MacKinzie River Pizza Grill and Pub: A “Rich Hoffman” kind of place

I live in an area of the United States that is very rich in dining options so good restaurants opening happens quite often. I do try to get around town and get to as many of them at least once. Sometimes I’ll write a little review for them if they really stand out, but most of the time the results are pretty average. As far as places that my wife and I go often for retail and dining our most preferred location is Bridgewater Falls in Fairfield, Ohio which is close to where we live. But we don’t spend nearly as much time there as we used to since the bookstore left several years ago. The Liberty Center complex and the Streets of West Chester have evenly divided up our time due to the options located in those places. For instance, Liberty Center gets most of my attention because of the movie theater and the Cabela’s that is located there. The Streets of West Chester because of the Barnes and Noble that is still there along with Ikea is a close second. But Bridgewater is still a very nice development with great opportunities for a good evening out to eat and pick up whatever a family needs. When we eat at Bridgewater it’s usually a tossup between Chick-fil-A, Chili’s and the Fuji House. The way that Bridgewater is set up they had two prominent restaurants overlooking their two lakes that sit on an elevated piece of land that gives a nice view of the fountains at the entrance to the complex which makes it a very unique shopping experience, with Chili’s being one. Max and Erma’s was the other, but it hadn’t been doing very well. We went there once but were never inclined to go back. So I wasn’t surprised to see the place close. But I was surprised to see a new MacKinzie River Pizza Grill and Pub enter the old building, and I was very skeptical. But when it opened in late June 2018 we targeted it as a place to go to try it out.

It took us about a week to get around to it and when we finally did it was a Sunday morning, because the crowds had been pretty intense with two-hour waits. I thought that was just because the place had just opened, but I had to admit that still, it was unusual to have so much local interest so I was curious why they were drawing such large crowds which were easily sustained all through the first week. Going on a Sunday morning was to beat the crowds and see what all the hype was about. As it turned out the MacKinzie River management had turned the old Max and Erma’s building into essentially a Cabela’s. The interior was all in rustic timber and was very inviting with canoes and trees placed around the dining room to capture the feel of the original restaurant in Montana where the franchise started. This Bridgewater location was one of only 27 in the entire country and many of those were north and west within the United States, so it was very interesting to me that they had picked this particular spot for such a unique pizza place.

But it wasn’t all about pizza, it was all about fresh food and craft beers as they had an excellent bar with lots of unique bar features by way of drinks. The World Cup was playing on several of the televisions as we were seated at a nice tall table with plenty of room. The dining room was very comfortable for me as again it reminded me of the Cabela’s in West Chester that I enjoy shopping at around once a week. As busy as I am, I am a guy who likes being outside and Cabela’s gives me that touch time not necessarily with nature, but with the tools of exploring it. I go there as much as I do for ammunition for my shooting sports. I try to hit the shooting range at Premier in West Chester at least once a week as well and Cabela’s is very good about keeping ammunition for my .50 Desert Eagle AE in stock and at a good price. For me the whole experience runs together, I enjoy going into the Cabela’s store and buying something—anything because of the kind of store that it is and the way it’s decorated. Shooting the ammunition does the same thing, consuming it gives me a reason to go back to Cabela’s to buy more. I find the whole thing to be a very enjoyable experience. I had the same feeling stepping into the new Mackinzie River restaurant. Just the décor of the place made me happy.

While traveling in Japan not that long ago the group I was with made a point of identifying places in that exotic world that were “Rich Hoffman Places” which I thought was odd, but I learned a lot about how people see me in studying what kind of places they were. They were usually places of weapons and chaos which I didn’t object to, because it’s the way people interpret my behavior that had created such an impression. I rationalized that it was a positive thing that if such places conjured up elements of my personality. Cabela’s is certainly one of those “Rich Hoffman” places, I spend hours there, especially on bad days looking at new pontoon boats, new rugged clothing, and guns, reloading equipment, ammunition, knives—and beef jerky to keep in my office as part of my stress management. Book stores are also “Rich Hoffman” places as they are one of the few places that really feed my many interests. I literally love just about everything and book stores are about anything and everything, so I am most at home within them. But as the waitress brought us our appetizers I quickly realized that MacKinzie River was going to be added to the list because the food was of exceptional quality.

Not only are my wife and I empty nesters, so it’s usually easier for us to eat out these days than anything, but I get to go to a lot of restaurants for business so I get to see often what works and what doesn’t and I immediately knew that the food at MacKinzie River was a step above the rim. No wonder the place was so packed. They are known for their pizzas and burgers but they had pasta dishes that rivaled Brio Tuscan Grill. The food was certainly comfort in nature, but the quality of it was quite high. I ordered a Caribbean Pizza and it was absolutely stunning. Prior to MacKinzie River opening my family would sometimes go to Pies & Pints at Liberty Center for their specialty pizzas and the Caribbean Pizza I was having reminded me of those types of offerings. Honestly, my wife and I had just recently dined at Cooper’s Hawk also at Liberty Center and I thought the food at MacKinzie River was better—which is saying a lot.

I waited a week or so to return to MacKinzie River before getting too excited about things. I figured that there would be some enthusiasm drop off and that the quality that the staff put into their food would drift after their opening. However, it was a busy Friday night, one of my kids and grandchildren were over and we had been busy and wanted some food so we went to MacKinzie River for some carry out. We knew it would be too busy to dine in, so we stopped by, went to the bar and ordered carry out, and our choice was a 20” Caribbean pizza and it was just as high of a quality as the first one. It was literally something very special and is a new favorite of mine.

I feel very fortunate to have a MacKinzie River Pizza Grill and Pub in my neighborhood. I mean given the demographic data, they could have located in West Chester or Mason and probably reached the same type of crowd with the same income levels and sustained their business plan quite nicely. But, they picked the Fairfield location at Bridgewater Falls and I consider ourselves fortunate because they did. What a treasure to have something like that in the neighborhood, it will certainly become a regular place for my family. It is a “Rich Hoffman” kind of place which doesn’t mean it can’t be the identity of other people, but that it has enough character to even contain the consideration. There is a reason that people are waiting two hours for a table and that the place is still packed in the middle of a typical afternoon between the lunch and dinner rush. It’s not only a comfortable place to eat nicely decorated and spacious, but it has put its food quality as a priority, which all restaurants should, but few really do. So far, MacKinzie River Pizza Grill and Pub has and that makes them a destination entertainment that everyone can enjoy, and its great to see joining Bridgewater Falls as the latest and greatest of that complex. If you are looking for a great place to eat, MacKinzie River is the place to go.

Rich Hoffman

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