LAKE WYLIE — The old River Rat building is coming back to life. A new restaurant will open there next month, hoping to feed off the success of what was an iconic eatery from its 1979 opening to its closing in 2010.
“We’re going to be opening up at the River Rat location with a new restaurant we’re calling Twin Rivers,” said lifelong local Scott Boyd, one of three main partners behind Twin Rivers. “That’s kind of in honor of the South Fork River and the Catawba River.”
Marc Biscornet will be the general manager. Breck Fabish is the other partner. The trio hopes to have two invitation-only soft openings prior to a mid-July grand opening. Twin Rivers will be a full-service restaurant and bar, with catering to begin prior to opening. The menu will include prime rib, grilled seafood and steaks, house-ground burgers and a from-scratch kids menu.
“We’re really shooting for a farm-to-table concept,” Biscornet said.
A job fair will be held June 29 at the restaurant, Biscornet said. They will be hiring 30 to 35 employees, he said. Job applicants must arrive by 2 p.m. or before. For employment information, Biscornet said, stop by the restaurant and leave your email address on the list by the front door.
“We’ll send out a mass email with updates and information,” Biscornet said.
Biscornet is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America with 22 years in the industry, including seven restaurant openings. Paint and decor will be updated, though some features like the River Rat bar will remain.
“We’re really trying to honor the past and what they had,” Biscornet said. “They had a great reputation for a number of years.”
River Rat closed in 2010 as a slumped economy dwindled the number of diners coming through the door. Around that same time several long-time businesses closed, like Jac-Lynn’s Hallmark and Lake Wylie Hardware. River Rat had been at the 5301 Hwy. 557 address since 1989, and the current Rainbow Inn building for a decade before that.
River Rat took its name from the local waterway and, more specifically, the people who enjoyed it. The term “river rat” once referred to local weekenders from Charlotte. Many long-time residents of Lake Wylie still refer to themselves by the phrase. When River Rat closed, customers piled in the final few weeks to reminisce about first dates and engagements, having their names on the bar or seeing their children take first jobs there.
“The River Rat was Lake Wylie,” York resident Anne Weeks said at the time. “The legacy is just gone.”
Twin Rivers owners hope to bring it back, and to add their own. Susan Bromfield, president of the Lake Wylie Chamber of Commerce, believes the location gives them a great opportunity. A member of original River Rat’s owning family, Mary “Mama C” Coon, also founded the chamber. Bromfield said early meetings and were held at the restaurant.
Bromfield expects that many in the area will have similar old-time feelings, leading them to try out Twin Rivers.
“To have it come back to life and hopefully become a vital part of the community for a few more generations, that would be fabulous,” she said.