Slated to open mid-August, chef Erik Till’s long-awaited White Rabbit will add one more dining option to the burgeoning Brewery District. Till and general manager Lisa Edge hope it will bring a touch of playfulness, too.
“Our thought process was [to create] something that has a little bit of fun to it,” says Till, who also owns Commonwealth Sandwich Bar. The food—Till describes it as modern-French-meets-new-American—will be paired with fresh takes on old-school cocktails.
For example, Till will fry up frog legs buffalo-style, swapping traditional accompaniments for celtuce (also called stem lettuce, it tastes like celery) and a wedge of a sort of savory cake made by layering bleu cheese between crepes that are stacked one on top of the other.
Ingredients will be sourced locally when possible, including black truffles from the owners’ farm.
From behind the marble-top bar, classic cocktails like Manhattans and Harvey Wallbangers will be mixed using house-made bitters and fresh-squeezed juices, served over hand-cut ice.
The ambiance will offer a complementing throwback vibe. Years of modernization have been stripped from the former Tommy Keegan’s space. It’s been returned to its industrial roots; its exposed brick, wooden beams and arched ceilings lit by chandeliers from the 1920s. It’s a restaurant that invites guests to dine unpretentiously on elegant fare, Till says.
What can diners expect at White Rabbit?
Higher-end food and drink in a low-key atmosphere. We are incorporating an underground reservations-only speakeasy cocktail lounge and an ivy-covered, open-air patio that opens directly into the main dining room. We will also serve Sunday brunch, which was almost nonexistent in the Brewery District until now. [On the menu,] think foie gras and wild mushroom pot pies and Kentucky fried duck, house-cured charcuterie and a raw bar.
Why hand-cut ice?
We’re going to be very whiskey-forward. All of our [hand-cut] ice will look like a ball of glass. It’s better temperature control of things without diluting the drinks. It has a prettier look at the end of the day.
You originally hoped to open in November 2012. Why the delay?
The majority of our time was spent on engineering issues. The building was built in the 1890s. It’s very difficult to make that work in some aspects. The majority of time was spent on cabinetry and fine detailing woodwork done on site.
Can you tell us more about the space?
The main room will seat about 90 people. It has a very natural, antique ambience. The majority of the wood we’re using for the tables is reclaimed. We’re doing a lot of blowtorching the wood and distressing it. The bar has salvaged metal. The base of the bar is cladded with steel and riveted together. It has the appearance of an old ocean liner.