In every interview about a new bar or restaurant, there comes the awkward point where I try to ask what the concept is, without actually using the word “concept.” Because it’s a lame word, really. Fortunately Patric Gabre-Kidan was pretty cheerful about the fact that the Rhino Room doesn't have one.
Gabre-Kidan has been around and around the bar and restaurant industry, from partnering with Ethan Stowell to managing the Book Bindery, to the buildout side of the business. Now he and four other industry veterans are opening their conceptless bar in the spacious former Velo bike shop address at 11th and Pine. Gabre-Kidan is the common thread running through the group. Jake Mihoulides and brother IL (yep, that's what he goes by) helped build Tavolata and How to Cook a Wolf. His friendship with Emma Schwartzman and Chris Rice dates back to their long-ago days at Tulio, though local boat owners and their hangers on might know the couple from floating hot dog stand, Summer Dog.
For a bar with no professed identity, the drinks sound pretty damn good. Here, five reasons we can't wait to drink champagne in the Rhino Room, which might open as early as Friday.
It's just a little fancy. The plan was an unfussy hangout space, but this group has a lot of design and build knowhow, and Gabre-Kidan allows that the end result, with its brown leather booths, mirrored support posts, glossy black trim, and a U-shaped resin-topped bar “turned out a little fancier than we were hoping for.” Which doesn't sound like a bad thing.
Single-serving bottles of bubbles. The good kind, not the bachelorette party kind. “But we’re not going to try and gouge people on that,” says Gabre-Kidan.
And lots of canned beer. Rice is a big canned beer guy, so the Rhino Room’s beer list will be entirely cans and some drafts—no bottles. I should mention there's no kitchen, so gird your stomach elsewhere before stopping in.
There's actually a rhinocerous. A big one. Rhino Room long went by the working name Big Fun (here’s Capitol Hill Seattle blog’s rundown). The name came from another of Rice's interests—hard core Craigslisting. He found an 8-foot plastic rhinocerous on offer down in Vancouver that now has a home in the bar. The rhino does not have a name himself, says Gabre-Kidan, “but he is anatomically correct.”
Pine is the new old Pike. Before we signed off, Gabre-Kidan noted that his joint is just a block off the perpetual Mardi Gras of Pike Street, but being on Pine gives the Rhino Room a completely different feel.
The Rhino Room doesn't have a web presence quite yet (how very unconcepted) but I'll update as soon as it does.