Dan Kitson feels that the Declan Quinn’s bar and restaurant he used to co-own and operate in Bay Shore from 2006 to 2011 was ahead of its time.
The Irish bar crowd just didn’t seem ready to take that leap from traditional bar food.
“It was a little on the gastro side,” he said of Declan’s, which is now Connelly Station. “Our food reviews were great; we were doing things like Chilean sea bass and short ribs over pappardelle pastas.”
Those dishes might not seem so foreign in 2016, but a decade ago it was a far cry from your standard Rueben sandwich.
Now Kitson — who also owned Mighty Quinn’s in Bay Shore, his first business venture — is going all-in on food with his Henley’s Village Tavern at 184 Orinoco Drive in Brightwaters Village.
Work is fully under way in what was the former Toddler House.
Kitson, 40, who also lives nearby, is looking to open this winter.
“The village is so charming and cool and quaint and I just want to add to the charm,” said Kitson. “I think this area has been underutilized, and I really think we can provide something the people are looking for.”
One of those things is a nice, sit-down lunch. To that end, Henley’s will be open Tuesday through Sunday for both lunch and dinner.
“We’ll probably add more sandwiches and salads for a lunch menu,” he said.
As for the main menu, Kitson is quick to note his prospective chef has extensive gastro-pub experience. They describe the menu as spanning a spectrum that runs from hearty to healthy, with plenty of middle ground.
There will also be a big emphasis on fusing food with alcohol.
“We’ll have a lot of reductions, with wines, tequilas … ” Kitson said. “You’re going to get that gastropub concept with the alcohol and the food. The flavors that you could cook with is phenomenal,” naming the Whiskey Pear Chicken dish as a prime example.
“You’ll also see things like a guacamole-stuffed onion rings, and quite a bit of fish,” he added.
The decor of the new place will be industrial in nature, but Kitson is leaving open the possibility of some Southern touches.
He’s certain there will be large, French-style doors facing the street that can be left open in warm weather.
Kitson began looking for a space in January and settled on the former Toddler House in March.
From there it was just getting all his approvals in place to get going, a process that was highly anticipated by excited locals.
“The amount of people who have contacted me, either through Facebook, or text or phone call, has been overwhelming,” Kitson said. “I was just waiting for my permits, and now that I have them I’m just really excited about my contractors getting in here and doing what they do.”
Photo: Dan Kitson holds his design plans inside the completely gutted space that for 51 years housed the Toddler House. (Michael White)