Colorful banners staked in the ground just off Spring Street beckoned: Cocktails! Happy hour! The Boat House! Aye, aye, captain.

After following the curves of Sauder Road, we arrived at this restaurant, on one of the most killer spots on the Scioto River. The views from the brick patio and from the window-lined dining room are stunning - a full panorama of the city skyline opens beyond the water.

The restaurant, better known as a site for wedding receptions and meetings, has recently rebranded itself and is trying to come across as less stuffy and more of a casual happy hour and dinner spot. Some growing pains were evident when we visited. But there was plenty to like, too.

If weather absolutely prevents you from being on the patio, the carved bar is a good substitute perch. It's at one end of the dining room, with nice views of the skyline outward and an exposed-beam ceiling above.

The booze:

The bar is clearly trying to make its mark in cocktails. Try the Gin Gin Mule, a cocktail with Bombay Sapphire gin, lime juice, simple syrup, ginger beer and mint. There are also options for the calorie-conscious, with a 160-calorie margarita and a Skinny Colada. Just two beers were on tap - Yuengling and Bell's Oberon - but that's bolstered by a small selection of bottled beers and a California-friendly wine list.

The food:

Start with Calamari ($5), fried crisp in a buttermilk batter and served alongside aioli punched with some cayenne heat. The Fried Zucchini & Tomato ($5) also came with aioli, this one blended with basil. The tomato was the real treat; it was coated in seasoned bread crumbs and had dehydrated a bit in the cooking process, concentrating its sweet flavor. Coconut Shrimp ($6) flirted with being too sweet, and it was disappointing to find the "Thai chili sauce" advertised on the menu was actually yet another flavored aioli.