Updated: Jan 17
Falling Rabbit was lucky enough to serve Wendell Brock / For the AJC.
Wendell had this to say about his experience -
"When Chuck Woods was growing up in Kansas, his mom used to have a nonsensical poem she’d murmur to herself when they were in the car and she realized she’d left something at home:
I had one once, but the wheel fell off.
So I said to the king, “George, you hold the umbrella, I’ll walk in the rain for a while.”
But it was rabbit season, they were falling out of the trees.
According to Woods, this was just his mother’s way of brushing over a slight inconvenience, and gently moving on with the task at hand.
Fast-forward a few decades.
By now, Woods is an experienced chef with solid credentials (Chicago’s Girl & the Goat). Tired of the big-city rat race, he and his soon-to-be wife, Babs, have followed his parents to Georgia. One day, while exploring the north Atlanta suburbs, they spot a historic masonry building in downtown Duluth. It looks like the perfect home for the restaurant they’ve been contemplating.
With his father and two brothers, Woods ends up buying the property, the former First Baptist Church of Duluth parsonage. After navigating the terrors of the pandemic and a complex build-out, the couple open Falling Rabbit in November. With a commanding front patio and a whimsically designed interior by Studio SOGO, it provides an idyllic setting for Chuck’s modern cooking and Babs’ fetching cocktails.
The name, inspired by his mother’s patter, sets the tone for an experience that is both a trip down the proverbial rabbit hole — note the neon sign in one corner that says “Let me lick your plate,” the surrealist paintings, the dark dusky walls — and an invitation to let go of your troubles. Or, as the 34-year-old chef puts it: “Relax and smile and be happy.”
My first experience at Falling Rabbit happened not in the season of hares — but, rather, hurricanes. My mission, to sit out front as dusk fell on Duluth, was sabotaged by an outright tempest. So I settled into a booth by the window, and soon there were cocktails and crumpets and grilled oysters and scallops and, yes, even some rabbit to soothe my soul. (I’m told the patio will soon be equipped with a retractable roof, so a surprise rain shower won’t be a total buzzkill.)
Chuck is an ambitious, technically accomplished chef, with a sophisticated palate and a filigreed style. You just never know what he’s going to pull out of his hat! He loves smoke and char, acid and fat — sometimes, it seems, in a single bite. He dispatches seasonal gems — strawberries, corn, white asparagus, watermelon, edible flowers — with aplomb, creating stunning visual compositions and explosive flavors.
Babs, for her part, has devised a list of nine clever and inventive cocktails — all of them original, some riffing on the classics (Watermelon Negroni, an Old Fashioned with grape must). I loved the rye-based Green on the Vine, with strawberry-dill shrub and rose vermouth.
A dish of summer squash — with crab mole, bacon and cocoa — was somewhat heavier than I envisioned. Tiny pattypans and zucchinis were overpowered by a sauce that would seem more suitable to baked beans than tender squash fingerlings.
Moving on to the mains: The kitchen really soared with the charred rabbit and seared scallops. Both were smothered in a laundry list of this and that (morel and chanterelle conserva, sunflower creme, demi-glace, smoked blueberries, and summer salad on the rabbit; elotes, pickled cherry tomatoes, tart cherry conserva, corn puree and so on, on the scallops). And yet, they were delicious.
Woods sometimes overreaches, sometimes overwhelms. But he’s a talent worth getting to know, come rain or come shine.
Menu: Contemporary American cuisine, with an ever-changing seasonal menu
Alcohol: Thoughtful cocktails, wine and local craft beers. For patio sipping, try the Green on the Vine. The Folie a Deux Pinot Gris (Sonoma County) was lovely with the scallops.
What I ordered: Crumpets, grilled oysters, scallops, rabbit loin, summer squash, sponge cake
Service options: Dine-in and takeout
Mask policy: Encouraged but not required for all staff and guests
Address, phone: 3580 W. Lawrenceville St., Duluth; 770-623-1452
Hours: 4-10 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturdays; 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sundays."
The entire staff at Falling Rabbit would like to thank Wendell Brock for visiting our elegant fine dining downtown Duluth restaurant. Brock is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer and highly respected by our team. We look forward to his visits again in the near future!