Call them hare-raising experiences in all the right ways. From pastas and sausage to whole-roasted, chefs have got their game on when it comes to this savory but lean protein. Earthy and deep, savory yet light enough for summer, it’s time to try hunting for rabbit dishes at these hangouts.
Kachka, Portland, Oregon
There’s a reason the rabbit in a clay pot is one of Kachka’s bestsellers. This signature dish from chef/co-owner Bonnie Morales features hare hindquarters braised in smetana (housemade Russian sour cream), with porcini mushrooms, sour cherries, and garlic. It arrives in a flourish nested inside a clay pot, served with draniki (potato pancakes) on the side. Make a reservation at Kachka.
The Civic, Toronto, Ontario
Traditional dishes executed with modern techniques are the hallmark of The Civic, and the whole-roasted rabbit courtesy of chefs John Sinopoli and Bryant Wigger does not disappoint. The coniglio porchetta is a whole-roasted rabbit rolled with a traditional Italian rub including fennel, black pepper, and rosemary, then served with a mint and pistachio salsa verde. Wigger first had the dish at a mom-and-pop shop in Civita di Bagnoregio, a one-road-in and one-road-out town in central Italy. Make a reservation at The Civic.
Upstairs at The Gwen, Chicago, Illinois
Forget the avocado toast! Executive chef Matt Jergens’ menu features eye-popping color and an eclectic menu of elevated street food inspired by his international travels. The rabbit confit toast includes country bread topped with hare confit and purple potato, and it’s garnished with chili, radish, and a charred lemon—a virtual rainbow on a plate. Make a reservation at Upstairs at The Gwen.
BRABO Brasserie, Alexandria, Virginia
It may be a starter but the carrot velouté with rabbit confit will leave you wanting more. Executive chef Sebastien Rondier tops Amish rabbit confit with a few of Peter Cottontail’s favorites — shaved radishes and baby carrots — for a traditional European fusion dish that goes well with a long Belgian beer list. Make a reservation at BRABO Brasserie.
Donetto, Atlanta, Georgia
Tuscany meets Georgia at Donetto, new to Atlanta’s West Side. Executive chef Elliot Cusher can’t pass up an opportunity for true Italian cuisine, with housemade tagliatelle, tender braised rabbit, firm and meaty Cerignola olives, rosemary, Madeira, and dried white sultana grapes. Make a reservation at Donetto.
Urban Farmer, Cleveland, Ohio
Pierogi are twice as nice at Urban Farmer thanks to the addition of local rabbit and duck. The Urban Farmer’s in-house butcher shop cuts the meats before they are marinated and roasted (separately) with aromatics, garlic, and herbs, then chopped and stuffed into classic Polish pasta pockets. Pan-seared and finished with butter, the pillowy pockets are served with an aromatic caramelized onion and duck bone demi-glace. Make a reservation at Urban Farmer.
Pammy’s, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Forget the wine — Pammy’s chef Chris Willis dreamed up his mafaldine pasta with braised rabbit as a pairing for cardoons, what he calls a “quirky vegetable that most of Italy finds irresistible.” Their hardy texture and crispy crunch are well-suited for pickling, melding with flavors of green peppercorn and nduja, a soft pork sausage with Hungarian paprika, for a bundle of flavors that are spicy, smoky and rich. Willis says, “Rabbit is lean and light when braised; it’s rich but won’t weigh you down on a hot night.” Make a reservation at Pammy’s.
The Florentine, Chicago, Illinois
Executive chef Zach Walrath says that despite having to please most of the people most of the time at a hotel restaurant, his coniglio is a labor of love. “Sometimes you have to make a dish for yourself and your culinary vision. This rabbit dish is that for me — an expression of my culinary vision,” he says. The rabbit loin is a boneless saddle, stuffed with ramps, poached and seared, then served with farro, peas, baby artichokes, confit tomatoes, and olives. Make a reservation at The Florentine.
Ecco, Atlanta, Georgia
Rabbit is double the pleasure, double the fun at Ecco, where executive chef Brent Banda embraces global flavors. The wood-grilled sausage appetizer is complete with English peas, yogurt, mint, and pickled carrot (bonus: it’s gluten-free!). Savory ricotta gnocchi is nestled in braised rabbit ragu, preserved lemon, and wild oregano. Make a reservation at Ecco.
Firefly, Washington, D.C.
It’s savory on steroids at Firefly, where executive chef Rich Falbo serves crispy braised rabbit with charred summer okra and thyme bread pudding on the side. First, the rabbit legs are simmered in wheat beer, then plated over charred summer okra for crunch. His version of “chicken and dumplings” features an herb brioche side and Riesling and black pepper gelee. Make a reservation at Firefly.
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Carley Thornell is a travel writer whose experiences eating street food in Japan, English peas in the UK, free-range steak in Argentina, and Brussels sprouts at Estragon tapas in her hometown of Boston have provided unforgettable culinary inspiration. Shout out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credits: Carly Diaz (Kachka); Fifth Restaurant Group (Ecco); Heidi Geldhauser (Donetto).