Since opening just over a month ago, The Rickshaw has pulled in a steady stream of customers. Cheap beer, good food, decent location and a loyal following due to the owners’ previous establishments, COX and Saddle, have done wonders. Based on more than a half-dozen visits, I sat down this weekend and wrote out a dozen thoughts about The Rickshaw.
1. The medium wings might well be the tastiest pub grub in town. The only suggestion – and this one comes from my Mom, who’s visiting Beijing – is to provide wet wipes at the end of the meal.
2. On top of that, the overall menu is impressive, in terms of design and scope. The Mexican food, spicy chicken burgers, and chips with blue cheese and Alfredo sauce melted over them (“heart attack in a bowl”) are good, with the pizza needing some work.
3. Qingdao is 10 kuai for a pint, during happy hour, 5-7 PM. Yes, there are cheaper places in town, but few that are as clean and spacious as this one.
4. Speaking of which, co-owner Kris Ryan has done a good job of creating an unpretentious space. Simple and open, and with the added balcony providing a nice place to rest, enjoy a drink, and watch the constant traffic jams as cars turn up that street toward The Bookworm, Banana Leaf and Browns.
5. Speaking of which (again), this place has become an excellent alternative to Bookworm for those wishing to use wireless – cheaper drinks and, generally, a relaxed environment. I walked by the other day, and saw a half-dozen people, with their laptops, on the first floor.
6. Even so, The Rickshaw can be loud. In a matter of minutes, it can go from a space where three or four groups of people are chatting to one in which everything is overwhelmed by an incoming soccer team or by a “DJ” who arrives and cranks up the music.
7. Speaking of which (yet again), I am curious about the economics of sponsoring a sports team. Let’s say I’m with three friends and we’re drinking cocktails and pigging out on burritos. I’m guessing we’re spending as much as a dozen soccer guys who are guzzling draft beer and wings, and, with their chug-a-lug culture, making so much noise we leave. I’m not criticizing, I’m wondering, and I realize it’s hard to reconcile widely divergent types of patrons – I guess that supply and demand will work it out for this place.
8. The Rickshaw installed a sitter to go with the squatter. Never underestimate the power of matching toilet facilities to customer niche.
9. The staff gets high marks for being friendly and the management gets the same for being open to suggestions. Lu Ke – hope I spelled his name right – is a bar legend.
10. Even so, several staff members are unable to recognize key words such as “Jack Daniels,” which is a problem given how many foreigners patronize the place. Here’s my suggestion: record three customers reading out the different alcohols on the shelf. Then mix up the bottles, play the recording, and have the staff pick the correct alcohol as they hear it. Repeat. Once the Rickshaw staff knows their booze, open a school and teach the city’s other bar employees the same information.
11. How long will it be before someone gets hurt on the step that separates the upstairs billiards and eating areas? I saw a woman wipe out – how she didn’t break an elbow or wrist, I don’t know – and more than a dozen people nearly take spills. Re-model, put reflector tape on it (as Q Bar does on its deck), whatever, but something should be done about this.
12. Overall, the Rickshaw is a winner, offering a modest and open space with good food, cheap drinks and a friendly staff. Call it the high-end of low-end bars – this is a well-thought out place, and one that addresses, rather than tries to create (as do so many other places), market demand. Plus, the medium wings are fantastic…