Brine, the new restaurant from Rappahannock Oyster Company's Travis Croxton and chef John Critchley, is aiming to open by late April.
Critchley, who is recovering from knee surgery, has been spending his time traveling to Charlottsville (where Croxton operates the similar Rocksalt Restaurant) to get some experience on their rotisserie and wood grills, as well as to help out the restaurant. "I wanted to see what's working there, and get feedback from customers," he said. He's also busy with all the behind-the-scenes details like setting up vendors and hiring a beverage director.
Unsurprisingly, oysters will be a major focus of Brine, which will carry not only those from the parent company, but from Island Creek in Boston (where Critchley used to work), Hog Island and other artisanal oysters from Maine and Maryland. They'll also have chilled Carolina shrimp, fresh crab and ham carved tableside.
"The idea of the whole restaurant is to be big, open and airy," said Critchley, with lots of marbles, woods and reclaimed concrete. There's seating for about 200, with the oyster bar as a central focal point and big windows surrounding it. It shares a block with the upcoming Sisters Thai and DGS Delicatessen at Merrifield's Mosaic District development.
The restaurant will showcase mid-Atlantic producers beyond just seafood. Critchley plans to break down whole animals and roast them in larger parts, creating dishes like a stuffed quail and daily roasts of fish and meats. Those items will change regularly on the menu. Other menu standouts include grilled oysters and a Chesapeake bouillabaisse. Expect French influences in the dishes and wine selection.