If you’ve ever dreamed of following the white rabbit down a hole into the unknown, then this fantasy may not be too far out of reach. Just an hour and a half south of Denver is an Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant that does not require shrinking to three inches, attending tea parties with Mad Hatters and encounters with psychedelic Cheshire cats.
Owner Joe Campana provides a sensible Alice In Wonderland experience in The Rabbit Hole, a basement style bar in downtown Colorado Springs. This unique restaurant has been around for about eight years and continues to fill up every weekend.
True to the mind-altering fantasy, the entrance is only visible above ground with a subway-style entrance on the sidewalk. The entry is a glass box that could almost be confused for an old school phone booth if it wasn’t for the neon ‘The Rabbit Hole’ sign above the entrance. Opening the door is quickly met by a flight of stairs descending down into a mysterious brick laid restaurant with twinkling lights guiding the way.
Just like Alice, once the trip down the rabbit hole subsides, attention is brought to the trippy décor. All throughout the dining areas there are painted murals of Alice and her many animated friends straight out of Disney’s technicolor rendition. Every aspect of this themed restaurant is subtly mastered from the entrance and design to the beverage and fare menu. Both menus are labeled as ‘Eat Me’ and ‘Drink Me’ with familiar nods to Lewis Carroll’s original work. The menu is stacked with gamey meat dishes like cherry braised buffalo ribs, bacon wrapped rabbit meatloaf, and braised Colorado lamb shank.
The bacon wrapped rabbit meatloaf ($17) has a comfort food quality like the food grandma used to make. It’s packed full of flavor from the smoked tomato demi-glace all neatly packaged in crunchy bacon. Don’t worry, this isn’t what happens to rabbits when they are late for a very important date. This dish is served with a side of thick mashed potatoes and fresh green beans.
The drink menu is also wildly reminiscent of the story line in Alice’s adventure with a White Rabbit martini, the Mad Hatter, Queen of Hearts and the Looking Glass. Each cocktail is deliciously boozy in its own right, but the most popular drink is the White Rabbit martini ($12) It is made with vanilla vodka, coconut rum, a dash of cream and topped with a flaming marshmallow.
Where does one come up with an outlandish themed restaurant like this? Campana thought to himself, “What does Colorado Springs need?” He decided the city was in need of something unique and with a little help he created the first basement restaurant in the Springs. His appetite for the hustle and bustle of the restaurant world started when he became a dishwasher at the young age of 11. In his early 20s, he opened his first ice cream/sub shop in Massachusetts and continued to open a variety of creative restaurants in Colorado.
The Rabbit Hole hosts around 400 to 500 people every weekend for dinner with a large part of the crowd made up of Denver metro area residents and quite a few local visitors. With a literary fantasy brought to life, The Rabbit Hole has no problem drawing in a crowd. Campana wanted this restaurant to be taken seriously with its gamey meat dishes and hand-crafted cocktails. It’s safe to say that the food and drink menu have no problem taking on that responsibility.
The Rabbit Hole is located at 101 N. Tejon St., Colorado Springs. Open Daily 4 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.