Jack Rabbit is a welcome addition to Elmwood. It’s the perfect fit for the former JP Bullfeathers building. Why? Because the layout of the ground floor space was never utilized to the fullest. The new manifestation of the space is brilliant. The restaurant is compartmentalized into a series of swanky vignettes, each serving a distinct purpose that contributes to the bigger picture.
Walking through Jack Rabbit is akin to “going down the rabbit hole” in an almost Alice in Wonderland-esque way. Between the various wall hues and the mood lighting, it can be easy to get drawn into the depths of the space… and not so easy to get out.
That’s due to the various captivating decor elements – from an old world bar setting in the way back, to the pool table room with a David Lynchian vibe, it’s a real pleasure to explore this chill seemingly “underground” lair that is situated in-between the back room bar (ideal for private parties) and the front room bar (ideal for live music, with restaurant seating).
There’s a lot to take in at Jack Rabbit. It’s a treasure trove of fluctuating aesthetics that somehow come together to tell a story, featuring different characters – the owners – each of whom has a different role in the creation of the establishment. Take Leacel Hillenbrand, for example. Leacel is the mixologist who developed the bar program. She actually relocated back to Buffalo from the West Coast to take on this project. Leacel told me that while the curated cocktail list might sound complex, they are composed of 3-5 ingredients that make them easier to make, thus less time consuming – no one wants to wait around for 10 minutes for a drink to be made, no matter how good it is. After years in the bar and restaurant business, Leacel has managed to come up with a drink menu that is clever, diverse, and super tasty. The “Golden Afternoon” (tequila, lime, charred pineapple, bitters) was simply splendid.
Although I did not catch any live music (I was there early), I have heard nothing but great things about the quality of the bands. Co-owner Josh Mullin plays in the band CPX, and head chef Kevin Sampson heads up Kevin Sampson and The Night Shift. Having a couple of respected musicians running the show bodes well for the live music scene on Elmwood, which could definitely use a kick in the pants (live music Friday and Saturday nights, and on Sunday during brunch-ish service).
I didn’t get a chance to eat, but I did scour the menu for some items that looked interesting. The rotisserie chicken (viewed in the open kitchen) looked enticing, and the beet burger sounded enticing. A guy sitting next to me was eating a smoked almond and chickpea wrap that not only looked delicious… it was huge! There are burgers, bombers, sandwiches, soups and salads, and cast iron pizzas to choose from. Meat eaters and vegetarians alike will be happy with the menu.
The outdoor seating element brings some much needed life to this section of Elmwood. Jack Rabbit joins Breezy Burrito in offering up some vibrancy and zest. A significant development project is also underway to the north, being undertaken by Whitesand Family LP. Once that $6.2 million project is complete, we will finally be able to rest easier, knowing that this section of the street is finally making a comeback, after a series of businesses closed and/or relocated (closer to Bidwell Parkway).
Jack Rabbit is a refreshing concept that Buffalo should be proud to see open. It’s dedicated to the artists, the musicians, and the customers who are in the mood for elevated pub fare, reasonably priced wine and beer (16 taps), and plenty of eye and ear candy.
Lead image: Decorative murals by Chuck Tingley