After 18 months renovating downtown's historic 1948 VFW building, Rack's newest seafood-themed establishment has been given a corresponding chic nautical overhaul that is a feast for the eyes first. It begins with the ceiling, covered with woven rope to mimic a fisherman's net, and continues with porthole faux-windows, custom-designed steam kettles and a fanciful, nautical-inspired mural done by a New York artist. Inside white-washed brick walls are offset by a palette of soft brown, taupe and gray, in contrast to outdoor seating accented with a bright coral red. The 32,000-square-foot space is open at all times, the large zinc-covered bar seating patrons both inside and out.
The open plan means plenty of fresh air, especially with the covered outdoor dining area on the sidewalk along 2nd Ave. that provides additional seating for 50, with views of both Atlantic Ave. and the lawn in front of neighboring establishments Salt7 and Park Tavern. For more private dining, the interior oyster bar seats six.
To craft the menu Rack chose longtime culinary director Matthew Danaher, which is executed by executive chef Todd Katz, formerly of Cafe L'Europe in Palm Beach, and Davito's in Boca Raton. The "ocean-to-table" menu offers everything you'd expect from a New England-style establishment, including kettle-cooked and raw bar items, and a few ways to order the fresh catch of the day.
For lunch and dinner the raw bar remains the same, a variety of shellfish including stone crab, Main lobster, clams and -- of course -- oysters (*MP). As the restaurant's name suggests, it doesn't just offer them raw. You can sample a new "oyster of the day" almost any day of the week, or get them kettle-cooked with the oyster stew or oyster pan roast ($12/$13). With the eponymous starter, Oysters RACK-A-Feller, they're served with spinach, fennel and gruyere cheese.