Rappanhannock Oysters: Sustainable Oysters and a “wet nap kind of burger”
Head Chef Nicholas Erven came to Rappahannock Oyster Bar -- the beautiful new restaurant located in the ROW DTLA -- after the General Manager, Anthony Ko, reached out to him looking for a recommendation for a head chef. “I was like, ‘Yeah dude, me,’” says Erven.
Pretty soon Erven found himself on a flight out to Virginia, where Rappahannock Oyster Company is located. Rappahannock was founded in 1899, and when cousins Ryan and Travis Croxton (who are 4th generation descendants of the founder) took over, they transformed the company’s business practices, creating sustainable and renewable oyster beds in the Chesapeake Bay and opening restaurants on the East Coast to wide acclaim.
When Erven met with the Croxton’s, they showed him their farms and their restaurants. “They’re super cool dudes,” says Erven. “Obsessive about what they do. It’s great to find people who are super into their shit, and it’s so nice to work with people you like to be around.”
From there Erven helped with the build-out and conception of Rappahannock’s first West Coast restaurant. “I wanted something neighborhood-y,” says Erven. “Something you could go to any time of the week.”
In addition to their famous seafood, the menu boasts an impressive amount of meats and veggies. He points to the burger, which Erven describes as a “wet nap kind of burger”. Dripping with a smoked Thousand Island dressing and caramelized onions, the burger was modeled after a fast food burger, “but done with amazing ingredients” says Ervin. He isn’t wrong. The burger is wonderful. The meat is melt in your mouth delicious. “The cows are grass fed and carrot-finished,” says Erven, “which gives the meat a nice sweet flavor.”
The seafood, of course, is the star of the show. The Peruvian bay scallops are presented inside a gorgeous pink-hued shell, finished in yuzu sauce with a few drops of burnt orange oil, poppyseed, and tarragon. “We sell a lot of ‘em,” smiles Erven. “People see them on other tables and they order them.”
The oysters are impossibly fresh, flown in from Rappahannock’s farms, shucked, plated, and presented with a choice of mignonettes and sauces. They are simply perfect.
For drinks Ervin has recently gotten into shandy’s -- lemonade and beer -- pairing the restaurant’s vanilla-infused lemonade with a 7 oz mini-bottle of Miller High Life sticking upside down in the glass. “It’s such a refreshing summer drink,” he says.
Erven is proud of his crew, many who have come up with him in the restaurant world. He also is proud of his partnership with the Anti-Recidivism Coalition. “ARC is an organization that helps keep people out of jail,” says Erven. Their offices are located across the street from ROW. “They’re our neighbors. We like them a lot. They are actively helping to give people a better life. During our build-out, we saw a few people wearing their t-shirts, and so I started talking to them. When I learned what they do I wanted to get involved any way I could.”
Rappahannock employs a few of ARC’s alumni in their kitchen. “They show up every day happy to work,” says Ervin, who strongly believes in the transformative power of giving people opportunities for employment and treating them with dignity.
Rappahannock is a beautiful restaurant. One where an inventive chef is enjoying a fresh take on the oyster bar, opening his doors to the neighborhood and welcoming us in with open arms.
Written by Abel Horwitz | Photography by Rebekah Lemire