Bulrush Rob Connoley

Rob Connoley plans to open Bulrush, a foraging-focused restaurant.

The much-anticipated Bulrush finally has a home.

Chef Rob Connoley's foraging-focused tasting menu restaurant, which he first announced plans for in 2016, will open early next year at 3307 Washington Ave. in the Grand Center Arts District. According to a press release, Bulrush will "feature foods rooted in Ozark cuisine, a sub-genre of Southern cooking, using traditional foraged ingredients and wild game."

A native of Bridgeton, Missouri, in north St. Louis County, Connoley moved back to the St. Louis area in 2016 after 30 years away. During that time, he racked up a string of accolades, including a James Beard semifinalist nomination for Best Chef: Southwest in 2014, which he earned while at his foraging-focused restaurant, Curious Kumquat, in New Mexico. Upon his return to St. Louis, he also celebrated the release of his first cookbook, Acorns & Cattails: A Modern Foraging Cookbook of Forest, Farm & Field, which is an approachable guide to foraging safely and ethically.

While still planning for Bulrush, Connoley opened another concept, Squatters Café, in 2017. Squatters adheres to Bulrush's core values of farm-to-table and sustainability, albeit in a more casual way, serving breakfast and lunch in a fast-casual setting. Bulrush, meanwhile, will be more of a formal affair, featuring a tasting menu and craft cocktails.

Connoley describes the menu as traditional Southern cooking, focusing specifically on his family's connection to the cuisine of the Ozarks. He and sous chef Justin Bell both developed a passion for foraging as children living in the Ozarks area, which Connoley says makes them well-suited to cook this style of food. He isn't shy about his ambitions, either, saying that hopes to "do to Ozark cuisine what Sean Brock has done for Appalachian Southern cooking." 

Connoley is working with SPACE Architecture + Design on the buildout of the restaurant. Bulrush will be located in a 3,400-square-foot building featuring a 24-seat dining area and 40-seat bar. The circular bar will surround the kitchen, which Connoley hopes will foster more of an intimate experience where guests are encouraged to ask questions and watch the chefs prepare the dishes. (The unique setup of the restaurant is actually part of the reason for Bulrush's delay; Connoley says finding a landlord who would let him put a kitchen in the middle of the room was a bit more challenging than he had expected.)

Those interested in getting an early taste of Bulrush can do so this Fri., Sept. 28. Connoley will be hosting a pop-up dinner outside the upcoming Bulrush space featuring four courses in 30 minutes for $40. Six seats will be available every 30 minutes starting at 6pm; reservations are encouraged, but walk-ins are welcome. 

Bulrush is on track for an early 2019 opening.

Update: Squatters Café will close Oct. 31.

Bulrush, bulrushstl.com