I make my way down Buckhead's main drag maddened by my over-stimulated senses. The rising cacophony of club bass beats collides with khaki-clad parking attendants harassing cars with their fluorescent flags. Alluring promoters in Daisy Dukes crown ogle-eyed yuppies with Mardi Gras beads. But ducking into the new Jack Rabbit Lounge, I'm startled by the contrast: The place is empty, save a handful of bleary-eyed partiers and out-of-town businessmen. I feel, indeed, like I've stumbled into the den of a rabbit -- albeit, a sexy, voguish one. (Think Bugs Bunny with a martini in hand.)
The Bunny's Den: Occupying the former Metropolitan Pizza Bar, this place has undergone an impressive facelift in the last year under the direction of Tongue and Groove's business-savvy owners. Now, earthy, velvet-pillowed booths, mushroom stool ottomans, a fiber-optically wired bar, antique carved wooden columns and an ultra-cool digital jukebox complete the organically sleek concept.
Nibblies to start: Jack Rabbit is an ideal oasis amid the Buckhead bedlam to snack and linger over drinks. If you want only to nibble, order for the table the abundant Jack Rabbit Platter ($17), which features about two-thirds of the ingredients in the kitchen including multiple meats, four cheeses, assorted nuts, fig cakes, fresh apples and pears, and toasty baguette slices. The goat cheese fondue ($6) with garlic dipping sticks wasn't the exotic creation we expected from our server's description. Rather, it's more like a hot bowl of marinara sauce topped with a dollop of soft cheese.
Rabbit food: Salads here are simple and forgettable. One night recently, the arugula salad, for example, consisted of nothing but limp, gritty leaves tossed in olive oil, and the promised lemon and Parmesan shavings were mysteriously missing. Only the Caprese salad (milky mozzarella, fresh basil, thick ripe tomato slices balanced with a balsamic dressing) warranted its $5 price tag.
The limited sandwich offerings here are similarly disappointing. I ordered the roast beef sandwich ($6), but instead of the rare, juice-dripping experience I'd hoped for, the meat was dry and overcooked. Its meager roll was likeable and crispy, but even the accompanying horseradish sauce, which piqued my sinuses nicely, didn't do enough to moisten the bread.
Pleasing pizza pie: Jack Rabbit's rustic, gourmet pizzas ($9) are by far the most thoughtfully conceived offerings on the menu. The four-cheese pizza (mozzarella, buffalo mozzarella, goat cheese and feta), cleverly partitioned into quarters by strips of crust to prevent oozing, showcases cheeses handpicked for the restaurant by Atlanta's local fromage guru, Raymond Hook. Intense flavors of rosemary, pesto and feta were carefully paired on the roasted potato pizza. The meat and three (pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, peppers, onions, mozzarella) maintained its thin crispiness, rather than descending into that soggy abyss of topping-overwhelmed pies.
Jack Rabbit's only dessert option, a dry, boring piece of carrot cake, reminded me of the variety found in a hospital cafeteria. If you're still not ready to confront the unruly mobs outside, order a promotional $2 fruit-infused martini (more like pineapple saturated vodka) instead. After all, don't Buckhead bunnies prefer a liquid diet to carrots any day?