A little more than a year after he left Mendocino Grille & Wine Bar in Georgetown to pursue a place of his own, chef Drew Trautmann has secured a 75-seat property at 2606 Connecticut Ave. NW. Trautmann plans to convert the Thai-flavored Jandara into the American-themed District Kitchen in October.
The straightforward name “conveys what we want to do,” says the 43-year-old chef.
A preview of his menu finds duck cracklings with malt vinegar to snack on, grilled lamb steak, a vegetarian spin of a French dip sandwich using mushrooms and mushroom jus, and a fritto misto celebrating local fish and seafood, including spot. “I like to make everything myself,” Trautmann says. Entree prices at District Kitchen will run from $14 to $27.
Trautmann is modeling his restaurant on the fetching Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore. He says he is aiming for a rustic, “real simple” look that will include stripping the walls down to their original brick and keeping Jandara’s pressed tin ceiling (but not its dark interior).
The chef had hopes of opening on the Hill, where he lives, but says that his spot in Woodley Park offers several advantages: two major hotels nearby, lots of foot traffic and a Metro stop.
The chef’s business partner is Jawad Saadaoui, the general manager of Redwood in Bethesda. Trautmann also has his No. 2 lined up for the kitchen — Daniel Velasco, who cooked with Trautmann for 15 years at Mendocino, which closed this winter for failure to pay sales taxes, Sonoma on the Hill as well as in New Mexico.
The chef hopes a connection can help him meet his fall launch: “We have a contractor who’s a good friend.”