The young salt who cut his teeth at Oceanaire and Sazerac before becoming the opening chef of Toulouse Petit three years ago is leaving his Cajun playground behind and opening his own place--something many of us in the food community have been eagerly awaiting.
Donnelly, a big fisherman, will be creating a seafood-centric menu with a few handmade pastas thrown in.
"The majority of [the menu] will be seafood and shellfish, a large oyster list, geoduck, clams, mussels, calamari, octopus, some cool fish from the east coast, like striped bass, bluefish, John Dory and local stuff," says Donnelly. "I don't want to do swordfish or tuna--things that are high on the food chain. I'll focus on the really middle to low-end of the food chain, like sardines, smelt, sand dabs, which forces you to be a better cook."
Donnelly describes his new space as not huge, but stacks well.
"I think once it's all filled with people, it'll have a really good vibe. Natural lighting, skylights and all of these big windows--the energy in the building as it stands already is so good. It's like, 'Ah, this was meant to be!'"
In addition to the good vibe, there's huge rolling doors that open onto a street-facing patio, a downstairs dining room that seats about 40, an open bar, open kitchen and a rustic staircase that connects a mezzanine level with more seating and eventually another bar.
"I love cooking seafood. I love the educational piece, the ability to teach people about fisheries. Over some time, there's been several models, but what RockCreek is going to become is really cool: globally sourced sustainable fisheries and spirits. That's going to be our focus."