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The lively little retreat of River Bar

Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Where to River Bar, a lively little cocktail lair at Somerville’s Assembly Row shopping complex. The Mystic River winks in the distance, beyond the patio.

What for Frisky bar bites, warming cocktails, and a heated al fresco bar. Chef Patrick Gilmartin hails from Boston’s late, lamented Staff Meal food truck, noted for unusual tacos. Restaurateur Ken Kelly, who runs Somerville hangouts including Foundry on Elm and the Independent, is behind the project.

The scene A fuzzy woolen Xanadu. This would be a fair spot to stage a Jennifer Aniston rom-com. Sleek blondes preen on the patio, impervious to icy temps thanks to Ugg boots and sudsy beer. Couples in bulky scarves pick at fried sweet potatoes. Bloodshot dudes clink champagne glasses. Satisfied shoppers trot through the dining area clutching Brooks Brothers bags. An impish host dashes from open kitchen to outdoor bar, ferrying plates with calisthenic ease.


What you’re eating Daring combinations in plates small and large: shrimp chips with black garlic aioli ($7), pan-fried corned beef and cabbage dumplings with rye dipping sauce ($9), fried sweet potatoes with pomegranate molasses ($6), a housemade Chinese sausage sub slathered with black bean mayonnaise ($13). The restaurant is open for lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch.

Care for a drink? The current list celebrates autumn, with cocktails like the Mind Glow: a hot toddy with rye whiskey, Bittermens Hiver Amer liqueur, lemon, and honey. An efficient roster of wines by the glass tops out at $13. Beer drinkers will find cans or bottles containing Miller High Life — but also Sixpoint Sweet Action. There’s a section devoted to cider, too.

Overheard Commentary on baked goods and the romantic potential of hockey players. “Dude. I would never send anyone a Pepperidge Farm gift basket. Don’t go there,” a flannel-clad guy declares to his buddies, who appear supportive. A gentleman in cashmere leans toward a neighboring table and clears his throat. “I’m sorry for staring at your sandwich. But what’s in it?” A trim woman reluctantly sends back eggs. “Do not be sorry!” laughs a server, who yanks the offending platter and bolts toward the open kitchen. “A pork roll tastes like really delicious, salami-ish bacon,” a waitress informs a young couple. “Hockey players are the best people to date! They’re classy and sweet,” a brassy babe reveals to the heated patio, hoisting a foamy cup. A bartender in a ski hat cackles and beams. 661 Assembly Row, Somerville, 617-616-5561, www.river-bar.com


Kara Baskin can be reached at kcbaskin@gmail.com. Follow her restaurant news on www.bostonglobe.com/food.