It's been a long time since Matthew Tlusty had a restaurant of his very own.
Until two years ago, the chef had been working around Richmond in various kitchens - at Julep's, Max's on Broad, Arcadia, Hilton Garden Inn, The White Anchovie - for about a decade. He was even a part owner in a few of the restaurants, but Tlusty hasn't had a solo restaurant since he closed Limani Fish Grill in Carytown in 2006 after a six-year run.
But now Tlusty is about to have a new restaurant all of his own with Salt Box Oyster Co., which he's opening in the former Family Meal restaurant space at Willow Lawn. (Family Meal closed in August 2016.) He signed the lease during the second week in September.
"There’s no turning back now," Tlusty joked.
Tlusty is recently back from two years out of Richmond, cooking and dining his way around the country. He largely spent the time in San Fransisco.
"I wanted to see something else," he said. "I’ve been in Richmond for 30 years."
It was the traveling - and California - that led him to want to open his own oyster restaurant in Richmond.
"I would go to oyster bars two or three times a week," he said. "It was all sushi or oysters and no matter where I went, there was a line. It didn’t mater what time or day. We’ve got Rappahannock, which is great, but I felt like, 'This is what Richmond is missing.'"
Tlusty said he plans to bring to Salt Box Oyster Co. with oysters what he brought to Limani with fish - lots of very fresh, not often seen product, sourced from around the world. Plus plenty of other seafood.
He's planning a shucking station near the front of Salt Box, plus a casual bar/communal dining area with prosecco on tap and then a dining room in the existing dining room side. Tlusty said the interior changes will be relatively minor, mainly cleaning and "sprucing."
He hopes to have Salt Box Oyster Co. open by mid-October.