Despite common lore, rabbit, like seemingly all mysterious wild or game meats, does not taste like chicken. While it's texturally similar, much of the rabbit served in Chicago restaurants comes from small family farms, which means, unlike commercialized bland poultry, a bite of rabbit packs a rich flavor burst. While it's easier to anthropomorphize than other meats (say "rabbit" and people are likely to think of their childhood pet, Bugs Bunny or Thumper), intrepid eaters who brave the mental block, will reward their palate with a comforting delight. For those aspiring gourmands, here's our guide to some Chicago's best bunny.
Order classic lapin at La Sardine
Sure, the French will eat anything, but unlike horse or organ meats, classic preparations of rabbit—from grilled to stewed—are a staple of almost every bistro menu. La Sardine owner Jean Claude Poilevey is often credited with bringing the bistro to Chicago, so you might as well let him bring you your first rabbit. His Le Lapin Saute au Vin Blanc, a ragout of rabbit, sauteed in white wine with earthy mushrooms and nested on a bed of creamy mashed potatoes, is a true original.
Have it science-style at Moto
Innocuously dubbed on Moto's grand tasting menu as Rabbit and Aromatic Utensils, Cantu's dish is a relatively tame, but intensely flavorful preparation of confited (braised in fat) and roasted rabbit accompanied with scarlet runner beans, white truffle powder and puffed rice. The twist: The corkscrew handle of the fork you'll use is embedded with sage leaf, so as you eat, an herby perfume mixes with each creamy bite of rabbit.
Get it two ways at Blackbird
If you can't decide on modern or classic, Paul Kahan's seasonal New American cooking perfectly bridges old-school craftsmanship and modern flavors. Kahan truly kicks out the jam with his fried Royer's Farm rabbit leg and slow-roasted loin from Indiana, which comes paired with white corn, fresh huckleberries, brussel sprouts and caraway.
Head down to Chinatown's Lao Sze Chuan
According to the Chinese Zodiac, we have three and a half years until the next year of the rabbit, but you can get a head start by heading down to Lao Szechuan for Szechuan-spice rabbit with bone. Dusted with the Chinese five-spice powder, these toothsome hunks of rabbit, perfumed with Star Anise and clove, are paired with crisp scallions and flecked with red pepper.
Jump-start your fix at Fixture
Deep-frying can make even a leather shoe taste good, so for those who might be squeamish at their first bite of rabbit, the rabbit spring rolls at this small plates spot are the perfect introduction. Golden, fried cigars stuffed with rich, braised rabbit and drizzled with strawberry sweet and sour sauce, are so tasty you'll forget why you ever balked at the idea of a little rabbit.
Make your own meal with the Chicago Fresh Poultry House
Dominick's and Jewel don't carry rabbit, so if you've worked your way through all the rabbit dishes in town and have a hankering for more, check in at the Chicago Fresh Poultry House. A one-stop shop for Santeria practitioners and chefs alike, this spot buzzes with live roosters, chickens and rabbits. You can have your choice prey killed, skinned, and wrapped up on the spot, ensuring the freshest meat around.
Want more bunny for your buck? Try these:
Coco Pazzo's serves up meaty strands of braised rabbit mixed with hefty, fresh pappardelle pasta.
Hopleaf's rabbit legs, slow-brewed in a dark Belgian ale, is a close second to the bar's mac 'n' cheese when it comes to comfort food.
Bin 36's rendition—succulent braised rabbit leg and house-cured rabbit sausage—comes with a pool of creamy soft white polenta and scarlet turnips and pairs perfectly with a spicy Sangiovese/Cabernet or Chardonnay.