Rappahannock’s chef makes the visit worthwhile
“I wanted to get back into a restaurant and show my skills”
By Anabel Marquez
Chef Wilson Santos is about to celebrate four years leading the kitchen at Rappahannock Oyster Bar in Downtown Los Angeles. He’s responsible for introducing popular menu items like the restaurant’s delectable lobster roll and the mouth-watering Michi…Lada!, a take on the everybody’s favorite beer concoction, except with shrimp and a fried oyster.
His journey to Rappahannock was a dream long in the making. He arrived from Las Lisas, Guatemala when he was a teenager and took jobs washing dishes at local restaurants, thanks to his older brother’s connections. He had begun working his way up until the 2008 recession left him jobless. But his love for preparing fresh meals and his entrepreneurial spirit led Santos to start making fresh ceviche cups to make ends meet. He would store the ceviche cups inside a cooler and sell them out of his car at L.A. area parks.
By 2009, he was given a chance to work at a restaurant in Hollywood, albeit with a minim wage salary. Santos wasn’t worried about the pay. He saw the job as an excellent opportunity return the restaurant business.
“I wanted to get back into a restaurant and show my skills,” he recalls. “I didn’t care how much money I was making.”
Eventually Santos landed kitchen gigs at popular and exclusive Los Angeles restaurants like Church & State, El Cholo, Fleming’s Steak House and Chaya.
His Modus Operandi was always the same— every time he felt he had plateaued at a job, it was time to look for new opportunities and keep learning elsewhere.
Thanks to his restaurant experience, including his impeccable work ethic and months of training with Rappahannock’s oyster farmers in Virginia, Santos was given total creative freedom to come up with a good menu that would impress Angelenos.
“I don’t want to follow recipes,” Santos says. “I want to create!”
On days when he wakes up with inspiration for a certain flavor or texture, he creates a dish and waits for customers’ reactions. After all, it’s the people that visit his restaurant that keep him motivated.
“I’m very close to the people. I’ve built connections with the people.”
Rappahannock Oyster Bar is perfect for a mommy date.
If you take your kids, the Rapp burger and fries is a menu item everyone will love. There’s even an option to add Truffle to the shoestring fries.
For adults, a seafood tower is a culinary adventure in itself. If you order the large tower, you’ve pretty much entered seafood heaven with a dozen oysters and half a dozen bay scallops, clams, peel & eat shrimp as well as hamachi, tuna tartare, paddlefish caviar and lobster salad.
The adult drinks are refreshing and crafted to leave a lasting impression.
The outdoor seating area makes it possible to people watch and offers a welcoming vibe for those who prefer open air seating.
There’s plenty of parking available in Row DTLA’s parking garage
Inside Row DTLA
777 S. Alameda Street, #154
Los Angeles CA 90021