Perhaps unjustly, Sparks Street has gained a reputation for only being popular among tourists and lunching government workers. Which is not necessarily fair: Sparks Street has been undergoing a revitalized transformation over the last few years, with food festivals, exciting new businesses, and beanbags lining the pedestrian walkway in the summer.
Despite the steady revitalization, it remains rare to find people walking Ottawa’s downtown streets past regular Monday to Friday business hours. However, new resto-bar Rabbit Hole brings good news for those of us who believe a city’s downtown is meant for living and not just for working. With its blend of cocktails, stellar interior, and a food item for every palate, Rabbit Hole succeeds in providing Ottawans with a new reason to be out late on Sparks Street.
The most immediate attraction when entering Rabbit Hole is the décor. Blending vintage-chic furniture that would fit on the set of Mad Men with distinctive lighting, the bar evokes a futuristic grandeur. A closer inspection of the surroundings reveals radiant bulbs embedded in tree roots and an archway of glittering white lights. These lights play on your senses to transport you away from the oft-glum downtown core to a place where excellence is appears to be the minimum standard.
Take a seat at the front bar and immerse yourself in the splendour of the bar’s ornamentation, including imported African binga wood behind the bar and a one-of-a-kind golden rabbit head nestled behind bottles of Lagavulin, Cabo Wavo, and Woodford Reserve.
Although the main floor of Rabbit Hole is impressive, the bar’s true magic lies downstairs. Walk past the faux-Victorian furniture and an impressive wine cellar, and be prepared to enter an immense rotunda-styled bar. Twists and turns reveal alcoves that provide a more private and intimate setting. Although the open concept of the downstairs bar could potentially be noisy, the hide-away tables and alcoves reduce the white-noise of the bar to a minimum so that you can converse with your group without ever feeling the need to shout.
In contrast to many of the other great cocktail bars in Ottawa, Rabbit Hole has a certain everyman’s quality about it, being one of the only places that will serve you a pizza alongside an Old Fashioned. Try the Red Six pizza and be prepared to be overwhelmed by an explosion of flavours. This is the pizza for those who have always hated having restrictions on the number of pizza toppings, combining grilled chicken, Applewood bacon, roasted red peppers, black olives, and pickled jalapenos, with house blended mozzarella and fior di latte cheeses. There is truly a menu item for every palate, with house specialties ranging from crispy pork belly to fresh East Coast oysters.
Although Rabbit Hole provides a comfortable setting for a round of beers with friends, a trip to Rabbit Hole would be wasted without delving into their cocktail list (called “libations” on the menu). With a long list of options for the whiskey, gin, vodka, or tequila lover, there seems to be no cocktail that the Rabbit Hole staff are incapable of creating. The Miss Cal stands out for its bold flavour, combining Creyente Mezcal with Aperol, Amaro Lucano and vanilla syrup to provide a balanced cocktail with a noteworthy bite to it. The cocktail list also includes two Old Fashioned variations, including the sweeter Above Average Joe, and the smoky Aztec Old Fashioned served in a vanilla cigar smoked glass.
Although it is a cliché in the business, customer satisfaction is truly what Rabbit Hole strives for. With a myriad of food and drink options, there is a level of comfort found in Rabbit Hole that is difficult to find elsewhere. With its combined eye-catching décor and flavourful drinks, Rabbit Hole has quickly become a must-visit for the Ottawa foodie.
Rabbit Hole is located at 208 Sparks Street, at the corner of Sparks and Bank. They’re open Monday to Wednesday from 11am-10pm, Thursday and Friday from 11am-2am, and Saturday and Sunday from 5pm-2am. You can find them on Instagram and Facebook. Note there is a flight of stairs to the basement for washrooms.