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After Alice made her escape from the home of the infamous W. Rabbit in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the very first thing that came to her mind was what she should eat.
“I suppose I ought to eat or drink something or other; but the great question is, what? The great question certainly was, what?” said Alice as she looked around a field of flowers and grass.
It was a good question, formed out of the hard labor of running, after going through the traumatic experience of drinking a growing potion in a rabbit’s cramped house.
And while local residents in Mountain Home don’t have to contend with angsty rabbits and their magic potions, they still need food and coffee.
Thankfully, Nicole and Richard Horton’s The Rabbit Hole Coffeehouse and Brew offers a “curiouser and curiouser” place to eat, without all of the weird side effects.
“We do coffee, beer, wine, some food on a limited menu,” said Richard Horton. “Pizza, sandwiches, things like that. The idea was to make a place for everyone to come and be able to relax, hang out, whether it’s day or night.”
Both born and raised in the Mountain Home area, Nicole and Richard are about as local as a local can be. While growing up, both Hortons graduated from Mountain Home High School. Before their marriage, Nicole was best friends with Richard’s sister Megan Hall.
After graduating from high school, Nicole left Mountain Home to join the U.S. Army in 2005, where she would serve as an Avionics Electrician while stationed in Germany. In 2009, she would wrap up her time in the Army and return to Mountain Home, where she would begin dating Richard in 2010.
The couple married in 2012 and have three children together.
“Megan was my best friend, we graduated from school together. I married her baby brother,” Nicole said.
In 2020, both Nicole and Richard began floating the idea of opening a sit-down coffee house of their own. As devout coffee lovers, the couple had purchased their very own commercial espresso machine for their home in an effort to save money, leading them down the “rabbit hole” of opening their own business.
Their plans would be put on hold for nearly three years after the COVID-19 pandemic swept through the world.
“We’ve always spent a ton of money on coffee. We were both getting coffee once or twice a day,” Nicole said. “And we started doing the math, and figured out that we can buy our own commercial espresso machine for home, and then that’s when we went down the rabbit hole. That’s where this comes from. It’s Alice in Wonderland. And then I’m a wine, beer, mimosa, mixed drink person. I love creating things. I used to want to be a sommelier. My husband really wanted to open it three years ago, but COVID and finances halted things.”
But luck would be on the Hortons’s side after they were approved for a business loan at the beginning of the year, prompting the couple to begin their hunt for a location to set up shop in January.
They would find their new home in an old nail salon at the Ozark Shopping Center off of Highway 62 in Mountain Home. The conversion from a nail salon to their new business would take the help of friends and family, and a fair amount of watching DIY videos on YouTube.
“A lot of YouTube,” said Richard. “She had some friends and they started knocking down walls and we just went for it.”
After working through their renovations, Nicole and Richard began working on their menu, which is composed of a variety of coffee drinks, beers, wines, and Malta-inspired pizzas.
On the coffee side of the house, the Hortons turned to Megan Hall, who creates many of The Rabbit Hole’s weekly and seasonal drinks. The Rabbit Hole also features nitro-brewed coffee on tap for those caffeine lovers looking to get a quick fix.
Coffee drinks range from basic espresso to ice-blended Frappes, café breve and cortados. Special coffees come with names like “Camp Out,” “Smokey Fall Morning,” “Pumpkin Bday Cake,” and “Dirty Masala.”
For beer, Nicole and Richard turned to local breweries like Ozark Beer Company, Norfork Brewing Company, and Superior Bathhouse Brewery. For those looking for more sophistication, various house wines and mimosas are available.
Nicole said she is working on developing a cocktail menu for The Rabbit Hole.
“We’re going to have a specific cocktail menu,” Nicole said. “It won’t be a place you can come in and take shots. That’s not going to happen. We’re very focused on being family-friendly.”
On the food side of the house, The Rabbit Hole offers everything from brunch to dinner.
