I sat down with Cox (wings!) and Saddle (burritos!) owner Kris Ryan to discuss his new bar, to open next month in the two-story building that housed Midnight bar and Grappa restaurant, just south of where the Sanlitun beer mug once stood. Actually, by “sat down,” I mean that I was sitting somewhere and emailing questions and he was sitting somewhere else and emailing answers – you get the idea…
What kinds of drinks will you offer?
We’ll offer the full assortment of cocktails but I suppose the big ones for us will be the Margarita, the Long Island and the Hurricane. We’ll be doing the fishbowls again. We plan to follow through with what has been successful with the Saddle and COX. They are our specialties and are a general get messy drink for a pub atmosphere. We won’t go the Martini route as this has already been sewn up very well by Q Bar.
What kinds of food will you offer?
We are still going through our menu but the general approach is fresh and homemade. We will do pizza by the slice – California-style where clients choose their own ingredients every time. Wings, salads, burritos. We are going to put on a gourmet breakfast from 4 AM, which hasn’t been done in Beijing yet. We want to keep it simple, filling and value for money. We are also going to focus on takeout and deliveries in this place.
What makes you think you can succeed in this spot, where other bars and restaurants have failed?
I’m not sure why the others have failed but by the look of the existing design decor, I don’t think they have really thought out their position and clientele. We try to provide what people want and what is lacking in this market. I’m always hungry in Beijing. I’m sick of McDonald’s, KFC etc. I’m always looking for fresh, filling food at a reasonable price. I’m always on the run thus like something that I can carry and is quick. I think we can provide that and as long as our quality stays consistent and our beer is cold, cold, cold, we should succeed. The location is perfect in my opinion – we have an icon building, good visibility, and easily accessibility with a nice interior layout as well as an outdoor area. That, with all the sports, DJs, pool and a good atmosphere, should add up to a winning combination. I’m quite confident it will work.
How did you get involved in Beijing’s F&B scene and what’s the background behind your involvement in Saddle and Cox?
My real business is my design and construct company. I was looking for a new challenge and have always wanted to have a bar. I found a small DVD shop for rent and turned it into the Saddle with a friend of mine who shared my passion for trying our own bar. We originally thought the Saddle would go down the old South Sanlitun Black Sun bar route, but it formed into what it is now on its own. I’ve found that the bars become what the people in Beijing make them. It’s interesting to see that they have a life of their own. Nic has been involved in restaurants in the U.S and he looks after the food. I just run the admin and the operations. I also obviously design and build the spaces. I worked in countless bars around the world in my younger years. It’s great fun.
Many people think Cox has the tastiest wings around. What are the most wings you’ve eaten in one sitting (I hope it’s more than 25 or you’re losing all credibility!)?
In one sitting, I have eaten 25… yeh, sorry about that. I’m lame. There was one guy from the Canadian embassy – Billy – who ate 47 in one hit. We are still looking for contenders. The new bar will hold an annual wing-eating contest. More details on that to come. Our first event will be the opening on Friday the 13th. By the Chinese calendar, this is the perfect day for an opening. We’re looking at having a black party. By the way, we are looking to our clients to help us with a name. The person who creates our name will win a VIP card entitling them to a free beer or spirit on arrival for the first six months of opening. All ideas should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.