA. My wife and I entered the restaurant about 5:45 PM on a Sat... and there was no one to greet us. One waitress was in the bar hanging out with the customers and it took about 3 min. for a waitress to show up. I ordered a house special River house pasta. It was to have chicken, sausage, red peppers..The smoked chicken was so oversmoked and the only sausage I could find were thinly sliced aspirin sized pieces. The red peppers were so overcooked that they were mush. The couple next to us ordered drinks that never showed up. I heard a man ask what the " specials" were that night and after the waiter returned from the kitchen he was told that the chef did not figure them out yet. It was about 6:30 on a Saturday night. In any case don't waste your time or money here. Much better places to eat nearby down the road a little,
Luke September 23, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Luckily Melissa is no longer there :) they have a way better staff that includes Megan garret bob Rachel leanna Stephanie rich and Tom . So I recommend a second chance to all.


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