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Black Rabbit (91 Greenpoint Avenue), the latest addition to Greenpoint's pocket of bars near Franklin Avenue, is tricked out with booths that have call buttons to alert servers when you're ready for your next round. But those buttons aren't toysor at least that's what some patrons should have been told on a recent Saturday-night visit. "How weird!" exclaimed an easily amused woman as she hunched forward and pressed the on-and-off switch, causing a red light bulb to flicker.
The perfectly gimmicky booths are enclosed with low swinging doors, lending them a few extra points on the quaint-o- meter, but the drink menu is the place's strong point, with its $3 cans of Guinness, $5 tap beersincluding oddball imports like Bitburgerand $7 Dark and Stormys. The reasonable prices were a good indication that the owner knows the area's yuppie demographic well, and its struggling twentysomethings even better. Kent Lanier, who tends bar at his month-old spot, made my companion's sangria from scratch and muddled the fruit himself. I branched out a bit and opted for the Cactus Berry, a margarita-meets-sangria mix of Rioja, tequila, triple sec, and fresh lime juicethen opted for another and another.
While the drinks may be easy on the wallet, the décor at the former home-nurse-training center is decidedly swanky. The space is done up in a sophisticated Algonquin Hotel/British pub look: There's a Dutch-style front door, dark lacquered woods, long benches along the back wall, and parlor-esque reading lamps lining the bar. An oil portrait of Lehain's Irish great-grandfather, whose nickname was Black Rabbit, is mounted above the cash register. We hit the eavesdropping jackpot waiting for our order of Welsh rarebit, a fondue-like dish of melted cheese mixed with beer and chunks of bread (other items included mini-cheeseburgers and tater tots with rarebit sauce). On our left, two guys were having an animated discussion about their ideal comic-book plots. Unable to make out everything the Marvel geeks said over the Vapors' "Turning Japanese," we could ascertain that said plots involved characters like Simon and Garfunkel zombies. On our right was the proverbial pick-up artist. While it wasn't strange to see a dude asking two deeply-out-of-his-league girls if they lived in the neighborhood, we couldn't help but notice he was also casually flipping through an issue of Cosmopolitan. Huh? Were we witnessing a brilliant display of skills gleaned from VH1's The Pick Up Artist, a reality show that teaches dateless men how to attract women by acting like dumbasses? No. The guy eventually sauntered off, and one of the girls told us the magazine was hers: She had laid the Cosmo on the bar stool to reserve the seat, but was too embarrassed to claim it when he approached.
So maybe knuckleheadedness is a latent thing at the Rabbit, but there's enough of an earnest air in the joint to even things out. We asked Lehain if a letter board that said "Saturday, 80s-ish" was a reference to the night's music. "No, it's the weather forecast."