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Rappahannock River Oysters, Union Market and Richmond, with a Shack in Topping, VA

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Rappahannock River Oyster (RRO) is totally overdue for its own topic here on dr.com. Of course, that assumes it doesn't already have a topic on here somewhere? I only found scattered mentions in other topics like for Union Market or under shopping as an oyster source.


Bet many of you didn't know:


- RRO dates all the way back to 1899 and is still owned by the same family?


- Rappahannock has an amazing 8-10 seat shack in Topping, VA by the bay with super, interesting and incredibly fresh and local seafood. Has anyone been?


- They just opened up their latest and most grand restaurant in Richmond at 320 East Grace St.?


- That said restaurant managed to pry open (pun intended) the Columbia Room enough to get bartender Katie Nelson to consult on a drink menu paired with RRO's seafood?


- That the Croxton cousins, the owners, plan to open more places to slurp, eat and drink in/around DC/VA?


- That these guys really are among those leading the effort to restore the Chesapeake oyster industry and claw back market share from those pesky west coasters, canadians, kiwis and gulf coast types?

- That you don't have to go all the way to Topping (or Richmond) to slurp some fine oysters since they're up and running at Union Market (okay, most already know that :P )


I've now eaten my way through most of the menu at the very popular RRO Bar at Union Market. Wonderful oysters whether raw or grilled. I especially like the Stingrays and Rappahannock River oysters. Raw oysters sell for $2 each. Likewise on the tasty clams. Oh, and that oyster chowder which I think is made with Olde Salts (one of the four varieties they cultivate)! And, the more substantial meals:


- the crab cake is both ample and packed with blue crab (served with a very nice celeriac salad); perfect for lunch ($14)
- wonderful, large, sweet sea scallops with a healthy peppery arugula salad ($14)
- an interesting and satisfying "lamb and clams" dish with sofrito, fingerlings and one other ingredient I'm forgetting. ($14)


The bar at Union Market also has a short but nice wine list and friendly servers. Need to get a report from someone on the new Richmond outpost as soon as a rockwellian makes it there. Maybe it'll be me...but probably not knowing how far-ranging dr members are. Nothing stays unreported on long around here.


Finally,


An interesting Food & Wine article about the company and it's history written by Tom Colicchio


Washingtonian's coverage of the new Richmond restaurant

RRO's nicely done website


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Since both my parents (who live in Kilmarnock) and in-laws (have a house in Urbanna, VA) its an easy slide to go to Locklies and enjoy the oysters. A great setting and really cool people, do the real thing, head there and enjoy. Great part of the state that once thrived through the oyster industry. I remember spending time down there in the early 80's and enjoyed watching the oysters boats coming in and out of the Rap River and Bay.

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The bar at Union Market is one of my favorite places to head for lunch on a weekend. The raw oysters are fantastic, and as a result I seldom make it past them and the clams on the menu. That said, I agree completely on the lambs and clams, which makes a wonderful lunch. The oyster chowder is smokey and delicious, and when they have scallops on special they are also wonderful. Pick up some bread or rolls from the bakery around the corner to really set the meal off.

JP, formerly of Columbia Room, mixes up some delicious cocktails there, they have a nice, if small, selection of local draft beers. And they have Bodegas Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla sherry available by the glass, which pairs wonderfully with the oysters.

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I second the positive opinions here. I've only had the raw oysters, but they were very good--far better than I expected since I'm a bit of PNW chauvinist when it comes to oysters and shy away from the Virginias. But all of them (Stingrays, Rappahannocks and Old salts) were excellent.

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As I mentioned in the Richmond, VA, thread in the Intrepid Traveller, my parents went to the Richmond outpost and absolutely loved it. In response, Katie said my parents were adorable.

:D

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This place would be the perfect starter if more restaurants were closer to it. Not sure if the oysters are to Don's tastes, but everyone who dines there seems to love it.

I feel that DC's first generation of craft bartenders (from 6 years ago) have by and large moved to bigger roles away from slinging drinks. JP Fetherston is one of the few somewhat newer bartenders who both designs and executes his own drinks, and I enjoy sipping thru his menu. I particularly like his aperitifs and highballs, they fit the ambience nicely.

