A red glow illuminates a section of the sidewalk on Tejon Street. The lit letters read “The Rabbit Hole” and appear on what first resembles an old telephone booth. It is only upon approaching the small structure that a stairway leading down below the street is noticeable.
The Rabbit Hole is one of Colorado Springs’ only themed restaurants, inspired by the well-known story of “Alice in Wonderland.” This wonderland, however, takes the shape of an intimate, elite drinking and dining establishment. Deep red lights decorate the walls and ceilings, revealing paintings and images of a modern interpretation of Alice and other characters in her story. These paintings have been selected from a series of artists who specialize in Alice-in-Wonderland-themed works.
After descending the spiral staircase, one has the seating options of high tables, booths, or more intimate cubby spaces. Moments after being seated, a waiter or waitress appears in black clothing to introduce themselves.
“I really just enjoy everything,” said Alison Baker, who has worked as a waitress at the Rabbit Hole for about six months now. “I like that we have an Alice-in- Wonderland-themed restaurant.” Most other servers, however, have been with the establishment for three to five years, which allows for a consistently familiar and friendly atmosphere.
Joe Campana opened the Rabbit Hole about six years ago. The space existed as another restaurant prior to Campana’s ownership, and a morgue before that. The set up of the underground restaurant calls for a “down the rabbit hole” theme that is distinct from the other two establishments Campana currently owns: Bonny and Read, a seafood restaurant in downtown Colorado Springs, and Super Nova, a cocktail and coffee place.
The menu, which opens with the words “Nibbles” and “Rabbit Food,” offers a large variety of appetizers, from roasted brussel sprouts with a Thai chili glaze and duck wings with an orange honey glaze, to “Bunny Bites” (fried nuggets of rabbit meat). A new addition to the appetizer menu is the mushroom tempura truffles dusted in Old Bay seasoning, a flavor that brings customers out of Colorado and straight to the East Coast. The entrée menu offers a similar variety of food options — from their famous truffle cauliflower mac and cheese and bacon-wrapped rabbit meatloaf, to dishes like seared ahi tuna with bok choy and chili sauce, and seared scallops over forbidden rice. The menu also offers vegetarian and vegan options.
With each visit to the establishment, new appetizers and entrées appear on the menu, allowing the restaurant to feel more active and alive. It is not only the food, however, that invokes this feeling—it is the energy flowing through the three main spaces underground as well. “It was warm and cozy, and I ordered a soulwarming stew,” said junior Sophia Skelly.
The Rabbit Hole is open every day from 4:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., and it is usually full of excited and intentional customers. Not only is this groovy, underground wonder a delicious dinner spot, but it is also a classy stop for a drink in the early to late evenings, with a generous happy hour selection where all nibbles become $3, and drinks are 50 percent off. The menu offers a variety of themed drinks, good wine and beer, and delicious cocktails. On Sunday nights, purchasing two entrees comes with a $6 bottle of Penfolds.
Although pricier than other restaurants downtown, the quality and high standard of food served at the Rabbit Hole makes the price feel considerably lower. With dim lighting, sophisticated art, and sensible background music, the Rabbit Hole seems to allow the wonderland-loving children in each of us to become matured and classy. This dining experience calls for a night of treating oneself or sharing an intentional meal with another.