You may have stopped by Rabbit Grill in Clarendon this week looking for a dinner salad and a Red Velvet cupcake, only to find the doors locked. The reason: Restaurateur Aaron Gordon is in the midst of creating a concept inspired by Belgian and German beer gardens with a new partner and co-owner, chef Rahman “Rock” Harper. We found the Hell’s Kitchen victor grilling up bratwurst and spicy Italian sausages for what’ll become Fat Shorty’s*, slated to open the first week of April.
You can still find leafy greens at 3035 Clarendon Boulevard through 3 PM this Friday, when the fast-casual salad spot closes its doors permanently. Once they reopen, the only rabbits on the premises will be in sausage form. Harper plans for about 16 styles of sausage spanning the globe, from German brats and weisswurst to South American chorizo and fennel-flecked Italian. Even more far-flung will be exotic links such as crocodile andouille, chipotle buffalo, and jalapeño-spiked rattlesnake. Bringing things back home, many of the producers will be local, even for the international flavors. Richmond-based Sausage Craft may create everything from Italian-grandmother-style sausages flavored with white wine and pecorino cheese to a smoky version made with Virginia ham, while Binkert’s out of Baltimore specializes in Germanic meats. And of course, being a Washington operation, a half-smoke is in the works.
In addition to the sausages themselves, Harper will craft a variety of customizable toppings including chili, sautéed peppers and onions, and sauerkraut, as well as a variety of mustards (and mumbo sauce!), which you’ll find at the communal beer-hall-style tables. Several varieties of mussels and freshly-cut frites with dipping sauces will round out the menu, all meant to be washed down with German, Belgian, and local craft brews. Servers will drop by the 80-odd seats to refill drink orders and clear plates, but otherwise Gordon is keeping with the counter-order method popular with families and the lunch rush crowd. In warmer weather, a 20-seat outdoor patio will be the place to relax over cold Leffe Blondes and brats.
Even after Shorty’s is up and running, Harper plans to keep working as a job instructor at the nonprofit DC Central Kitchen, where he helps unemployed, at-risk men and women find careers in the culinary arts. His two projects will merge once the new restaurant opens; he plans to employ the hardest-working alumni of the program at Shorty’s.
“We’re used to sending our graduates out into the world, so it’ll be special for me to be so close to them,” says Harper. “It’s a little like having a room in your kid’s dorm.”
Check back in with us for updates on the opening and details as they become available.
* The name refers to a childhood nickname, similar to Gordon’s other new spot, Zeke’s DC Donutz. There’s no affiliation to any artist, living or dead—remember how that turned out last time?