CHEROKEE EATS: Rabbit Trap Diner
Denise Rabbitt, Cherokee Nation citizen and owner of Rabbit Trap Diner in Peggs, stands in front of her kitchen on Feb. 18, just two weeks after opening. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Fry bread at the Rabbit Trap Diner in Peggs has fast become a customer favorite. COURTESY
The Rabbit Trap Diner offers a special dining experience in Peggs with its décor and menu. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Beatrice Rabbit, 87, makes a batch of Bea Rabbit’s Famous Chicken & Dumplins at the Rabbit Trap Diner in Peggs. COURTESY
One of the Rabbit Trap Diner’s most popular side orders is fried potatoes. COURTESY
A meal of stew, fried potatoes and cornbread is seen at the Rabbit Trap Diner in Peggs. COURTESY
Denise Rabbitt, of Locust GroveESTABLISHED:
Feb. 5, 2020LOCATION:
6242 Hwy. 82 in PeggsHOURS:
11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday through SundayFOOD TYPE:
Home-cooked comfort foodSPECIALTIES:
Indian taco with fry bread, traditional hog fry, goulashDRINKS:
Cherry limeades, lime drags, Rose Rock CoffeePRICE:
$5-$12 for average mealATMOSPHERE:
26-table dining room with family and banquet seating CONTACT INFO:
BY CHAD HUNTER
PEGGS – Within two weeks of opening, the Rabbit Trap Diner with its Cherokee-inspired menu has become a fast favorite in Peggs.
“The people, they keep coming,” restaurant owner Denise Rabbitt said. “I did not expect this. I’m still in awe. Talk about a blessing.”
With ample help from family, Rabbitt serves what she calls home-cooked comfort food “that we all love and traditional recipes that we miss.” Her goal is to create an atmosphere akin to Sunday dinner with family.
“We’re about family,” she said. “I want to be able to call people by their names when they come in. I want everybody catered to.”
Unlike her restaurant, Rabbitt, 51, spells her name with two t’s instead of one “because they messed up somewhere down the line.”
“I’m the only one out of the Rabbit family with two t’s,” she added, pointing to a family-filled support staff that includes her mother, Beatrice Rabbit.
“She’ll be 87 in May,” she said. “She still cooks the chicken and dumplings and the fry bread in the back.”Why did you start the business?
Rabbitt, who grew up near Locust Grove, said cooking and baking for others was a lifelong dream.
“Me and my mom, we’ve always wanted to open a restaurant,” Rabbitt said. “She taught me to cook. I love it. It’s not a job; it’s a pleasure. I just like to feed people. Food makes people happy. So, we’re living the dream. I’m glad she’s still around to see it.”
Rabbitt said she grew up “in a Christian atmosphere with the traditional Cherokee ways.”
“I’m very proud of our heritage,” she said. “Dad was full-blood. We used to cook on the creek, even in the summertime. Any time we gathered, it was always a family reunion.”
Of the overall dining experience at Rabbit Trap Diner, “It’s like pulling up to the creek, getting your lawn chair, sitting down and grabbing your plate,” Rabbitt said.What’s on the menu?
Rabbitt attributes the diner’s early success to dishes such as her hog fry, a traditional Cherokee social meal.
“You’ve got your hog fry, your beans, potatoes and bread,” she said. “I’m going back to the old-timers. Daddy, I grew up with him on cornbread and milk, fried bologna sandwiches. My nephew, whenever he used to come down all the time, him and Dad would have fried bologna and hot-link sandwiches, so that’s why we’ve got the ‘Noony’s Favorite.’”
Other early favorites are goulash, macaroni with tomatoes and fried potatoes.
“We go through about 100 to 150 pounds of potatoes a day,” Rabbitt said. “Fried potatoes with bell peppers and onions, they just cannot get enough. When they order two sides, it’s two sides of fried potatoes.”
Fry bread has also turned out to be a top draw, Rabbitt said.
“We’re cutting back on our rolls because everybody wants that fry bread,” Rabbitt said. “We cook fry bread all day long. The thing is, everybody makes their fry bread different. So when people come in, they need to know if it’s different, it’s because we have different cooks. All the Natives do it a different way, so expect that. It’s home cooking. You didn’t get the same thing at mama’s house either every time.”
The “trap” in Rabbit Trap Restaurant stands for traditional recipes and pies, Rabbitt said. Beatrice Rabbit’s raisin pies have been a hit “because you don’t get raisin pie anywhere,” her daughter said.
“The cupcakes are starting to catch on,” she added. “We do offer sugar-free. So people just need to ask because it may be different. We may have a cobbler one day and pie the next. We just never know. There again, it goes back to mama’s kitchen – you get what you get.”What are your future plans?
With space inside to grow, Rabbitt hopes to open a coffee bar, bakery and gift shop in an adjacent room to the restaurant.
“The locals want to come in and have coffee,” she said. “This will open up at 7 a.m. and whatever pies we have left over, we’ll serve those. We’re going to do muffins and cupcakes.”
Just weeks into her venture, Rabbitt is looking to expand her cooking and baking area because, “Honestly, we’ve outgrown our kitchen,” she said.
She also plans to offer additional traditional meals.
“I’m going to bring in squirrel and Mom’s going to make squirrel dumplings,” Rabbitt said. “We’re going to have rabbit and wild onions.”
The Rabbit Trap Diner is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. On those days, Rabbitt plans to offer curbside or carry-out service for locals.
“Those two days will be call-in only or delivery if we get that going,” she said. “I want to take care of my community. I’ll offer like two things on the menu. We’re going to have to be here prepping anyway, so if we can throw some burgers on there and send them out the door, we might as well.”Reviews:
The Rabbit Trap Diner’s Facebook page, @rabbittrapdiner, has garnered a list of glowing reviews:
“Like having your mom and grandma both in the kitchen trying to outdo each other!” Shawn Bates, Locust Grove
“Awesome food! Seriously some of the best home cooking I’ve had! Great service and sweet owners. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should!” Becky Campos, Pryor
“Absolutely, hands down, my new favorite place to eat.” Jessica Smith, Stilwell
“Best comfort food I have had. Fry bread was perfect, hamburger steak had good quality meat with lots of flavor with awesome gravy!” Jhonett Crow, Tahlequah
“Hands down best Chicken and Dumplings, fry bread, gravy and deviled eggs that I’ve ever had!” Sherry Yokum Lujan, Olive
Cherokee Eats highlights Cherokee-owned eateries and their specialties. Send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org