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Oysters to be served again at Silver Lake

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By Brie Handgraaf
The Wilson Times

Monday, December 4, 2017

WILSON — A Wilson culinary hotspot is getting new life and love breathed into it with R & R Oyster Bar at Silver Lake set to make its debut later this year.

“We’ve been very busy,” said Richard Millinder, who has partnered with manager Rhonda Chance for the new restaurant. “You’ll do one thing and it snowballs from there, but it has snowballed into a lot of good stuff.”

Despite living in Raleigh for the past 25 years, Millinder said his roots are in Wilson and in the former Silver Lake Oyster Bar. After attending Atlantic Christian College, now Barton College, Millinder worked behind the oyster bar, waited tables and cooked in the kitchen. Other Wilson restaurants he worked at included Cliff’s Drive-In, Savory’s, The Legacy, The Steak Barn and The Beefmastor Inn. He worked at the Beef Bar in Greenville before heading west to popular eateries such as 42nd Street Oyster Bar, The Angus Barn, Sawmill Tap Room and Glenwood Grill.

He then left the restaurant business to own a property management and real estate company.

“The restaurant bug has never left me,” said Millinder. “And as luck would have it, this opportunity became known to me and we are truly looking forward to being a part of the reopening of an iconic Wilson landmark.”

Chance shuttered the oyster bar in September, but never lost hope that the 10,000 square-foot restaurant would be serving customers again.

“While he has restaurant expertise, I’m bringing a love for the restaurant itself and the area,” she said. “I have a goal of bringing the Wilson community and surrounding area a restaurant they’ll be proud of, that they’ll want to keep coming back to.

“I think Richard’s expertise and the heart I have in it marries well for the future of R & R Oyster Bar at Silver Lake.”

The duo plans to go back to the basics, using only part of the building in the beginning.

“Initially we want to just be an oyster bar, providing great-quality steamed oysters, shrimp and crabs, and build on it from there,” Millinder said. “... I think people’s tastes have changed since this place first opened. It used to be, you’d come get a tan plate where everything has been fried, but people want more fresh and grilled food now. That is what we want to work toward.”

As the renovations are finished, the seating will expand as will the menu to incorporate poultry, pork and beef.

“I believe that things happen for a reason,” Chance said. “We needed to close and regroup. This is a vision I have had for some time, but I needed someone with the experience to help me execute it. Richard Millinder is that person.”

Chance and Millinder are hopeful the new restaurant will live up to the expectations of customers who have been coming to the spot since Buck Dixon opened the doors in 1969, while also attracting new customers and becoming a destination restaurant for the region.

“I do feel like I developed some really good relationships in the community with many expressing how sad they were when we closed,” Chance said. “I think everyone will be happy Richard has joined and the restaurant is reopening.”

An opening date has not been set, but plans are to open before the new year. Unfortunately, the refilling of the lake will take longer as property owners work through regulations and seek assistance with funding. For Chance and Millinder, though, the 10 minute drive from downtown to the property on N.C. 58 is scenic whether the lake is full or not.

“If you come out here at 4:30 or 5 p.m. when the sun is setting, it is absolutely gorgeous,” Chance said. “It is just gorgeous.”

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