Back to RRO Bar, I'm a fan, but their menu slogan of "Swallow the Leader" is a bit too Lewinsky-ish for my tastes. Unquestionably they are Union Market's anchor right now, it's fun to celebrity watch from their bar or soak in a warm afternoon from a patio table.

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This place would be the perfect starter if more restaurants were closer to it. Not sure if the oysters are to Don's tastes, but everyone who dines there seems to love it.

I suspect their original oyster, the Rappahannock River (the one on top) with its lower salinity, would be A-OK with me (I'm just very sensitive to briny oysters where I'm reminded of raft wipeouts at Ocean City where a wave would knock me into a triple-flip, and I'd end up washed ashore with sand in my bathing suit, and a mouthful of ocean water). I definitely don't want the taste of the ocean; I want the taste of the oyster. I still haven't been to Rappahannock Oyster Bar, but it's definitely on my plate.

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This place would be the perfect starter if more restaurants were closer to it.

Less than a mile from the market to Toki Underground. Now that is a Friday afternoon/evening! One that I might be experiencing soon. Also an easy 10 minute stroll from Union Market to Boundary Road.

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Less than a mile from the market to Toki Underground. Now that is a Friday afternoon/evening! One that I might be experiencing soon. Also an easy 10 minute stroll from Union Market to Boundary Road.

So you could put your name in at Toki, walk over to Union Market, have a bunch of oysters, then over to Boundary Road, have a drink and an appetizer, then walk back to Toki, and still have to wait for your table.

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The walk from Union Market to Boundary Road or Le Grenier is not too bad, I've done it a few times, but your point is well taken. If there was a decent restaurant by the NoMa metro it would be a perfect start to a fun evening.

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My fiance and I ventured out to their place in Topping this summer and had a great time. She was living in Fredericksburg then (and previously lived in Tappahannock, so was familiar with the area), so it was a pretty easy drive. the setting out there on the river is fantastic and the food is great. of course we got several dozen of their fine oysters, but the cooked dishes are great as well. she got seared scallops and polenta while I got a delicious Portuguese-style clam and lamb sausage stew, which was tomato based and had a nice level of spice. it was also the first place I had the Flying Dog Pearl Necklace oyster stout, which is brewed with their oysters, and proeeds go to save the bay. I've since seen it several more places around town (including in Flying Dog sampler 12 packs), so I don't know if it's getting a wider release or if I just never noticed it before.

definitely would recommend the trip out here, but I haven't been to their place at Union Market, so maybe you're just as good staying in town. I live on the Hill pretty close to the market, so I need to make it out there soon.

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So you could put your name in at Toki, walk over to Union Market, have a bunch of oysters, then over to Boundary Road, have a drink and an appetizer, then walk back to Toki, and still have to wait for your table.

More than a mere "like," I'd submit the above would have been brilliant had it not ended on the sour note of still being thwarted by Toki hype. A back alley way to avoid waiting at Toki--which involves RRO oysters (whether higher or lower salinity). Now that'd be the kind of big value-added insight only obtainable on donrockwell.com. :P

My fiance and I ventured out to their place in Topping this summer and had a great time. She was living in Fredericksburg then (and previously lived in Tappahannock, so was familiar with the area), so it was a pretty easy drive. the setting out there on the river is fantastic and the food is great. of course we got several dozen of their fine oysters, but the cooked dishes are great as well. she got seared scallops and polenta while I got a delicious Portuguese-style clam and lamb sausage stew, which was tomato based and had a nice level of spice. it was also the first place I had the Flying Dog Pearl Necklace oyster stout, which is brewed with their oysters, and proeeds go to save the bay. I've since seen it several more places around town (including in Flying Dog sampler 12 packs), so I don't know if it's getting a wider release or if I just never noticed it before.

definitely would recommend the trip out here, but I haven't been to their place at Union Market, so maybe you're just as good staying in town. I live on the Hill pretty close to the market, so I need to make it out there soon.

Topping is a fab trip on a nice day. The Union Market outpost is wonderful (Rocks, you must go soon) but it's a totally different thing with some shared items on menu. The "clam and lamb sausage stew" is similar to what they're calling "lamb and clams" at UM though the former is more substantial.

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I suspect their original oyster, the Rappahannock River (the one on top) with its lower salinity, would be A-OK with me (I'm just very sensitive to briny oysters where I'm reminded of raft wipeouts at Ocean City where a wave would knock me into a triple-flip, and I'd end up washed ashore with sand in my bathing suit, and a mouthful of ocean water). I definitely don't want the taste of the ocean; I want the taste of the oyster. I still haven't been to Rappahannock Oyster Bar, but it's definitely on my plate.

