White Rabbit Waterloo — Feed Your Head

White Rabbit Waterloo — Feed Your Head

White Rabbit
47 King Street North
Waterloo, Ontario   N2J 2W9
(519) 746-7540

Dinner for two with a shared board and beer: $80
Open daily at 11 a.m.

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And if you go chasing rabbits,” as Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane put it, one of the best places to do so is Uptown Waterloo because it is there that you will find a bar called White Rabbit.

White Rabbit has been around for several months now (the song much, much longer), and like the tune, the restaurant has a great vibe. It’s cool and relaxed with a dash of hipster but more rock and roll; the actual physical bar, and I mean where the boozis iz, is, lol, tremendous.

The decor is eclectic and calming with some wood and a tin tile ceiling sort of affair. As for a room with a view, the couple of tables right at the front — and practically on the King Street sidewalk a few feet below — are very entertaining but not if you’re given to vertigo: the flimsy plastic chain guardrail ain’t holding you if you lean too far over with your wobbly pop!

Otherwise, the streetscape noises, which clash in a cacophony of the restaurant’s tunes, the street musicians across the pavement, and the passing vehicles are the urban soundtrack to the coign of vantage — it’s awesome, to use the vernacular.

Street view

The view from White Rabbit: it’s cool when Batman drives by (Photo: WREats).

There’s a blackboard at the back with lots of stuff written on it (most of which was too small for me to read, but White Rabbit is appealing to a younger — and less myopic –clientele). The restaurant refers to itself as a “spirit house.” I can abide. Open daily, weekend breakfast hours resound with either a Led Zeppelin or a Rolling Stones soundtrack on Saturday and Sunday. That I can certainly abide too.

Each crafted (cuz’ that’s in the current vernacular too) in what they describe as an “old-school way,” White Rabbit’s house cocktails, specialty cocktails and punch bowls (like Sangria) are $8, $12 and $40, respectively. The comestibles include classic apps like Cobb salad and devilled eggs (prepped three ways, no less), and there is even a classic shrimp cocktail, the description of which is so classic that it’s written in Latin (“Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit“)! ;o)

There are a half-dozen sandwiches and cheese-and-charcuterie boards followed by brisket and specials like hanger steak (more on that in a minute). There’s eggs Benedict and specialty brunch cocktails on those weekends too.

The service is generally strong: friendly and functional — like you’d expect in a spirit house that has lots of events and goings-on like hip hop and R&B vinyl after 10 p.m. on Sunday, and whence you can enjoy a Sunday bucket of Steamwhistle and an “lb.” of crab legs, too, from 5 – 9 p.m. Dos Equis appears Monday night with smoked duck nachos. Coool. That said, the beer list is sparse compared to other places (nowadays), but that is perhaps to be expected in a joint that specializes in cocktails. There are a half-dozen wines with a few Ontario labels.

Ceviche app is shrimp, lime, cilantro and tomatillos and served with Taco Farm Co.’s most excellent tortillas. The dish has a nice acidity and balance with the cilantro, and the shrimp has decent texture. Otherwise, there’s crab dip, mussels and home-made nut and bolts (that latter is wicked cool).

I didn’t go for it, but the Fat Rabbit Board ($70), among three they prepare (the small bunny of a White Rabbit kitchen generally prepares its boards quite well), includes selections of meats and cheeses, devilled eggs, a couple of dips, and the curious but very welcome cevapcici — the tight little skinless pork-beef sausages hailing from the Balkans. What a refreshing idea.

Ceviche with Taco Farm Co tortillas (Photo: WREats).

Ceviche with Taco Farm Co tortillas (Photo: WREats).

A smoky tofu sandwich (“Meat is Murder” — name the artist) for lunch is actually quite good, though I rarely like the stuff — the decided smokiness has a lot to do with that. And the solid garlic aioli. That’s usually what tofu needs. Wherever they source it from, they’ve picked the right bread for the job, too: it’s substantial in the crust and heavy enough in the crumb to hold the sandwich in proper cohesion.

Smoked tofu

Smoke and tofu (Photo: WREats).

It’s the same with the brisket sandwich — meaty and smoky with a good bun and a mild hit of horseradish — which comes with a bit of jus for dipping. Pickles and a slaw accompany, and together they make for a happy-sloppy lunch.

Box lunch

Brisket sammie with slaw, pickles, jus (Photo: WREats).

At dinner, the brisket is a slice of Carolina-style (vinegar and mustard) sauced smoked brisket with some good bark, some beans, a jar of their cabbage-carrot slaw and house-made pickles. The listed $18 price, I believe, has now jumped to $20. It’s not a huge portion, but given the cost of beef it’s understandable. Eat slowly, savour, and enjoy.


Smoked brisket with slaw ‘n’ beans (Photo: WREats).

The hanger steak ($24) is cooked perfectly and possesses that tangy, mildly metallic flavour characteristic of this cut (which supports the bovine diaphragm). The smoked pistachios are an inspired preparation: they add some texture and flavour and some visual appeal too. Nicely played. A ramekin of collard greens has some bacon and just barely enough sauce to qualify it as creamed in the traditional southern barbecue style.


Hanger steak and collards (Photo: WREats).

Elsewhere on the menu, a chicken confit entree is spiced with Moroccan seasoning (ras el hanout, I’ll guess?) and looks interesting. There’s also a cheese agnolotti with a brown butter sauce and candied pistachios as well as an orzo and tofu-stuffed pepper with roasted black olive paste (which sounds lovely) and salty-briny feta. There’s a market-price daily fish, too.

So, clamber on down the rabbit hole sometime (in a psychedelic way or not; it’s your choice) and remember what the dormouse said: “Feed your head” in downtown Waterloo.

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