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“This is what I’ve been waiting for,” Drew Trautmann says. And waiting. And waiting. Finally, after months of delay, the former Sonoma and Mendocino chef’s brand-spankin’ new District Kitchen opens for business at 5 p.m. sharp tonight in Woodley Park.
Eater DC has the full opening menu. Y&H called up Trautmann to chat about some of the highlights.
Among the listed “snacks,” the house jerky is an immediate eye-catcher. Tonight, it’s a beef jerky, seasoned with a little soy ginger, which will set you back about five bucks. “I bought a dehydrator for the restaurant,” Trautmann says. “We’re going to make jerky out of all sorts of cool stuff.”
Though it’s not a small-plate restaurant, per se, the place does offer an assortment of mini-dishes. One is a Louisiana-style crispy rabbit boudin, priced at $9. “It’s a rabbit and liver sausage,” the chef says. “It’s a little spicy. We make it into meatballs and then bread it and fry it.”
The sausages are served with, yes, homemade ketchup—-one of Y&H’s biggest pet peeves. But Trautmann assures me this stuff won’t suck. “It’s like a caramelized onion ketchup, it’s not like ketchup ketchup,” he says. “It has, like, a tablespoon of tomato paste to about 25 onions. It’s not like homemade ketchup. It’s more the spices of ketchup, the vinegar of ketchup and the sweetness of ketchup. But it’s onions.”
As for the must-have item on the menu, Trautmann, naturally, replies “everything’s pretty good.” But he points to the shirred egg ($12), deviled ham ($5), and pork shank as standouts. Also: the “french dip” ($13), which isn’t what you’d expect. “That’s our vegetarian dish,” the chef explains. “We’ve been having a lot of people who aren’t vegetarians ordering that one.”
And, for dessert, Trautmann points out the sorghum ice cream with carrot cake crumbles and crème fraîche. “We’re getting the sorghum from the Amish. It’s really complex molasses—-it’s cool.”
To drink: pick from a selection of local beers and house cocktails, but Trautmann also suggests that you try one of the keg wines, which come at a discount. “We’re pouring wines out of those kegs that would normally be $4 or $5 per glass higher someplace else. Maybe $18 elsewhere. But here, they’re $12.”
The vibe? Totally casual. “Our servers are wearing t-shirts and jeans and tennis shoes,” Trautmann notes.
The decor? A bit superstitious, it turns out. “Last night, we found on eBay…an old menu from Arbaugh’s, which used to be here. So we bought that and we’re going to frame it because they had a 42-year run in here. We’re hoping to replicate some of that.”
District Kitchen, 2606 Connecticut Ave. NW, (202) 238-9408
Image courtesy of District Kitchen