Luke Shimp's menagerie is growing. To his expanding collection of Red Cow burger joints, he's about to add Red Rabbit, an Italian/Mediterranean influenced eatery with chef Todd Macdonald at the helm. They've rehabbed an old 1906 auto shop building in the North Loop (on what one might say is a "hot" corner with Sex World and Choice nightclub as neighbors) and I happened to pop by during their training to sneak a peek. Check it out!
The restaurant is divided into two spaces, the front room is the bar which runs the whole length of the room. There's enough beer here, but the focus is more on wine and cocktails. They're trying a new wine saver system that reads and adjusts the oxygen in the wine bottles to give you the freshest sip in your glass. There will be some 42 wines by the glass, half are $10 or under.
The other side of the bar includes banquet seating (with lots of outlets at foot level) and booths. The wall is decked in a custom felted wallpaper that has sound dampening properties, which is nice.
On the very end of the bar, there's a door to the outdoor patio, plus a garage window that will roll up for a summertime two-seater bar.
Shimp loved the age of the walls and wanted to keep things as real and rough as they were, so there's a lot of patchy brick and exposed mechanicals that give it an industrial touch. "The history of the building in this neighborhood is something you can feel and see, I love that. When we were digging out the back patio area, we found part of another old building on the site that must have been a burlesque hall, so we incorporated it in the back wall," Shimp said.
But he also wanted comfort and a bit of a softer tone, so the other side of the dining room is more styled. Instead of barnwood, they used charred cedar planks on the walls. There's an light design tie to Red Cow, but this place clearly has a more elegant feel.
There is nice amount of seating options, from tables to booths and banquets, plus there's a semi-private area with a big long table and colorful Italian glass chandelier above it (all my pics of that sucked).
Red Rabbit drinks
The Drinks! Barman Ian Lowther was training a few cocktails with his new crew. The long and slender drink he made was a light vermouth and tonic made with Cocchi Americano and house tonic, "I think this is going to be popular, it's so light and refreshing but full of flavor," Lowther said. The other beauty was a specialty creation called Bittersweet Symphony which has Martin Miller Westbourne gin and Aperitivo Select, "It's an Italian spirit from Venice that we're getting exclusively for a few months. It just gives this drink a nice lift." That little book in the lead photo is the bar menu, which is a bound booklet outlining their libation selections, but also providing their recipe for limoncello, a little history of the Negroni, and some cheeky illustrations that will make it hard to keep from slipping into a purse here and there (ahem).
Plates of food at Red Rabbit
The Food: The kitchen was cranking out dishes for the staff to taste and learn. I was happy to see some big meatballs with a chunky tomato sauce, pizzas coming out of the wood oven, and a generous bowl of gemelli and shrimp. I was very interested in the grain salad with farro and rutabaga with a swipe of creme fraiche, and hello: that's chicken parm. Chicky chicky parm parm with legit reggiano, fontina, and mozzerella on top. The good smells were killing me, and if I hadn't had a dinner to go to, I might have just run amok with my fork.
Hungry yet? Here's a bad pic of the menu just to tease you a bit more and give you an idea of what you're in for when the place opens up on Dec. 20 for lunch and dinner daily. Get hungry!!