Even if you like the oysters, you'll probably not enjoy the hoppy beers offered on draft. The peppercorn saison is nice though. I'm not familiar with the wines on the menu, but if JP did Rogue 24's list then I'm sure this is solid as well.

If oysters are a great starter, then Righteous Cheese is a great closer. Cheese and wine flights are offered at the bar. The Bull Hill (if any is left) sets a new standard for me in dairy complexity. UM is not a one-trick pony.

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Even if you like the oysters, you'll probably not enjoy the hoppy beers offered on draft. The peppercorn saison is nice though. I'm not familiar with the wines on the menu, but if JP did Rogue 24's list then I'm sure this is solid as well.

If oysters are a great starter, then Righteous Cheese is a great closer. Cheese and wine flights are offered at the bar. The Bull Hill (if any is left) sets a new standard for me in dairy complexity. UM is not a one-trick pony.

Oooph, briny oysters and hoppy beers doth not a happy DonRocketh make. Does Rappahannock serve Muscadets?

And even if they don't, anything LittleWing does is right by me. What a friend we have in cheeses.

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Oooph, briny oysters and hoppy beers doth not a happy DonRocketh make. Does Rappahannock serve Muscadets?

And even if they don't, anything LittleWing does is right by me. What a friend we have in cheeses.

Yes on Muscadet. Or, at least they had one on menu last week that I had and enjoyed; wish I could tell you its provenance but I can't recall.

I can't imagine you'd think the mainstay RR Oyster too briny. I like medium brine. Found that one delicious but absolutely low on the salinity.

To be clear, at least from my own view, though I'm a huge fan of these guys, I don't want to convey that heading to the oyster bar at UM is some kind of life changing experience. I love it because the food is honest, very flavorful, simple, fairly priced/good value and, as important as anything, done by two guys who are clearly in this for the right reasons doing it in the right way. The UM menu is very limited (Richmond is more a proper restaurant). Four or five hot dishes. Three raw oyster choices. Totally and unequivocally worth going (or frequenting as I've been doing) but no oyster here will be in the same galaxy as what Fabio Trabocchi does with bivalves.

+1 on Righteous. Along with the cheeses, they have a pressed date and almond treat from Spain by the register which is a wonderful, healthy, sweet treat without added sugar.

Don't forget Peregrine is also at UM. I think I like the espresso I've been getting at The Coffee Bar better but Peregrine is right at the top of the local market for consistency in quality and technique. Just wish they'd broaden beyond only representing Counter Culture.

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Oooph, briny oysters and hoppy beers doth not a happy DonRocketh make. Does Rappahannock serve Muscadets?

Yes on Muscadet. Or, at least they had one on menu last week that I had and enjoyed; wish I could tell you its provenance but I can't recall.

I can't imagine you'd think the mainstay RR Oyster too briny. I like medium brine. Found that one delicious but absolutely low on the salinity.

I think RR would appeal to Don -- I'm a briny type (Wellfleets!) and actually find most of their varieties a little on the bland side. I do like the Olde Salts, though.

Wonder if they'll ever serve them with a crisp white Bordeaux. Or maybe just a flute of something effervescent.

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And Action.....Ok, so made the trip to Richmond and realized just how long it had been since I've been there. I remember going there with my Grandmother to shop at Thalheimers and get some of their famous cake...yum. Had made a reservation to be on the safe side for 2:30, but upon enterning, there were several open tables and only 2 people at the bar. Got a parking space just around the corner and really noticed just how charming yet barren that whole are is. It's definitly going to be a long revitilization, within the 10 block area. I did notice Doug Jemal owns a few propertys down there as well, so who knows.

The space used to be a luggage shop in its glory days, and is sparsely decorated with reclaimed wood. other wise the space is uber industrial, with wood tables and a stone bar. Open kitvhen in the back, staffed by heavily bearded men :o Its def a hipster central vibe and the bartender has more than the required amount of tattoos on display whilst flipping his knife and torching up cocktails in progress. While we were dining, a pick up pulled up and out got a family that then unloaded a cord or two of wood that the place uses in their oven....then thay sat at the bar and dined..could be the owners..not sure.

