New bistro opens in Belhaven historic home

Published 4:36 pm Monday, January 29, 2024

Eight months into transforming River Forest Manor into their own, Larry and Gina Holbrook opened Bistro 1904 inside the sprawling Edwardian-era estate. An official grand opening will take place on February 17, Gina shared. 

Those who want to go ahead and try Bistro 1904 can do so either during the week or on Sunday mornings. It has been quietly open since Dec. 7. 

Of those eight months, five of those were spent remodeling the area that would become Bistro 1904 at The River Forest Manor. The casual, coastal decor gives a relaxed feel to the restaurant. Patrons can either dine in the same clothes they wore on the boat all day or get dressed up for a nice date night at the Manor. 

“After all the time we’ve spent and seeing the vision and bringing the team together I think seeing all these tables filled from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. I think it speaks volumes for all of the hard work and what we do,” Gina said. 

Named for the year the home was built by John Wilkinson, president of the J.L. Roper Lumber Company, Bistro 1904 offers dinner patrons a selection of French inspired cuisine prepared by Jeremy Ebert, former executive chef at Spoon River. Bistro 1904 also serves a European continental brunch on Sundays when Ebert prepares made-to-order omelets. 

Dinner patrons can select from filet mignon, pork chops, a citrus and herb rotisserie chicken, a smash burger, crab cakes, clams and an eggplant parmesan as well as salads and an array of appetizers. 

On Bistro 1904’s “diverse” menu, Ebert says the eggplant parmesan is his “number one dish in his repertoire.” His recipe combines crispy, fried eggplant with spinach pesto, fresh mozzarella with a coconut-tomato broth and cilantro salad. 

It’s Eberts philosophy that everything on the menu should be handmade. “We don’t shortcut anything, and I think that makes a big difference in a menu.” 

The menu is rewritten quarterly, in part, to highlight what local farmers are growing. Bistro 1904 sources meats, seafood and vegetables from local farmers and fishermen, Gina said. 

When dining, guests are not limited to the area specifically designed for the Bistro. They can move into the parlor or foyer of the home. The first level is their space to enjoy, the Holbrooks said. 

“You can go into the 120-year-old parlors and sit there with your family or with other couples and relax and have a charcuterie board,” Larry said. “You’re sitting in something that is totally historic so you have that feeling that you’re part of history.” 

The restaurant can also be used for events and weddings held at River Forest Manor. 

Bistro 1904 at The River Forest Manor is open Wednesday through Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and on Sunday for brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. River Forest Manor and Marina is located at 738 E. Main St., in Belhaven. For more information, visit