After 15 years of business, Williamsburg restaurant and brunch go-to Rabbithole — known for its blueberry scones, eclectic interior and friendly service — closed for good on Sunday.
It was the end of an era for owners Lawrence and Ayako Elliot, who built Rabbithole themselves, "hammer and nails," in the winter of 2007. The closure came down to rent increases and not seeing eye-to-eye with the landlord, Lawrence said.
While Rabbithole was the couple's first "baby," the closure allowed them to pour themselves fully into the success of their other restaurant, Monarch, which opened in 2019 just a few blocks away, they said.
"I'm not a crier," said Ayako, crying, the day before Rabbithole's closure. But after the couple announced the news on Instagram Friday, messages of support began pouring in from all over the world: an emotional reminder to the couple of Rabbithole's far-reaching impact.
Working the door for one last Rabbithole brunch service Sunday, Lawrence was also feeling the weight of the moment. "I'm hanging in there," he said.
He had to. Despite the rain, the line was down the street with Rabbithole regulars — and first-timers who found it Googling "best Brooklyn brunch" — waiting under umbrellas to get a spot in the Bedford Avenue restaurant.
"I feel like a part of my life is ending," regular Michael Belvedere told BK Reader, as he sat down at the bar for his final order of Rabbithole eggs bene, steak and eggs (to go), and — of course — a scone.
Belvedere started frequenting Rabbithole when it first opened. In the past 15 years, he'd made a lot of fond memories in the restaurant, including multiple birthdays and brunches with his late mother.
"She loved it here," Belvedere said. "There was one time we came and they were playing Billie Holiday, that was my mother's favorite artist."
Sarah and Raphael Sorcia were one of the many couples waiting in line in the rain for one last brunch at Rabbithole.
The restaurant had become a recurring hangout for the couple throughout their relationship over the years, they said, with many a date night at Rabbithole, and "dozens" of friends and family members brought in. They were sad, but put on a brave face: "It's New York, you can't get too attached," Sarah said.
Rabbithole's Secret to Success
Lawrence first met Ayako when she came in for a coffee in the courtyard of Lawrence's previous cafe, Read, also on Bedford Ave.
He asked her to come back in a couple of weeks to see the honeysuckle tree blooming.
She did, and the honeysuckle wasn't the only thing that bloomed. Since that day, the couple has barely spent a day apart. When they opened Rabbithole in 2008, they brought the honeysuckle and planted it in the new courtyard. It died just last year.
Rabbithole's cozy and eclectic look was inspired by steampunk elements and other cool Brooklyn restaurants of the day. Over the years, the space accumulated a number of unique design elements: bunnies, top hats and a signature monkey chandelier to name a few.
"It's sad for me, I feel like it's one of the last independently owned places with a lot of character," Lawrence said. "I wish I could have stayed a lot longer."
Rabbithole's 15 years in business is a feat. It's estimated up to 80% of New York City restaurants fail within the first five years of business.
The restaurant survived the global financial crisis, the pandemic, local regulatory changes and a rapidly changing neighborhood.
Lawrence said he believes the Rabbithole space is set to become a Japanese restaurant.
On Sunday, he told customers they could take what they wanted. "It's funny, things keep disappearing," he laughed, saying he'd noticed the light switches had already gone. He was going to auction off the chandelier, which a number of people had shown interest in.
Another pair of regulars had asked the Elliots whether they might send them the table they used to sit at, which they'd carved their names into. They obliged, shipping the table off to Germany.
Meanwhile, regulars Craig Pinckney and Lisa Williams sat down in one of their favorite tables Sunday for their last-ever Rabbithole brunch.
They had been coming to Rabbithole for years, with their commute from the Bronx made it more than worth it due to the "wonderful service and delicious food," they said.
"I can't implore you how good those scones are, literally I might have to walk out with four, they're just that good," Williams said.
"It's a great place, we’ve loved it for years," Pinckney added. "It is bittersweet, but we’ll be around the corner at Monarch."