“We are not that kind of establishment,” Rediviva Restaurant front of the house manager Stephen Pavletich deadpans to three local ladies, one adorned in a birthday tiarra. They have come to celebrate a big 40. He proudly smiled wide with permission allowing the birthday tiara perched prominently.
Harborite foodies, loggers, tourists and celebrators alike share space at the corner of I and Wishkah streets in downtown Aberdeen marked by the “Illumination” sculpture by Gerard Tsutakawa. The Rediviva Restaurant was named after the Columbia Rediviva, the ship that brought Captain Robert Gray to the harbor in 1782. Rediviva means rebirth. Andy Bickar, executive chef and owner, sees the opportunity for a rebirth of the downtown. “There is opportunity here, an untapped market. There is a population that wants culture and I hope to offer a bit of that.”
With a concert venue across the street, notes Bickar, the location is perfect. He wanted a friendly place where one could stop on the way to the beach or to Olympia. Approximately half way between, in his eyes, Aberdeen is the perfect location.
“I wanted a place to hang out,” says Bickar, sitting next to me at the bar. “My friends and family wanted a place to hang out.” With great drinks, a happy hour menu and monthly live music, he is achieving his goal. Brady’s Oysters makes a delivery of approximately five dozen oysters, little ones and big ones. Order them raw or charbroiled.
“I see them about every other day,” says Bickar. He tells me that many of his purveyors contact him. Just then, the phone rings. He excuses himself and I hear him say, “I’ll take 20 pounds of those. Those were the best tomatoes I’ve ever tasted.” When he gets off the phone, he tells me, “That was the tomato lady. … I have the tomato lady, the egg lady, the beef lady.” Bickar has connections.
Just beyond the celebratory women, I look up at a forested painting on the wall by local artist, Jenny Fisher. Most assuredly, mushrooms grow there. I imagine foragers collecting fresh ingredients.
I join in and cheer the birthday girl with my chosen cocktail, the “Free Fall” which has landed in front of me. I am intrigued by the sweet potato syrup, rum and lime. This is a “twist” of a traditional airmail cocktail created by mixologist, Izzy Ramos. It is refreshing with a crisp autumn taste.
To begin, I suggest at least one oyster slider — think petite burger, not raw. Presented to the far side of a small, yet long, white plate, it presents a little pun in food. Each time I am served one of these gratifying gems it amuses me with attitude and unique character.
Mine is not dripping but “people order it sloppy,” smiles Bickar. Removing the toothpick anchor and lifting the grilled brioche bun reveals sweet pickled onions, a sliced pickle, srirachi aioli with a mix of diced tomatoes and various peppers along with the unique character of each breaded oyster. Piled to a miniature height of 2.5 inches, it is the perfect choice to start, end, or do both.
Make no mistake, Rediviva is for the gourmand. They make food an adventure starting at the top of the menu, from the betterthanyourmother’s roasted Brussels sprouts to the crispy pork belly to the handcut steaks. Have an open mind and an esurient appetite. With happy hour beginning when they open at 3 p.m., start early. The menu is limited, but will satiate. At 5 p.m., bread is served with Rediviva’s sweet, salty seaweed butter. Request it.
At the end of your meal, do not omit dessert. You will not regret indulging in either the crème brûlée topped with fresh fruit or the beignets lazing in drizzled caramel and salted maple mascarpone. Both compete for heaven. If need be, skip dinner and go directly for dessert. No one will judge you because Rediviva “is not that kind of establishment.”