Food & Drink

Review: Bunny’s, Buckets & Bubbles Offers Fun Food in Fells Point

Known for coming up with quirky, original concepts, chef Jesse Sandlin has pulled yet another rabbit out of her hat.
Sandlin toasts to her new eatery. —Photography by Justin Tsucalas

From the minute you enter the space, it’s hard not to succumb to the eclectic charms of Bunny’s, Buckets & Bubbles, with its pale pink walls and Lawrence Welk-worthy bubble chandeliers. There are also, as the name implies, bunnies, lots of bunnies that seem to, well, multiply throughout the space—from the bunny artwork on the walls to the bunny drawer pulls behind the U-shaped bar, and even Playboy bunnies in a bathroom. In other words, it’s a far cry from its earlier incarnation as Fells Point rustic watering hole The Wharf Rat.

Co-owner-chef Jesse Sandlin (a Top Chef alum) has always had a knack for opening cute concepts, from her elevated bar, The Dive, in Canton to her quirky neighborhood bar, Sally O’s, in Highlandtown. But if the place was nothing more than a clever conceit, it wouldn’t work.

Since its summer opening, it can be tough to score a seat, not only because everyone loves a little alliteration, but because the food is so damn delicious. It helps that beverage supervisor Jake Tarr, late of the Bluebird Cocktail Room and Sally O’s, offers an inventive list of cocktails as well as a lovely inventory of “bubbles” (Champagne), making this place the whole package.

Bunny's co-owner Jesse Sandlin takes a break.
Bunny decor.

There are many ways to approach the menu here. As with most of Sandlin’s spots, the emphasis is on rich and decadent, calories-be-damned Southern flavors. You can make a meal out of small snacks and starters, a substantial sandwich, or one of the eight or so elevated entrees.

Across several visits, we enjoyed an order of the smoky trout dip with chervil and roe served with our favorite Ritz crackers, whose buttery sweetness tempers the flavor of the fish, then moved on to a deviled egg sampler, three egg halves, each one crowned with a different topping—lump crab, mustard seed, pimento cheese, and crispy chicken skin. The eggs were tasty, though the toppings were on the skimpy side, making it difficult to discern the difference among them. The pickled vegetable plate, which arrives in a glass jar, is an assortment of tangy pickled peppers, carrots, and radishes and looks like something out of Peter Cottontail’s garden, though the portion was just big enough for a small rabbit.

The delectable pimento dip (known as the “pâté of the South” or “cowboy caviar”)—a mixture of shredded cheddar cheese, cream cheese, mayonnaise, and pimentos, plus a shower of scallions—fits right in with the theme of the menu. Even the Caesar salad, a riff on a kale salad, has a Southern accent here. This version features chopped collard greens as a base, tossed with pickled red onions, boiled peanuts, and cornbread croutons all doused with a classic but kicky Caesar dressing that balances the slight bitterness of the greens and shows off Sandlin’s ability to put a new spin on traditional dishes.

Unsurprisingly, fried chicken gets top billing here—and for good reason. Sandlin’s version is twice dredged in rice flour and fried in canola oil, making it gluten-free. It comes in orders of two or four pieces or a bucket (eight pieces), accompanied by pickle slices, biscuits, and a variety of sauces. (Spring for the honey butter for an additional dollar to complete the feast.)

A bucket of fried chicken, plus dips.
Flaky biscuits.

On our visit, we dug into a breast and a thigh served on a blue tray with blue and white checked wax paper. (Again, the thigh was on the small side—best to fork over an additional $4 for two breasts.) We savored the copper-colored crust that flaked off the chicken in shards, revealing well-seasoned meat. It’s also served with a housemade sauce of your choosing. (The miso-hot-honey sauce was a winner.)

And while the high-low combination of Champagne and a bucket of fried chicken might seem like strange bedfellows, once you try it, you’ll really like it. The marriage of grease from the chicken and acidity from the Champagne makes the perfect pairing. Sparkling wines, which are also offered, work well, too.


We also loved Sandlin’s trademark smashburger—two four-ounce patties topped with lettuce, cheese, pickles, and a proprietary sauce on a sesame seed bun. It’s engineered for maximum impact, as all the ingredients meld together into one terrific and wonderfully messy sandwich.

While the bar food is great, make no mistake, the kitchen is just as nimble with more upscale, chef-driven entrees. On one visit, my dining companion declared the Baltimore crab rice, a heaping portion of Carolina Gold rice middlins tossed with jumbo lump crab, asparagus, and cherry tomatoes, his favorite dish. The fat rice middlins gave the dish an almost polenta-like texture. On our second visit, an intensely flavorful shrimp and grits—five fat prawns resting in a pool of bacon-flecked velvety grits—was an outstanding interpretation of the Low Country favorite.

As she’s proven with past projects, Sandlin is a master of reinvention, coming up with quirky, original concepts and dishes that are both unique to her brand and feel oh-so-Baltimore. With Buckets, Bunny’s & Bubbles, she’s pulled yet another rabbit out of her hat.

The Scoop

BUNNY’S, BUCKETS & BUBBLES: 801 S. Ann St., 443-708-3861. HOURS: Kitchen: Sun.-Thurs. 4-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 4-11 p.m. Bar: Sun.-Mon. 4 p.m.-midnight. PRICES: Salads, snacks, starters: $4-24; entrees: $24-48; desserts: $10. AMBIANCE: Barnyard chic.