Rattlesnake chili, y’all? Kitty’s Saloon aims to bring that and some country flare to H Street NE when it opens in about a week and a half. Or as managing partner and music professor-turned-chef David Conn calls the cuisine: “contemporary redneck.”
Conn worked for 10 years at Cornell University, teaching music theory and songwriting. “Every year, I became more and more obsessed with food,” he says. “My weekends were planned around everything I was going to cook.” He eventually made a career change. Before moving to D.C. eight months ago, he worked in New York at a couple different restaurants and as a consulting chef. He also previously had restaurants of his own in Nashville and Chicago and got his start cooking in Savannah. Conn was attracted to D.C. to open Kitty’s Saloon because his brother and mother live here.
The restaurant’s building, formerly home to Souk, is covered inside and out with weathered wood that came from a barn in upstate New York. The main dining room has a 14-seat bar and can hold 40 to 60 people. Only the first floor will be open to start, but Conn hopes to open the upstairs in a couple months.
The Southern/country menu will include dishes like roasted squab perloo (a rice dish like a jambalaya), bison short rib, fried bologna sliders with chow chow relish, fried catfish and grits, alligator sausage with creole mustard, pickled eggs, and that rattlesnake chili (which also incorporates smoked brisket). Conn says he also has a mini obsession with north and west African spices, so his meatloaf, for example, incorporates cinnamon-stewed tomatoes. “My spice rack is just insane,” Conn says. “I just like to be able to dance anywhere I want to dance with the flavors.”
There’s also some lighter fare like a seared endive salad with manchego cheese, piquillo peppers, and lime vinaigrette or a wedge salad with fried pepperoni. (OK, maybe not so light.)
The drink menu will have a lot of whiskeys and bourbons. (Hey, it’s a “saloon.”) Cocktails ($7-$9 )will have a western themed with things like sarsaparilla, and beers will be “all over the map,” Conn says.
For dessert, look out for a grilled banana and peanut butter sandwich with warm marshmallow dip and concord grape smear.
“As a chef I take my food really seriously,” Conn says, “but I don’t take myself so seriously.”
Stay tuned for menus and an exact opening date.
Kitty’s Saloon, 1208 H St. NE; (202) 388-8300; kittyssaloon.com