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October 19, 2013- Folks. I misled you with my October 11th review, and this is my mea culpa. Back then, I wrote a glowing review of the Dead Rabbit, commenting that the food was worthy of fine dining. That was foolish of me to write after just one sitting.
On October 10th, when I first visited The Dead Rabbit, it was a holiday weekend, and the place was not too crowded, so I witnessed an anomaly of good service. I also did not see how the sausage was made, so to speak.
On October 18th, it was a more normal crowded Friday, and I was sitting downstairs waiting to be called to go to the second floor dining area. I witnessed something appalling. Apparently, the building has no proper internal elevator, and the mystery kitchen is in the basement (something that is always a red flag), so the busboys are assigned to schlep the orders up on foot. However, they first must take the uncovered platters, open to the air, outside to the sidewalk on Water Street, then up the steps used by the public, into the main entrance, then up the second floor steps. I watched the busboys do this many times, and they would bump into drunk patrons quite often. The thought of being the unwitting sucker at the end of the line finally consuming that really disturbed me.
The service at The Dead Rabbit is also atrocious. On October 11th, I indicated that it was just a Irish Pub in disguise, and that it was really a fine dining experience. Nope. It’s just a glorified Irish pub with amateur bartenders downstairs and ultra rude staff upstairs.
I arrived on Friday at 10:40 PM, disappointed that the second floor was too crowded to immediately head up. I took an electronic buzzer (something like Hooters uses) they handed out, but was sitting within eyesight of the James, the jackass velvet rope gatekeeper (who takes orders from some obese guy at the top of the stairs). He was clearly letting his friends right up, cutting the line. A group next to me, also waiting with a coaster buzzer, gave up in disgust. It was too late for me to head to another real restaurant since kitchens close at 11:00, so I watched this transpire for 20 minutes as I drank a lukewarm bad draft ale from the downstairs bar. (I finally left as well, ending up having a horrible $45 taco platter at Bubby’s, which is another story).
The Dead Rabbit is not for adults looking to enjoy a unique dining and drinking experience. It is just another horribly managed bar in FiDi with rude staff, substandard kitchen practices, and a high risk of drunken violence. The old-style cocktails that have made The Dead Rabbit famous are just a fad, and can only be served to a small portion of the patrons, making the establishment mostly just another typical Irish pub.
Overall, The Dead Rabbit is not for the adult crowd looking for a quality experience. It is better than Ulysses on Stone Street, but that is not saying much.
October 11, 2013- By Steven E. Greer
Well, I finally went to the new FiDi bar and restaurant called The Dead Rabbit, which has received international awards for cocktails and bartending. It lived up to the hype.
The Dead Rabbit is the brainchild of two bartenders from Northern Ireland, Jack McGarry and Sean Muldoon. When they were searching for the location of their New York bar, somewhat by chance, the historic building at 30 Water Street became available. Next door is the Fraunces Tavern where George Washington commanded his army during the Revolutionary War. The entire block of buildings is some of the oldest in the city.
Being respectful of history, the two founders decided to create a bar that authentically resembles a bar of the 1850’s, right after the Eerie Canal opened and caused Manhattan to explode with trading. The Martin Scorsese film “Gangs of New York” is set in that era, and the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio (who lives nearby) was part of the “Dead Rabbit” gang, which inspired the name for the modern bar. (I sent a text from the bar to Mr. Scorsese’s talent agent letting him know that a great establishment was inspired by his film).
The Dead Rabbit is really two bars under the same name. Downstairs is a small Irish pub that looks like it has been in business for 100 years, even though it was constructed and opened in 2013. There is sawdust on the floor and a 19th century grocery store in the back. The downstairs offers beer on tap.
For the cocktails that have won the Dead Rabbit international accolades, one needs to go to the second floor (if you are allowed). They keep this bar peaceful and uncrowded, so seating is limited. Groups of patrons are seated at tables, with about 15 seats at the bar as well.
To see why the Dead Rabbit was awarded the 2013 “Best New Cocktail Bar”, and McGarry was named “International Bartender of the Year”, a seat at the bar offers the best vantage point. Customers are immediately greeted by a hostess. The bar concept is explained and a complimentary “punch” is served. The bartender then serves a chilled water, which is always kept full. Most importantly, the bartenders are not rude or dismissive.
The trend in New York City of bars that specialize in labor-intensive cocktails is not new, yet The Dead Rabbit came in as a late entrant and dominated the field. The same way that a new chef rises to the Michelin Star level by choosing the right ingredients and menu, so have the bartenders at The Dead Rabbit.
The cocktail menu is actually a small book, with pages of history and explanations. The drinks are categorized by “Punches”, “Bishops”, “Flips Possets and nogs”, “Cups and cobblers”, “Sours and fizzes”, “Fixes and daisies”, “Slings and toddies”, and so on. Most of the 70 cocktails offered are drinks that New Yorkers have not imbibed for 150 years, making them refreshingly unique. Try asking the bartender for a suggested drink if the menu is overwhelming.
The food menu at The Dead Rabbit is not just an afterthought. It too is a painstaking recreation of authentic 19th Century American food. The cheese platters are well plated and ample in portion. The Scotch Egg, pastry puff dough meat pies, or smoked salmon are creative and worthy of a fine dining restaurant.
If you currently avoid Stone Street and Pearl Street because you think it is nothing but a strip of poorly managed Irish Pubs and sports bars, then you will be pleased by The Dead Rabbit. A new block of very interesting eateries and bars is now available for your patronage in FiDi. (Tell the bartender you read about them on BatteryPark.TV, and post your comments below.)
August 3, 2013- The WSJ wrote up the Dead Rabbit Irish cocktail bar on 30 Water Street. It was voted the bets new bar and best bartender in the world be peers, “In July, just five months after opening, the Dead Rabbit was crowned the world’s best new cocktail bar by an international jury of its peers at the industry event Tales of the Cocktail. Mr. McGarry was named international bartender of the year, and his drinks program was named world’s best cocktail menu.”