At Staples High School, Casey Dohme earned fame as a baseball player. He played at Franklin & Marshall College too, where he majored in religious studies and government.
But during college he got a job at Bobby Q’s. He had fun, earned good money, and caught the restaurant bug.
Two summers later, former Bobby Q’s manager Mike Dobbs hired Casey at his new spot: The Ginger Man, in South Norwalk. Casey quickly moved up the ranks, from busboy to general manager. A couple of years ago he headed to Stamford, to open up a Ginger Man there.
He liked the small chain’s emphasis on craft beers. He helped organize beer dinners, beer events and beer education series. He loved finding new local breweries.
One day, he hoped, he’d come up with his own concept and project.
That day has arrived. Working with a pair of former Ginger Men — aspiring brewer Matt Bacco and chef Jamie Pantanella — he’s taken over SoNo’s old Bradford’s sports bar, on North Main Street.
They’ve cleaned up the woodwork, installed a big 10-foot tap from a Norwalk boatyard, installed 27 TVs, and designed a food and beverage menu that kicks the former place up a few notches.
There will be the typical sports bar wings and things, but also some surprises: a shrimp po-boy, ribeye cheese steak, sweet potato hummus and more.
Casey’s father — a longtime Westport builder, specializing in restorations — has added his expertise.
The result is the Blind Rhino. A soft opening is planned for tonight (Thursday, October 15), with the doors open to the public tomorrow.
Casey’s new place will also prove “you can have good wine in a sports bar.”
I asked about the differences between the dining scenes in South Norwalk, and in his hometown.
He likes both places. Westport, Casey says, now has a real “dining scene.” But SoNo is a “destination spot,” with restaurants near each other and an energetic vibe.
“It’s all good for Fairfield County,” Casey says.
And for anyone looking for a new place to watch sports, enjoy a creative menu and drink craft beer.