2022 Tastemakers: BJ Lieberman & Bronwyn Haines of Chapman’s Eat Market and Ginger Rabbit
The couple is behind two of the city’s most forward-thinking openings of the past two years. Up next is Hiraeth, a live-fire restaurant.
Married duo BJ Lieberman and Bronwyn Haines are behind two of the city’s most forward-thinking, congenial openings of the past two years: Chapman’s Eat Market and Ginger Rabbit. And this power couple isn’t done. Up next is a 5,000-square-foot, live-fire restaurant, which is currently under construction in the Short North.
Roller Coaster Ride
Since Chapman’s—a quirky, chef-driven restaurant housed in an iconic German Village space—first opened in August 2020, it has given us the kitchen sink: wild wallpapers, pitch-perfect cocktails, miso gazpacho, khao soi, smashburgers, homemade ice cream and themed dinners inspired by Vietnam and Juneteenth. Last fall, The New York Times named Chapman’s one of the “50 most vibrant and delicious restaurants” of 2021. (Lieberman calls the recognition cool and also “kind of random.”) Then this April, the couple unveiled Ginger Rabbit, an intimate jazz bar featuring gin cocktails and conservas, the latter a dice-rolling delicacy that’s rare in Columbus.
It’s been a risk-embracing two years for this pair, who moved here from Washington, D.C., and have since met a pandemic head-on, coped with supply chain frustrations and become new parents. “My biggest thing that I learned through the last few years of opening these restaurants is patience,” Lieberman says. “Things that would stress me out to the point of having an anxiety attack maybe two or three years ago kind of feel like ripples in the pond at this point.”
What Columbus Needs
Every time they have changed cities, whether Charleston or D.C., the dining scene has been on the upswing, Lieberman says. He believes Columbus is no different but would like to see one shift. “Our food purveyor doesn’t have things that are simple [staples] to me—like Thai basil, lemongrass, ginger—all the time … just because there hasn’t been the demand.” The chef treks to Saraga International Grocery to find what he needs. “When other people start demanding [those ingredients] as well, it will change,” he says.
Warm and Fuzzy
The couple’s next focus is a two-level restaurant and bar named Hiraeth (a Welsh word meaning “a deep longing”) that’s focused on wood-fired cooking and a “beautiful, clean, modern” design, Haines says. The restaurant at 36 E. Lincoln St. will feature a Mediterranean-meets-North-African-meets-chef’s-whim menu. “We want to create a space that is different from anything that anyone’s experienced … something that you’ll be longing for the moment that you leave,”Lieberman says.
Chapman’s Eat Market
739 S. Third St., German Village, 614-444-0917
Ginger Rabbit Jazz Lounge
17 Buttles Ave., Short North, 614-929-5298
About BJ Lieberman
Hometown: Mount Vernon, Virginia
Local food he craves: “Sea salt and herb bagel from The Lox—best bagel I’ve ever had.”
Go-to bar: Law Bird
Something Columbus needs: “To change our liquor laws. We can’t get half the stuff we’d like to get, because the state doesn’t stock more than a handful of mezcals or genevers, etc. … The state has way too much influence in what we can and cannot create at our bars.”
About Bronwyn Haines
Hometown: Delaware, Ohio
Food inspiration: “My mom. She took me and my brother to Bolivia, South Dakota, Costa Rica … all on a teacher’s salary, and enjoying the local food was always a big part of exploring these places.”
Restaurant/bar business advice: “Know that the work is never done, but take moments to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor.”
BJ Lieberman and Bronwyn Haines are one of nine “Tastemakers” profiles in the August 2022 issue of Columbus Monthly.