The Place: Cedar Creek Inn, 20 Pointe Dr., Brea.
The hours: 3:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., daily.
The deal: Cedar Creek features a $5 martini and appetizer menu as well as $2.13 pints of draft beer.
: An upscale restaurant situated at the foot of Brea's rolling hills, Cedar Creek caters to an upscale dinner crowd. A large room with high cedar-planked ceilings propped up by flagstone pillars and a roaring fire gives the bar the feel of a modern ski lodge. But if you're expecting a staff with skyward-pointed noses and general snottiness, you won't find them here. The hostesses were pretty, young and eager to point thirsty patrons to the bar.
The sauce: Cedar Creek sports a small selection of draft beers such as hefeweizen, Sam Adams Boston Lager, Anchor Steam and Stella. It's also outfitted with a full bar specializing in the mixture of various flavored martinis, including cantaloupe, pomegranate and the ever-popular lemon drop.
Since I've always considered such drinks unsuitable for a man who appreciates a good bourbon, I've never had one. But looking at the martini menu, I heard my mother's voice telling me to never be afraid to try new things. While I prefer stiff drinks with a strong bite, I also have an insatiable sweet tooth, and the lemon drop is insulin shock in a thin stemmed glass. Ringed with a rim of sugar, a person could slam these all night like fruit punch. Of course, they would feel it in the morning.
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The food: The Cedar Creek's appetizer menu contains a fair amount of standard bar foods including fried zucchini, sliders and calamari. One item, however, caught my eye; once again, I heard my mother's prodding voice: fried goat cheese wontons. Though the order was a tad sparse (only four wontons), they proved warm and crispy, like pillows of foodie bliss: Flaky, crispy, warm dough stuffed with hot savory goat cheese. The plate was served with a side of a spicy sweet-and-sour sauce made with crushed red peppers and garlic.
The verdict: This bar makes for a relaxing after-work environment. Instead of loud music, the room is filled with the lively chatter of drinkers and diners--a more soothing sound following a stressful day. The low price of the draft beers, however, is what makes this establishment stand out from other happy hours, and it's quite a surprise considering the Cedar Creek's refined status. The main criticism is the fried wontons: as delectable as they are, it would've been nice to have a couple more on the plate. This appetizer wouldn't be filling in the least were two people splitting an order.
The grade: B+