I started off with a pretty darn good, fresh squeezed Bloody mary that had an orange color to it...I had 4 :ph34r: ..Then proceeded to order the following:

12 oysters on the half shell..3 differnet types $24

Local Fluke Ceviche or Servich as TS likes to say...$10

Trout caviar and American Sturgeon Caviar...$10 and $30 per 1/2 oz

Barcat Oyster chowder with Benton bacon...$7

Steamed Carolina SHrimp....$12 1/2 pound

Grilled Pork Belly Sandwich..$14

total for me and my buddy was $190 plus tip

All in all, the food was excellent and the service was crisp and I like the feel of the place. WOuld def go back and look forward to dining there again

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And Action.....Ok, so made the trip to Richmond and realized just how long it had been since I've been there. I remember going there with my Grandmother to shop at Thalheimers and get some of their famous cake...yum. Had made a reservation to be on the safe side for 2:30, but upon enterning, there were several open tables and only 2 people at the bar. Got a parking space just around the corner and really noticed just how charming yet barren that whole are is. It's definitly going to be a long revitilization, within the 10 block area. I did notice Doug Jemal owns a few propertys down there as well, so who knows.

The space used to be a luggage shop in its glory days, and is sparsely decorated with reclaimed wood. other wise the space is uber industrial, with wood tables and a stone bar. Open kitvhen in the back, staffed by heavily bearded men :o Its def a hipster central vibe and the bartender has more than the required amount of tattoos on display whilst flipping his knife and torching up cocktails in progress. While we were dining, a pick up pulled up and out got a family that then unloaded a cord or two of wood that the place uses in their oven....then thay sat at the bar and dined..could be the owners..not sure.

I started off with a pretty darn good, fresh squeezed Bloody mary that had an orange color to it...I had 4 :ph34r: ..Then proceeded to order the following:

12 oysters on the half shell..3 differnet types $24

Local Fluke Ceviche or Servich as TS likes to say...$10

Trout caviar and American Sturgeon Caviar...$10 and $30 per 1/2 oz

Barcat Oyster chowder with Benton bacon...$7

Steamed Carolina SHrimp....$12 1/2 pound

Grilled Pork Belly Sandwich..$14

total for me and my buddy was $190 plus tip

All in all, the food was excellent and the service was crisp and I like the feel of the place. WOuld def go back and look forward to dining there again

Interesting--thanks much for the report. I especially liked the anecdote about the wood! Good sign to be sure. Smoked and wood-stoked goodness. Your bottom line seemed high but guessing you and your buddy goosed it with the caviar and what, one or two drinks? :D

Was going to ask how extensive is the menu is and how far it ranges culinarily but finally found it (their online presence is a bit scattered without mention of Richmond or it's menu at the main RRO site.) Looks like items like the Bearcat Chowder and, of course the 3-4 oyster varieties are standard across all three locations. The restaurant menu posted here does range further as expected including things like fresh-grilled fish, grouper, and a hangar steak but, all told, it's still a fairly limited menu. Maybe a good thing though.

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Does anyone know if you can purchase raw oysters/clams (to cook at home) from the Rappahannock counter at Union Market?

I recall they sold them for Thanksgiving. I'm sure they would work with you if you called.

One more thing about RRO at Union Market. It's pretty much all communal dining there (I guess there are some stray tables) so be prepared to talk to strangers. I love that aspect, the food and drink is very good, the staff is unpretentious in tshirts and jeans, and the clientele is more relaxed than anywhere else I can think of. To me, it's about being served snacks and drinks whose quality are a given, and one can be free to focus on other aspects of the communal dining experience.

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I recall they sold them for Thanksgiving. I'm sure they would work with you if you called.

One more thing about RRO at Union Market. It's pretty much all communal dining there (I guess there are some stray tables) so be prepared to talk to strangers. I love that aspect, the food and drink is very good, the staff is unpretentious in thirsts and jeans, and the clientele is more relaxed than anywhere else I can think of. To me, it's about being served snacks and drinks whose quality are a given, and one can be free to focus on other aspects of the communal dining experience.

Totally agree with DaRiv on the communal dining. Would just add that if you do want a private table at RRO UM, you can just take one nearby along the south wall/window. Those aren't RRO tables but RRO servers will serve there. Did that recently.

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