Where The Visitors Go And The Locals Stay
Owner BJ Baumann shares the importance of community and culinary excellence at seasoned Oceanfront eatery
By Grace Silipigni
Perhaps Coastal Virginia’s most community-oriented eatery is the family-owned and -operated Rockafeller’s Restaurant. In 1989, BJ Baumann’s late husband, Frank Baumann, opened the doors to what would ultimately become a Virginia Beach icon. Upon his death in 1999, Baumann has been steering the ship for over two decades. She and her staff have since established a loyal customer base and designed a menu worthy of numerous awards and recognitions by culinary experts, including the National Restaurant Association Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year Award and the Best Oyster Award by Virginia Living for two years running. Buoyed by local support, Rockafeller’s Restaurant weathered natural disasters, economic recession and, most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. Baumann strives to give back to the Virginia Beach community in return for its unwavering support.
“We take pride in the work we have been able to do in the community and are proud to be a part of [its] fiber,” says Baumann. “We were one of the first fully-certified Green restaurants in the state. We were also one of the first two [businesses] to start the Oyster Recycling Program with Lynnhaven River Now. We’ve been doing that for 25 years.”
In addition, Rockafeller’s participates in the Virginia Aquarium’s Sensible Seafood Program and partners with a host of local purveyors to obtain freshly baked bread, regionally sourced seafood, local produce, craft beer and more. Baumann also stays up-to-date on best business practices by serving on local committees and commissions. She currently serves as the president of the Virginia Beach Restaurant Association.
Baumann’s dedication to pleasing diners’ palates runs so deep that she went as far as to travel abroad in search of the perfect salmon. “I noticed salmon was one of our top sellers. [Customers] preferred the North Atlantic salmon over wild-caught Scottish salmon, but it was farm-raised, and farm-raised fish got a really bad rap for a long time,” explains Baumann. “So, I decided to travel to Iceland to visit the North Atlantic fish farms.” There, she discovered a fresh, antibiotic-free catch that has since been renowned by Rockafeller’s diners as the “best salmon in the world,” says Baumann.
The Rockafeller’s team continues to cater to the tastebuds of visitors by experimenting with trending dishes to complement the restaurant’s selection of She Crab Soup, Crab Cakes, Oysters Rockafeller and other classic bites. In addition to its high-quality plates, Rockafeller’s touts unparalleled views of Rudee Inlet, a relaxing ambiance that keeps visitors flocking back year after year.
“You’re going to find absolutely great views, absolutely great customer service, and absolutely great food,” Baumann explains. The best part, she says, is that you can enjoy it all while wearing shorts and flip flops.
308 Mediterranean Ave,
On Rudee Inlet