For those seeking breakfast, and coffee in the morning, The Rabbit Hole offers things like biscuits and gravy, a breakfast stack featuring eggs, hashbrowns, bacon and more, and a breakfast burrito. Sweets lovers can also snag a Belgian waffle or French toast.
Lunch and dinner are where things get interesting. In Jan. 2022, Nicole and Richard took a trip to Malta, an island in the central Mediterranean, for their 10th wedding anniversary, sparking a love for freshly made Italian pizza.
That love of pizza followed them home, with Richard devoting his free time to learning how to make fresh Napolitano and Caprese pizza for his friends and family before deciding to make them for customers at The Rabbit Hole.
“We went there in Jan. of 2022,” said Richard. “That also kind of fueled the coffee thing because they’ve got that Italian coffee culture of you walk into and place and they’ve got espresso. They’ve got a full bar behind it and people just walk up to the bar and say ‘un caffe’ and get a shot of espresso. We like that culture a lot, and then the food of course. The pizza was awesome. It was basically Neapolitan style but with their own spin on it. When we came back, we tried to make it a few times and it was pretty simple. They just use fresh ingredients.”
The Rabbit Hole currently offers freshly made Malta-inspired pizzas, made with fresh ingredients. Pizzas range from a basic Neapolitan to a Caprese pizza with a balsamic glaze, to Hot Hawaiian pizzas and pesto pizzas.
According to Nicole, the only thing The Rabbit Hole does differently than pizzerias in Malta is remove the pits from their olives.
“The only thing we do differently is we’ve pitted the olives,” Nicole said. “In Malta, they are not pitted. Richard found that out when he took a giant bite. He did it twice.”
In addition to their Malta-inspired pizzas, Nicole and Richard also offer several sandwiches and melts, as well as their newly rolled out Italian meals like lobster manicotti and freshly made pasta. Salads are also available for guests looking for a lighter meal.
Meals can be eaten in-house or delivered to your home through The Rabbit Hole’s in-house online delivery service. More offerings are expected to come as Richard and Nicole continue to find their footing with their new business.
“We’ve got a few ideas floating around,” Richard said.
While coffee, adult beverages and pizza may be the main focus of The Rabbit Hole, Nicole and Richard have also put in the effort to make the coffeehouse a fun and relaxing place to bring family and friends.
To accomplish that goal, the couple styled The Rabbit Hole after the espresso bars they saw in Malta, while also throwing in a little jazz flavoring. Plush couches line the wall of The Rabbit Hole, while bar seats line the coffeehouse bar. Art from local artists like Jeremy Huber line the wall.
Larger tables sit in the middle of the room in front of The Rabbit Hole’s stage, which is used to host live music and events.
And there are events.
Every week, The Rabbit Hole hosts a variety of events ranging from book readings with Treat Yo’ Shelf Books, speed dating, trivia night, open mic night and painting parties. Most events cost a small fee to attend due to limited seating. Fees for paint nights go towards art supplies and the art instructor.
Signing up for speed dating requires an ID for verification of those participating.
“There’s not a lot to do in Mountain Home,” Nicole said. “There needs to be more. Even if you get like three people that perform [open mic], those three come next time and tell their friends. Mountain Home needs to grow in that way, because there’s nothing to do for college kids and people in our age group.”
The Rabbit Hole Coffeehouse and Brew is located at 407 S. Main Street Suite #9 in Mountain Home. It is located next to Sharp Edges Axe Throwing and Mountain Home Mystery Escapes.
For more information, please contact The Rabbit Hole at (870) 232-5212 or by visiting their website at rabbitholebrew.com.
“It’s been really rewarding,” said Richard Horton on working with Nicole to open a coffeehouse and pizza restaurant in Mountain Home. “Meeting people is really cool. Every day there’s new people you’ve never seen and most of them are really cool. It’s also challenging for us, just learning so much that you can’t really Google. You just learn it as you go. It’s been fun.”