Food News: Chapman’s owners to open a jazz bar named Ginger Rabbit
Restaurant openings, closings and more Central Ohio food and drink news
Have you ever seen the film “La La Land”? In the final scene, Ryan Gosling's character, Sebastian Wilder, is playing piano in an intimate, moody jazz bar — his own bar — as his former love interest, Mia, looks on, rapt.
That scene is how BJ Lieberman, chef and co-owner of Chapman’s Eat Market, describes Ginger Rabbit — a new live jazz and craft cocktail bar coming soon to 17 Buttles Ave., formerly Kingmakers. “Ryan Gosling finally gets the bar that he'd been talking about, and it literally looks exactly like Ginger Rabbit,” Lieberman said of the Short North space. "It's perfectly set up to just be a little jazz lounge with killer cocktails.”
Leading the effort is Lieberman’s wife, Bronwyn Haines, but Lieberman will be heavily involved. “It's Bronwyn’s bar. I'm obviously very involved in all the creative aspects of it,” he said in an interview last week at his German Village restaurant.
Managing the bar side of the business will be Chapman’s own Seth Laufman. Haines’ cousin, musician Hayden Huffman, will handle booking. The 2,500 square-foot-space does not have its own kitchen, but Ginger Rabbit will offer a small snack menu of conservas (high-end, tinned seafood), caviar, olives, locally baked bread and seasoned nuts.
"It's such a perfect little bar snack: a piece of toast and butter, something pickled and a tin fish,” Lieberman said about the decision to offer conservas. “It's not crappy tuna fish. It's really well-done, high-end stuff. It's delicious."
Lieberman and Haines were pitched the Buttles Avenue space by The Wood Companies even before the COVID-19 outbreak hit. “When the pandemic started, I was just like, no way that a bar in a basement that size is gonna fly," he said.
Instead, the husband-and-wife team opened Chapman’s in the original Max & Erma’s building at 739 S. Third St. in August 2020. They started out serving carry-out food and cocktails because of the pandemic before switching to dine-in and eventually a full a la carte menu. The restaurant gained critical acclaim but lost money for months. “I knew we were walking into a buzzsaw,” Lieberman said.
Last February, Chapman’s was named one of Columbus Monthly’s Best New Restaurants. Then in October 2021, the German Village restaurant landed on The New York Times’ list of the 50 most exciting restaurants in the U.S. The restaurant was fully booked last fall in the wake of the Times’ story, but then omicron (and winter) hit. “We'll lose money in January for sure,” Lieberman said. “This has just been brutal. We lose reservations every single night. We were doing 140 to 150 covers a night in October and November. And now we're back down to like 115 a night.”
While the bar at Chapman’s leans heavily into a curated wine list and whiskey-based cocktails, Lieberman says the jazz bar will likely focus on gin-based cocktails and a smaller selection of wines by the glass.
“I think there's gonna be an elegance to this place,” Lieberman said about Ginger Rabbit. “Chapman's is a little rough around the edges, and we want it that way. It's supposed to be a neighborhood joint. We want Ginger Rabbit to be just a bit more high-end and a little bit more refined.”
Ginger Rabbit is shooting for a mid-April opening, with construction starting this week.
More Openings & Announcements
Oishii Japanese Bistro recently opened at 8 N. Liberty St. in Powell. The sushi shop replaces Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.
Columbus’ own North Country Charcuterie was recently named a 2022 Good Food Awards Winner for its Herbed Wagyu Bresaola, which uses Ohio-raised wagyu beef eye of round from Sakura Wagyu Farms. The bresaola takes three to four months to cure, dry and age.
With the departure of chef Jack Moore, Watershed Kitchen & Bar (1145 Chesapeake Ave.) has elevated chef Aaron Mercier to the role of executive chef. Prior to his time at Watershed, Mercier briefly ran his own, barbecue-focused restaurant: Rook’s Tavern in the Campus area.