River Gods isnít quite in Central Square, and, in spite of the Guinness logo on its exterior sign, it isnít quite an Irish pub. So itís fitting that Jackie Linnane isnít quite the average proprietor. Sheís the first woman in Bostonís Irish community to own and operate a bar independently, and River Gods reflects her sense of distinction.
Linnane accurately describes her menu as " rustic food with a twist. " Chef Luke Park, formerly of 29 Newbury and Ciao Bella, deftly prepares an eclectic menu that ranges from the traditional to the adventurous. There are a few staples ó namely, the popular Irish sausages, which are available as an appetizer ($5) or with beans and fries for dinner ($8) ó that pay tribute to Linnaneís homeland. The Korean handrolls ($7), seaweed-wrapped vegetables with a surprising zing, are another noteworthy starter. The spicy Thai curry ($10) comes with chicken, beef, or vegetables and has a measurable kick balanced out by the coconut-milk sauce. A canít-miss item is the pesto pizzetta ($8), a choose-your-own toppings, thin-crust delight thatís big enough to feed the table as an appetizer or to horde as your own entrée.
The décor, which Linnane calls " new-age Irish, " is a comfortable mélange of mismatched chairs (including one right-handed school desk), mellow lighting, and functional work by local artists. An organ in the back corner evokes the place's quirkiness, as does a small arched window to the upper right of the bar. But what might seem like an architectural oddity is actually a two-turntable perch from which guest DJs spin their favorites on Wednesday nights. In the past the party, called "Under the Influence," has hosted the likes of Lilli Dennison, Hybrasil, and Mr. Airplane Man. Entertainment guru Rory Keohane keeps the River Gods calendar full with " Eavesdrop, " a Tuesday-night listening series for soon-to-be-released albums and a host of other regular gigs, all of which reflect his commitment to the " non-mainstream. " River Gods seems equally devoted to the slightly out-of-the-ordinary, and Central Square surely benefits from its neighbor.
River Gods, located at 125 River Street, in Cambridge, is open daily, from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. Food is served until 10 p.m. Call (617) 576-1881.