Some times when you least expect it, you walk into a restaurant and a miracle happens. Everything hits you just right and you immediately start to decompress from the events of the day.
You enter an understated entrance at the end of a strip mall and you break into a broad smile because you just know you are going to enjoy the place. Rhett’s River Grill and Raw Bar is one of those places.
Rhett Craddock is a soft-spoken fellow who smiles easily. He is also one of the most unassuming, yet knowlegeable restauranteers I have met. This is his first restaurant and it has a charm and a reputation that many other restaurants must envy. The dark panelling, mahogany tables, and lazily turning ceiling fans make you feel you are in one of the great restaurants on the outskirts of New Orleans.
The lighting is easy on the eyes, but your food is brightly illuminated. This is highly desirable if you are like me and want to see what you are eating. Rhett’s food is beautifully prepared and well-presented. It is a treat for the eyes and for the appetite. I prefer to start every meal with the Chef’s Signature, She Crab Soup. After that, anything goes. It is all good.
Rhett categorizes his cooking as American, but there is a strong French influence, some Southwestern accents, and some Cajun touches. The restaurant has been open since January 2002 and many of his patrons come in several nights a week.
The restaurant is packed during lunchtime and the place is bustling, but it’s not noisy. The booths are spacious and the tables are spaced far enough apart that you feel isolated from conversations at other tables. As a result it is a favorite spot for business lunches. The efficient staff make you feel welcome and provide superb service. They are so good that you have no attention on them from the beginning of the meal to the end. The check comes promptly, the prices are reasonable, the experience is memorable.
If you are ever in the Charlottesville area, head up Route 29 to 2335 Seminole trail, Suite 100 and visit Rhett’s River Grille and Raw Bar. You are in for a treat.
By the way, Rhett doesn’t know me from Adam. I was eating there last week and I met his father and mother who were helping the staff to set the place up for lunch. When Rhett arrived, I told him I wanted to do a story to thank him for two years of good eating. I figured the least I could do was acknowledge the skill that went into creating a restaurant of this quality.
I hope this post doesn’t come back to haunt me. I would hate to find the place filled whenever I go to have lunch there. 🙂