Interview with Matt Baumgartner
General Manager of The Rabbit Hole
101 N. Tejon Street, Colorado Springs, CO 80903
We never tire of taking groups to the ever popular and always crazy busy subterranean restaurant known as The Rabbit Hole. Owner Joe Campana has created a wonderland of cocktails and food in a swanky atmosphere right off the main drag in downtown Colorado Springs. The walls are lined with local art reflecting the uniqueness of this downtown hotspot. Thankfully, we’ve been working with them long enough (pretty much since the beginning!) that our Original Colorado Springs Food Tour still gets a reserved table every weekend!
We sat down with our friend and General Manager Matt to find out more about The Rabbit Hole. Read more below!
What are your favorite menu items?
I have three items that I always seem to rotate through. First is the bacon wrapped rabbit meatloaf; it’s not like grandma’s meatloaf, that’s for sure. The second menu item I’m in love with would be the cherry braised buffalo short ribs. It is braised for four hours, which helps the flavors develop and the meat falls off of the bone. Lastly, I really like the chorizo stuffed bacon wrapped prawns. It’s a mouthful to say, but so delicious.
Are there any fun facts or secrets about the menu and/or how it was created?
There’s a lot of credit to be thrown around as far as the menu is concerned. We’ve had items on the menu remain practically unchanged since the first menu, while others have stayed around but been altered in their appearance or style. We never want our menu to be drab or uninspired, so we usually do some seasonal changes, which come from the minds of our creative kitchen.
How did you get started in the restaurant industry?
I started in the restaurant industry when I was sixteen as a busboy at a local diner. The waitresses would tip me out at the end of the night and I’d take my money to the arcade right next door and spend the majority of it there. I may not have had much savings, but I could beat anyone in Mortal Combat.
Tell us about some of your core values as a manager?
My hope as a manager is to remain accessible to my staff. Nightly, I hardly leave the floor. Patience and communication are also fundamental. Understanding how to motivate and encourage people who all have different personalities, strengths and weaknesses. I just try to fill in whatever gaps I see happening nightly. I try to be wherever I am needed the most to allow my staff to spend more time with our guests. If I’m able to clear up some of their time by doing the little things, I feel they are able to do their job better. Night after night, my staff is what makes us successful.
If you were stranded on a desert island and could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what food would that be?
Easy, mozzarella stuffed meatballs. Sunflower seeds are a close second.
The Rabbit Hole sits in a rather unique space, can you tell us a bit about it’s history?
Part of the uniqueness of the Rabbit Hole is the space. Legend has it that part of the space was originally the city morgue back in the 1800s. For a long period of time after that, it gets a bit muddled as to what the space was used for. It was the basement of whatever business accepted the upstairs, so it’s safe to assume that it was probably used for storage the majority of its existence. My first experience in the space was when it had been converted into a Moroccan restaurant in the late 90’s, early 2000’s. It then briefly became a nightspot called the Metropolitan which is where the unique entrance came from. It was built out like a Parisian subway entrance. When that place didn’t survive is when our owner, Joe Campana, turned it into what it has become today.
Why was the Alice in Wonderland theme chosen?
From what I understand the naming of the restaurant and its theme was really a last minute thing. The spot was very close to being called “Locals” or something similar, which was going to offer all Colorado products. Owner Joe Campana was taking some friends down to the location before it was opened and one of them said “it’s like going down a rabbit hole.” The name stuck, and the original concept didn’t even change with the name because most of the products we serve are from Colorado.
We know that all of the artwork throughout the restaurant is done by local artists. Which is your favorite piece?
My favorite piece is a mural in the back room of the restaurant that was taken from an Alice in Wonderland book and painted by Doug Rouse.
The Rabbit Hole is one of the few seasoned restaurants downtown. What do you think keeps it busy night after night?
The Rabbit Hole is a great late-night spot. We get a ton of guests who eat here or catch a drink before they go out dancing or go to other clubs. I think that the atmosphere of the place kind of sets the mood for a lot of people. We also get a lot of late night guests that come in for our full menu until 1:30am. Most places downtown will go to a scaled down menu after a certain hour which usually includes a lot of fried food. We give them the option of having fresh food late night. Sometimes mozzarella sticks don’t quite hit the spot.
Thanks Matt! If you’d like to check out The Rabbit Hole, take our Original Colorado Springs Food Tour on Saturday or Sunday afternoons!
Cheers, Your Rocky Mountain Food Tours Team