This ain't your father's downtown Fullerton. The pawn and antique shops have gradually been replaced in recent years by hip restaurants and hipper bars.
The coolest of the cool? The Slidebar Café, a rock & roll hangout co-owned by Lit's Jeremy Popoff, himself a homegrown Fullerton boy. He's created this bar/restaurant in homage to not just his own band, but other OC-bred bands such as Social Distortion and No Doubt. Adrian Young's drums hang precariously above one corner. Tom Dumont's guitar is encased in glass.
The rest of the room looks like it was designed by roadies for roadies. A small bar has three plasma screens playing music videos with volumes amped up to 11. Holed up in the rear of the building are some '80s arcade games, a couple of pool tables and a cigarette machine.
But all the action is outside on the patio, where a second, larger bar holds sway, and space is at a premium. Getting a spot here on a Saturday night is harder than the drinks they pour. The crowd is a noisy one, growing louder as the night progresses. Close to midnight, it's a mosh pit of black T-shirts, tats and torn jeans.
How can a place like this possibly have good food? Well, it does.
Fried pickles started things right. I wouldn't have thought it possible, but frying tamed the sourness and added a battered crunch I'll miss the next time I eat a pickle raw. The mac-and-cheese appetizer had broiled breadcrumbs on top and was so silky-smooth we thought about ordering the bigger portion they offered as an entrée.
But there was no need for an encore when the evening's headliner took the stage. This was the rib-eye steak, which put those served in snooty steakhouses to shame. It was so fatty it quivered, so juicy it dribbled. Forkful after bloody forkful, we ate till all 16 ounces were gone, save for a shallow puddle of drippings.
A similar fate would've met the meatloaf, except we were getting full fast. What we did manage to cram down our throats was terrific—sauced with a light broth, studded with mushrooms and covered in wilted onions, this was the dish that had one table mate asking me, "Did you know the food was going to be this good?"
"No," I said, as I took a big bite from my buffalo burger. "I'm as surprised as you are. And this burger is incredible!"
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It was: a thick patty, both lean and flavorful. The fries served with it were also insanely addictive, shotgunned with specks of roasted garlic.
At that point, our stomachs cried mercy, but our palates wanted more. We took our scantily clad waitress up on her offer for dessert. "The Whammy Bar!" we cried. "We want the Whammy Bar!"
And like a sweet power ballad, it made us sway. This crunchy, deep-fried chocolate-cake monstrosity was topped with ice cream, and it deserved a salute by a thousand Bic lighters. So did Popoff and his kitchen staff, who took a bar and made it rock, just as they took the food and made it good.
THE SLIDEBAR CAFÉ, 124 E. COMMONWEALTH AVE., FULLERTON, (714) 871-2233; WWW.MYSPACE.COM/THESLIDEBAR. OPEN DAILY, 11 A.M.-2 A.M. DINNER FOR TWO, $60, EXCLUDING DRINKS. FULL BAR.