The disco era must have been kinder to the guys behind the Rhino Room than to the rest of us.
How else to explain the Studio 54-inspired setup, complete with a giant disco ball, gold trimmings and a billboard-size mirror? I half-expect to see patrons dressed up as Liza Minnelli or Andy Warhol, downing Harvey Wallbangers.
Rhino Room is the latest project from Patric Gabre-Kidan, who designed the stellar Book Bindery and had opened several restaurants with Ethan Stowell.
This retro bar feels like an homage to the old Capitol Hill, a reprieve to all the over-the-top mixology concoctions and high cover charges that have become the bane of Capitol Hill lifers.
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Despite the swank aesthetic, it’s more of a Rainier beer kind of hangout. The coolers are stacked with cans, like a convenience store. The cocktail list is simple, the rows of whiskey long.
In its two months in business, the Rhino Room has become the go-to dance-place joint for Capitol Hillers, students and other cheapskates who nurse cheap beer while grooving to hip-hop and dance mixes after 11 p.m. Even better, there’s no cover charge on Friday and Saturday nights.
During the day, the Rhino Room is a different animal: populated by a sparse of line cooks and other hospitality industry people, and the music takes on an oldies-but-goodies theme (“You’re The One That I Want,” “California Dreamin’ ”). The space is bright from all the natural light radiating through the oversized windows.
No kitchen here, though. Instead, Gabre-Kidan reached into his Rolodex and got his friend, Mark Fuller of the acclaimed Ma’ono Fried Chicken & Whisky, to do the fried chicken, kalua pig and Spam musubi.
Fuller’s signature brined chicken is prepped at Fuller’s restaurant in West Seattle and brought to the bar, like a catering setup. There’s a waffle maker, rice warmer and a convection oven, where the fried chicken gets reheated.
Surprisingly the chicken pieces were crispy and juicy. Is it as good as the real thing at Ma’ono? Of course not. But the Rhino Room certainly wins the distinction of serving the best bar food on the Hill without having an actual kitchen.
Rhino Room, 1535 11th Ave., offers happy hour 4-7 p.m. daily, with $2 can beers, $4 sparking wine, $5 draft cocktails and $7 double well drinks (therhinoroomseattle.com).
Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @tanvinhseattle