Everyone’s favorite cocktail bar turned one in February and if you missed the celebration you’ll have to wait until their next birthday in 2024 to celebrate ::intentional pause for laughter on that
leap year dad joke::
Robin Room was established in 2016 by good guy bartender Chad Vogel
and has since become an institution on E. Johnson Street. The relaxed atmosphere, exceptional bar staff and a menu whose quality and execution are rarely matched makes Robin Room a destination for neighbors and afi cionados alike. Even with all of Robin Room’s success, Chad continues to be as humble and driven as ever opening Mint Mark
in 2017 and Muskellunge this spring. But, after sitting down with him for this interview, I learned that he may have a “hidden” dark side. Read on to fi nd out what condiment makes him tick, lash out at other local restaurateurs and possibly inspire a rebellion.
GS : Why did you choose this fine stretch of East Johnson Street to open
The Robin Room?
CV : I had lived in the neighborhood for several years, I liked it and thought it would be a good fi t. There wasn’t anything like my concept near here and I really liked being close to the Caribou because we are so diff erent but complementary. Together with Sal’s, JPH and Forequarter I thought that the neighborhood would become more of a destination. I also got a lot of encouragement from our neighbors at Macha Tea House
and Connie, Teena and Jim at the Cork & Bottle.
GS: Is there anything you have accomplished in your "fi rst year" you're
especially proud of?
CV: My staff and I have been able to take a number of trips together (Louis ville, Oaxaca, Chicago, San Diego). It’s really nice to get the staff together outside of our space and learn things about what we are serving and hang out in another city. Big thanks to the neighborhood for supporting us so we can take these educational trips.
GS: What an awesome opportunity. Is there a particular experience on one of these trips that impacted you and your bar?
CV: Certainly the staff ’s love for mezcal since going to Oaxaca.
GS: Yes, their love of mezcal is infectious, that’s all I drink now! I love the
diverse clientele Robin Room draws. My personal favorite was seeing Mike Leckrone of UW marching band fame sitting at your bar. Do you have a favorite regular customer?
CV: I don’t play favorites. We have a lot of great people that come in and we are happy to help facilitate people getting together, meeting new people and having good conversation.
GS: Okay, okay. How about your team? Their strength and comradery is
unparalleled. What do you do to build community among your staff ?
CV: The Robin Room staff is a special group of humans, we look out for
each other and support each other with personal goals outside of work. That takes an everyday commitment to each other and I think it’s something that builds on itself.
GS: I love that. Ok, when you walk into a bar, what do you order?
CV: If the bar is framing itself as a place that has good cocktails I will order a Manhattan (my favorite drink) and/or a daiquiri. If they make a good Manhattan then I am convinced they take care of their vermouth (good quality, always cold) and know how to properly stir. A daiquiri let’s me know if they are using fresh juice and shake properly. If you can do those 2 things then the drinks on the menu will most likely be great. In
most bars though I have a beer, wine or a mixer. I’m pretty easy to please. Bars to me are more about conversation than what to drink.
GS: It’s easy to see that you care about your community within and outside your walls. As our neighborhood grows and changes, is there anything you want to see here?
CV: I was really bummed to see Sujeo and Forequarter close. I would love to see a restaurant or two come back to East Johnson Street and maybe a record store?
GS: Yes, totally agree. Moving forward, do you have any goals for year
CV: I want to close down the 800 block of E. Johnson Street for one hour
on a Sunday and have an annual March Against Ranch Dressing. In my opinion the hidden valley should stay hidden. #downwithranch #notonmysalad #bringittorymiller #shotsfiredseanpharr
GS: Interesting. This is something I could get behind. Is ranch ever an appropriate condiment?
CV: I believe it’s neither a dressing nor a condiment and has no place in this world. #fightme
GS: Ok, I admire your passion. Let's make these year 2 dreams come true. I have one last question, how would you rate the coldness of your beer in relation to the other businesses on East Johnson?
CV : Our beer is “quite cold” There you have it. An educated bar staff , a thoughtful location surrounded by neighbors that love them, beer that is
quite cold and a major distaste for ranch dressing.
Thanks for reading & please join me in wishing the Robin Room a very very happy first birthday! In small business every year is a victory and this June we’ve got a big one to celebrate in our community - Cork & Bottle turns 60!!