‘We’re very excited where RPK is going, and we want to give it the runway to take off”
Palpable change is in the air and on the drawing board for the Sperryville Corner Store complex, and an upbeat co-owner/general manager Craig Batchelor is confident the community will be as excited as he is in bringing it to fruition.
“The restaurant industry is one that has to continually evolve and change to keep up with the times,” Batchelor says in an interview. “And I feel strongly that now is the time for us to make that change.”
In his words, the plan is “to expand our very popular and successful Rappahannock Pizza Kitchen into what is currently the Thornton River Grille space. This will allow us to have an expanded Rappahannock Pizza Kitchen menu that will include many things that our customers have asked for, such as salads and a limited number of pasta dishes, as well as table service seating.
“As any of our customers who have been to RPK on a Friday or a Saturday or sometimes on a Thursday night know, our seating in our current arrangement is very, very limited,” adds Batchelor. “We are looking forward to having expanded seating capability.”
To accomplish this major shift in floor plans, a complete renovation will begin soon that steers away from the dated wood paneling and limited window scheme of the Grille.
“Open and light-filled!” Batchelor describes the coming space. “Which is not what the current Thornton River Grille dining room is, for anybody who’s not been in it. And our renovation is designed to change that. We want it to feel like a bright and airy pizzeria.
“Our plan is to be open through the Artist Tour weekend, which is November 3rd and 4th, and close the Grille after dinner service on that Sunday the 4th,” he continues, “acknowledging that the space has needed a renovation for quite some time. We will do a complete renovation of the dining room and kitchen over the course of the winter and into the first quarter of ‘19.
“In the meantime the current location of the Rappahannock Pizza Kitchen will be open for service, as will the Sperryville Corner Store and Bar Francis.”
Batchelor stresses that the decision by his family — fellow owners who include his wife Caitlin and brother Clay, who were passed the baton by the Ken Thompson family in August 2016 — to close and expand the Grille didn’t come without considerable thought, most particularly taking into consideration the restaurant’s loyal patrons over the years.
“First of all, to our devoted customers, thank you!” Batchelor says. “Thornton River Grille has had an amazing run for the last 15 years. There’ve been changes, but we’ve had some wonderful customers and wonderful employees throughout all of that. And I’d just like to thank all of our customer base for all of those wonderful years.”
He is hopeful, at the same time, that the Grille’s patrons will now discover favorite new dishes among RPK’s creative pizzas, pastas and salads.
The updated dining experience will also feature cocktail service from Bar Francis, as well as beer and wine pairings that complement each menu item.
“The RPK expanded menu will allow us to focus on specific local draft beers, and also what I like to call food-friendly and cheerful wines by the glass,” Batchelor foresees.
“We’re very excited where RPK is going, and we want to give it the runway to take off.”