Pulling family and friends to a restaurant is easy; building a destination location frequented by new faces puts Rappahannock on the map.
Cousins Ryan and Travis Croxton have taken their passion for oysters and turned it up a notch with their third restaurant—Rappahannock in Richmond, Virginia. It’s quickly become a destination location affectionately described by the owners as a “hybrid of rustic, modern, and gritty.”
Opened in December 2012, the seafood restaurant features the cuisine of executive chef Dylan Fultineer, who previously did extended stints with award-winning chefs Paul Kahan, at Blackbird in Chicago, and Suzanne Goin, at the second location of The Hungry Cat in Santa Barbara, California.
“With Dylan’s tremendous talent, Travis and I made the decision to step back,” says Ryan Croxton. “It would be senseless not to take advantage of his [expertise], and this makes for a great partnership.”
As owners of a thriving oyster business, the Rappahannock Oyster Company, and two other seafood restaurants—Merroir in Topping, Virginia, and Rappahannock Oyster Bar in Washington— Ryan and Travis are committed to sustainability and farm-fresh ingredients.
“About 90 percent of the food we use in our restaurants is generated out of Virginia,” says Travis. “If we can’t source something in the Mid-Atlantic, we expect there to be a really good reason.”
As part of that commitment to sustainability, oyster shells from the restaurant are saved in buckets and placed in a holding facility where they are dried out before being reintroduced to the water.
Ryan says reviving their family’s 100-year-old oyster business with the intention of bringing Chesapeake Bay oysters to menus across the country has given them a leg up when it comes to the restaurant business.
“Our experience is a distinct advantage because we know how food travels,” he says.
Rappahannock restaurant, which is located in the historic downtown area of Virginia’s capital, is named for the river where Ryan and Travis grew up. Open for lunch and dinner, it employs 48 people.