Are you ready to see just how deep the rabbit hole goes?
This November, Erik Till wants to lead you on a culinary journey into the underbelly of The Brewery District with his latest restaurant creation: White Rabbit. He’s converting the former Tommy Keegan’s bar space at 456 South Front Street (across the pedestrian walkway from Double Happiness) into a new gastropub that he hopes will be embraced like his other Columbus project, The Commonwealth Sandwich Bar.
“Commonwealth served as test market to see if my ideas were relevant and if they’d play well in Columbus,” says Till. “It has gone well, but the small amount of space I have to work with there is a big issue there. In New York that 10-seat format is incredibly common, but people here in Columbus are only just now starting to get behind it.”
White Rabbit will mark a return for Till to 100-seat dining. He describes the menu as Modern Midwestern New-American with a focus on familiar flavors, local ingredients and french technique. He anticipates a small six-to-eight item menu that will change six to eight times per year.
“I hesitate to call this fine-dining because I hate that term,” he says. “I want this to be a place that feels like a bar but happens to have amazing non-pretentious food.”
Located a few steps below sidewalk level, the restaurant space is somewhat cellar-like by nature. The redesign of White Rabbit will accent existing architectural elements such as an arched brick ceiling and iron columns with new gooseneck sconce lighting, plush diamond-pillow banquets and new woodwork that will soften the cavernous vibe of the existing stonework.
“We’ve been throwing around the term ‘Industrial Revolution’ when talking about the decor,” explains Till. “We’re taking a lot of cues from that, and a lot of cues from classic New York French Steakhouses. Sexy and comfortable.”
While the Brewery District has been a bit quiet over the past decade, White Rabbit marks the latest business to return to the re-emerging neighborhood, following Shadowbox Live, World of Beer, Via Vecchia and others.
“I see a lot of potential here,” says Till. “I think the folks running these newer businesses are here for the long haul. And there’s a lot of people wishing there was more variety on this side of Downtown.”
White Rabbit is aiming for a November 2012 opening, pending licensing, approvals and ongoing buildout.