The Place: The Cellar, 305 N. Harbor, Suite 001, Fullerton; (714) 525-5682.
The Hours: 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., Friday nights (into Saturday morning, obviously)
The Deal: 25% off drinks.
The Scene: Who says happy hour has to be at 5 p.m.? For all those
people who are stuck poring over spreadsheets or in interminable
meetings, there are a couple of late-night happy hours in the county.
The Cellar is located, as its name implies, in the cellar of the Villa
Sol building on Harbor and Wilshire. A French fine-dining restaurant, it
features a plush, clubby bar to the right as you enter through the
carved door. While the website talks about dress code, fully half the
men at the bar were dressed in t-shirts and tennis shoes; dress up a
little anyway and make it an occasion.
The Sauce: While the bar is extremely well-stocked, from gins to
whiskies to digestifs, the reason to come to the “Green Hour” is for the
green faerie herself: absinthe. The Cellar stocks between two and six
different absinthes at any given time, from the sticky
“absinthe-flavored vodka” to Kübler. The anise-flavored drink is given
the Bohemian treatment: a generous measure of absinthe is tipped into a
glass, across the rim of which a special slotted absinthe spoon is
rested. A sugar cube, doused in absinthe, is set on the spoon and set
afire; when it has burned itself out, ice water from a fountain is
dripped over the sugar into the glass until the green liquor turns
cloudy and milky (louche in French). Some of the patrons were drinking beer; the selection seemed to run Belgian and German.
The Eats: There aren't any. At one point, according to the bar staff,
there were snacks, but the recession put paid to that. That said, I
suspect that if the kitchen were open, you could order from the
restaurant menu at the bar.
The Verdict: A surprisingly nice, friendly, late-night option in a place
riddled with college hangouts, and I'm not just saying that under the
influence of a generous pour of 138-proof liquor. The absinthe
selection on my visit was poor (two, plus the aforementioned “absinthe-flavored vodka”), though I'm assured by people who know
that that isn't normal. Bring back the food, please, though, and not
fried bar snacks either; absinthe practically screams for gougères,
olives, crudités or an upscale mix of nuts. Drinking such strong liquor without food sort of screams desperation.
The Grade: B+; nice and late, a great selection of bottles at the bar.