2/20 Charlotte: Rhino Market and Deli

When I was in first grade, my good friend owned a Great Dane. It was probably a very gentle dog but his size alone had me convinced that he was on the verge of eating me up at any moment. To avoid the crippling anxiety I would feel anytime I walked into her house, I started to tell my friend that I was allergic to dogs and she needed to put her wild beast, I mean sweet dog, in the basement. This experience may actually be the reason why I did not become a dog owner until I turned 41.

For years, my kids would ask for a dog and I would explain that our house was not big enough and it would not be fair to the animal. The reality was that owning a dog was not high on the list of things I wanted to see integrated into our already busy lives. My excuse worked for awhile but then we moved into a bigger home and I was persistently reminded me that we now had enough room for a dog. Well, I reached into my bag of tricks and got the kids two fish and a Wii and ended up buying some time. Most people, especially my kids, began to think the Celebrity Apprentice would become President before the Johnstons ever got a dog. Fast forward to summer 2016 and I started to open up to the idea of bringing a dog into the family. The main reason was because I wanted the kids to grow up with a dog and not ever feel pressure to stage a fake sneezing episode to keep domesticated pets at a distance. So, on September 2, 2016, Duffy Johnston joined our family, stole my heart and left me forever grateful that we took the plunge. Anyone who is reading this and knows me personally is not allowed to throw the aforementioned sentence in my face.

Duffy Johnston

So how do Duffy and the Rhino Market and Deli relate? Well, in our new world of dog ownership, we seek out pet friendly restaurants. My husband has lost his governor on where is an appropriate place to bring an animal so I have to constantly remind him that most people who show up at a restaurant do not want to be sniffed by our schnoodle while enjoying a sandwich. So, on a rainy bank holiday in January, we set out for a late lunch with Duffy at a place that is definitely pet friendly- the Rhino Market. This was probably not the best day to sit outside with a dog as it had been raining on and off but there was a cover on the back patio so the seats were dry. Andy and Duffy stayed outside and I walked in to order him (Andy, not Duffy) the Rhino Club Sandwich and the Vegetable Soup for myself. It was very easy to get distracted once inside because there are so many things to check out. Between the unique assortment of dehydrated meats (including lamb and ostrich), the beautiful variety of soft cheeses and the bar with craft beers on tap, I felt like this place was designed based on my husband’s interpretation of the most important food groups. I smiled at the old school candies (e.g. Boston Baked Beans) and random trinkets (i.e. mini-Gumby doll) that looked like they came straight out of a small town 5 and Dime store and I chatted briefly with the nice guy sitting behind the counter. I snooped around a little longer and was impressed to see Rhino does not just push local (and non-local) beers and wines but the Charlotte-based coffee businesses were also quite well represented. I could probably go on and one about the variety of products that fill the shelves at Rhino but the point is there are a lot of cool things to check out and this is by no means just a deli or just a market.

Once our lunch was ready, I headed back to the patio where Andy and Duffy were chatting up some other patrons. Based on the number of dog bowls and kid stuff, this patio has seen its fair share of family outings. One of the employees even came out to make sure Duffy had water to drink. In fact, on a Monday afternoon it was pretty much adults and dogs so I suppose it would only make sense that Wu-Tang Clan was blasting overhead. Really. Super loud and super explicit. Anyway, Duffy rolled with it while his favorite humans had a nice lunch.

This past weekend we decided to go back to Rhino Deli when the sun was shining. Actually, we were heading to nearby Frazier Park to take Duffy to the dog park (yes, I now love my dog so much that I even went to my first ever dog park) and we stopped at Rhino for a quick snack. The place was still full of happy patrons and pups, the staff was still super friendly and the music (albeit now PG) was still on par with a nightclub. At this rate, Duffy can’t wait to go back. Two down, 18 to go.

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