There can be no better news for oyster lovers than the arrival of Rappahannock, a downtown restaurant which opened to instant crowds in mid-December. Stylish millennials and food cognoscenti are filling the corner space for exquisitely fresh oysters, tuna and a spare but specialized menu of raw-bar and seafood entrees. Virginia scallops are unexpectedly paired with oxtail and curried cauliflower; pork belly and pancetta are the only nods to meat. Rappahannock oysters are the star attractions, arriving on the half shell with pearls of caviar, briny and bright.
Cousins Travis and Ryan Croxton have parlayed their great-grandfather's oyster business into a growing series of food adventures: a tasting room Merroir in Topping, which draws a pilgrimage to its picnic tables; a raw bar in Washington's Union Market just named one of Washingtonian magazine's top 10 new restaurants; Rappahannock here at 320 E. Grace St. in the unrecognizable former quarters of Louisiana Flair; and a potential expansion into Charlottesville.
Their product is sought-after by chefs from here to New York and beyond, and their serving method is fine-tuned without pretension. Prosecco sparkling wine on draft, local craft beer and a select list of spirits keep the three-sided bar busy and convivial. There are concrete floors and giant windows, English dishware in a shrimp-pink, speckled pattern and blues guitar on the play list, giving the space a casual appeal that adds energy to a once-vibrant retail corridor.
Rappahannock serves dinner nightly except Mondays. Luncheon hours begin in January and reservations are taken through opentable.com. 545-0565. rroysters.com.
Now serving: Saison craft beer, contemporary Southern-Latino small plates, cozy neighborhood setting. Dinner and bar nightly. 23 W. Marshall St. 269-3689.
New Year's Dining
Cafe Rustica: Chef Sam George presents a four-course feast for New Year's Eve that promises a hearty good time in the intimate downtown hideaway, at $45 per person or $70 with wine pairings. 414 E. Main St. 225-8811. caferusticarva.com.
Hanover Tavern: Homemade doughnuts are one of the dessert choices in a special New Year's Eve dinner at this historic dining room. A three-course menu for the evening is $45 per person. See details at hanovertavern.org or call 537-5050.
Tanglewood Ordinary: Out in the Goochland countryside, this log cabin serves Southern food family-style, including fried chicken and string beans. Acoustic music on New Year's Eve and other enticements make this a road trip to a different time, with flavors that hold their own. 2210 River Road West, Maidens. 556-3284. ordinary.com.
Siné Irish Pub: New Year's Eve gets a double celebration at this Shockoe Slip landmark. First it's a toast at 7 p.m., which is midnight in Ireland, with no cover charge; the party continues toward Richmond midnight and beyond with a special menu, live music inside and out, heaters on the patio and a $10 cover. sineirishpub.com.
Cinébistro in Stony Point Fashion Park: Chocolate and strawberries, champagne and 1920s costumes give this movie theater experience something different on New Year's Eve. A live feed of the festivities in Times Square will be accompanied by toasts and balloon drops with prizes; costumes are optional but encouraged. 864-0460. cobbcinebistro.com.