"We're going back to rain, trees, and minerals — something very different," says Randall Hoppmann of Keen, the restaurant and bar opening at 1708 Lombard Street.
The Rittenhouse address has a storied history: once quirky Astral Plane, a famed bistro of Philadelphia restaurant renaissance past with a 32 year run ending in 2007, the restaurant changed hands a few time before its last iteration as Brick American Eatery.
The neighborhood's seen it turn into Astral Plane Millenium (a downright crazy name for Astral Plane's successor) which didn't fair so well, then Fish before it moved to 13th Street (now Bud & Marilyn's), and then Brick American Eatery before it closed to make room for Chris and Caitlin Rorer, Keen's owners.
And after so many years of restaurant wear and tear, Hoppmann is well aware of the amount of work needing to be done to the physical space before opening its doors; it's a building from the 1800s, and renovations are far from cosmetic. "It's down to the dirt," Hoppmann said, "I'm learning how to repair things properly."
The end result will be, as mentioned above, a natural motif: the lighting will look like raindrops; greenery will be abundant; the floor will look like sand on a beach. Look for wall-art by Rittenhouse-famous Joe Barker, a local painter of 40 years.
Randy Hoppmann is a Le Bec-Fin alum who taught at Front of House at the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill, Chris and Caitlin were her students. Over the years, the three of them grew close — close enough for Hoppmann to marry them. They decided on a simple concept for their first restaurant: "reasonably priced American food and drink", hospitality-forward, and, given the neighborhood demographic, family-friendly.
The full bar will have an 8-tap system, two of which pouring white wine and prosecco, and the rest of them, rotating sixtels. Hoppmann says, "Cocktails will be affordable. The price of liquor hasn't gone up that much over the years."
As for the name, it comes from Caitlin's maiden name, Keeney. It evolved into Keen, a kitchen euphemism for sharpening a knife. The restaurant is scheduled to open in late summer, early fall, or as Hoppmann puts it, "harvest time".