Lunchroom drawings, unsigned; 1916-1917; Photo from DC Historic Landmark application
Since 1899, Rappahannock Oyster Company has sought to “celebrate good food grown well,” and that is exactly what they plan to bring to their latest outpost set to open at the Wharf this month. Located in the now historic designated Lunch Room Building and Oyster Shucking Shed, the newest location will bring to life what was not too long ago an abandoned building in the middle of the nation’s oldest open-air market.
Designed to feel like you are not in one of the world’s most powerful cities, customers can expect a refreshing, light, breezy feel. With glass doors instead of walls that transform to open both up and out, the imagined oyster shed will feature a geometric and low-key nautical vibe. During the warmer months, the 90 patio seats will feel cozy under umbrellas (featuring heat lamps to extend the life of the patio), and will be supplemented with only 27 bar seats inside the restaurant. Patrons at the bar will witness the 1,300 pound ice machine producing the ice needed for the shucking station that occupies the north end of the bar. Those familiar with the company’s other locations, including Charleston, S.C., Los Angeles, and Richmond, Va., will notice some staples on the menu. The famous Lambs and Clams dish and Crab Cakes will be on the menu with a special twist. There will also be a few items unique to the Wharf, including more options for those non-seafood eaters. Chef Autumn Cline, who is currently Executive Chef at the Union Market location, will lead the culinary team.
The process of creating this unique dining experience has not been without its challenges, as renovating a historic designation has strict guidelines. For instance, when it was discovered that the south-facing side of the shed needed to be completely rebuilt, the bricks not only had to match the originals, but had to be whitewashed to exactly match those of the north-side, which remained intact. The roof had to be completely replaced with slate shingles to match those from the early twentieth century, and the paint on the windows had to match what the building originally featured over 100 years ago. The company, which is just over a decade older than the shed itself, took these challenges in stride to breathe new life into this long-forgotten building.
Perhaps it was kismet when early in the restorative process, workers found hundreds of old oyster shells from years gone by. While patrons will not be discarding their shells for future generations to find, Rappahannock Oyster Company has made it possible to enjoy a piece of true history at the Wharf and Southwest Waterfront for years to come.
BY Katelynd Mahoney Anderson