Published on June 3rd, 2021 | by Elizabeth Tettleton0
RAViNe: Oxford’s Hidden Culinary Gem
I feel it’s fair to call myself an Oxonian by now. I’ve spent almost half of my life in this hamlet, and during those years, there is one question visiting outsiders inevitably ask: Where is good to eat?
When you get down to it, that is one of the most loaded questions a person can ask, and at the same time, one of the most human. We all must eat to exist, true, but what is good to one person may not be preferred by another. So, answering this seemingly inane question for a stranger is difficult and rife with issues. After a question or two on budget and atmosphere preferences, I have about four recommendations if it sounds like a fine dining request. Here’s what I ask: “Do you want an Oxford secret, an Oxford staple, an Oxford specialty, or an Oxford award winner?”
They almost always want to hear about the Oxford secret.
I remember when I was young, the drive out to RAViNe felt so far but, much like the drive to Taylor, with a very special pot of gold at the end of the ride. A mere 3.5 miles, I’ve come to enjoy the relaxing drive, as it makes the occasion feel so much more intentional and purposeful because I am “going out to dinner at RAViNe tonight.” The occasion will require equally intentional attire and attitude.
Joel Miller and his wife Cori opened RAViNe in 2003 after living across the South and in California, and I moved to Oxford in September of 2007. Nestled into a cozy all-wood chalet-esque B&B, RAViNe is the hidden culinary gem many newcomers to Oxford would likely never stumble upon without direction.
For several years, owner and Chef d’ Cuisine Joel Miller has hosted special “wine dinners” that allow him to dabble with seasonal produce and game paired with wines from across the world. Pulling from his Napa-valley experience, Joel pairs wines that many restaurants in Oxford wouldn’t know what to do with. Many of his wine dinners are co-hosted by Shanna Flashka, who helps bring the wines to life by sharing their origins and the reason for the pairing. The wine dinners allow Joel and his team the space to experiment for an entire evening and incorporate the season’s bounty.
“I think my favorite part is [at a wine dinner] I can dive in and make something guests may not usually find at another restaurant,” said Joel Miller.
In January 2021 when Joel decided to freshen up the face of RAViNe as the pandemic settled, he wanted to bring positive change for Oxford and his devoted following.
“We wanted to brighten up the atmosphere of RAViNe, especially in the time of COVID and uncertainty,” said Miller. “Not necessarily a reset button, but a time to change things up.”
While RAViNe was closed for nearly three months during the global pandemic, Miller created resourceful pickup dining options, such as their Crunchy Bird Chicken and house-made ice creams and sorbets with seasonal fruits.
“We have some great ideas for an ongoing tasting menu at the bar, and wine dinners will resume shortly,” said Miller.
In the after ripples of the pandemic, the issue of staffing has been plaguing the restaurant industry as a whole, and Oxford is no exception.
Even in spite of staffing struggles and COVID regulations, Miller stays excited and hopeful. He looks to these warmer months for inspiration, and finds inspiration all around him.
“Spring and Summer make cooking easy,” said Miller. “Shopping at the farmers market is quite inspiring.”
Whether you have made a stop at RAViNe in the recent or distant past, or perhaps are now planning your inaugural trip, you can always anticipate a dining experience infused with carefully curated local, southern flare.
RAViNE is located at 52 County Road 321. Their hours are Thursday from 6–9 pm, Friday and Saturday from 6–10 pm, Sunday Brunch from 10:30am–2pm and Supper from 6–9 pm. Find them online at oxfordravine.com.