by Jessica Resendez
Tea parties and rabbit holes. A whimsical wonderland. Looking glass allure – this is my muse.
When I learned Anaheim had a secret bar touting a name like The Blind Rabbit, I had no choice but to become curiouser and curiouser. Now, I invite you to follow me down the rabbit hole and into The Blind Rabbit speakeasy hidden deep within the Anaheim Packing House.
Back around the 1920s, prohibition made alcohol illegal to sell, trade and buy, spurring the creation of illegal underground bars nationwide. By its end in the 1930s, such bootleg venues had all but disappeared. However, their mysterious and rebellious legacies have lived on in places like the contemporary speakeasy we now have in Anaheim.
Today, speakeasies are mostly built for the novelty; and the more mysterious it is, the better.
Reservations and dress codes are strictly enforced at The Blind Rabbit, and when my date and I arrived around 7:30 p.m., a man wearing a cargo shirt and flip-flops was being turned away. Thankfully, my floral dress and my date’s jeans and button-up shirt passed with flying colors.
“House rules” are also enforced here, with some of the basics including: being over 21, no PDA, 90 minutes to dine, and of course, speaking easy — which is probably why the low hum of inside chatter was so inaudible listening from the bar’s exterior wall.
The hidden entrance is on the first floor of the packing house — a wall full of pastel-colored sake barrels with a black statue of a rabbit (the door’s hidden latch) sitting on the center shelf — right next to a Japanese eatery called the Rolling Boil.
My eyes lit up and a cheshire cat grin spread across my face from ear to ear. A cheery woman in a silky blue blouse greeted us right outside the wall and asked, “Any reservations tonight?” I nodded yes, and just like that, she tugged on the rabbit and the door magically popped open to reveal a cave-like room.
With all the logistics out of the way, it was time for my date and I to finally get started.
The restaurant was dark and cramped, but the sounds of Sinatra singing in the background mixed with smells of burnt applewood and rosemary set the mood for a prohibition romance.
The room was built around a central bar in the shape of a U at which two male bartenders stood, both dressed in classic 1920s vintage black vests with the sleeves of a white button-up rolled up, hair slicked to the side and polished with a dapper red tie.
We were seated at the bar, next to two young college ladies celebrating a birthday, and about arm’s length behind me was another birthday celebration for a party of six — all seeming to consist of women over the age of 60. Going along with the theme, I thought I’d celebrate my very merry unbirthday and ordered myself a shot of Tequila.
Andrew, our bartender, was a friendly, fair-colored young chap who donned one of those lumberjack beard-and-moustache combos reminiscent of a Civil War general. He was extremely serious, but generous in helping indecisive people like me choose something off the drink menu. The two girls sitting next to me seemed to be having similar issues, and when they asked him for his advice, he gave off that Mad Hatter jokester vibe as he told them:
“Don’t worry about picking the wrong one. If you make a mistake and pick something you don’t like, I’ll make you another one, and then I’ll drink the one you didn’t want. Everybody wins,” he said with a coy smile.
Moving on from drinks, I decided to try a dish called the “Duck Confit Mac & Cheese.” I had never eaten duck before, so when I saw this listed on the menu, I knew I had to try it. From what I could see by the dim light of a nearby candle, my plate had noodles that were thick, coiled, and swimming in a blend of three different white cheeses. The top was sprinkled with blunt pieces of parmesan, and the duck looked like small shreds of barbacoa (Mexican barbecue). It kind of tasted like a mixture of fried pork and chicken, and the noodles were loaded with melting cheese in every bite.
Soon our time was up, and the bill came in the form of an old, dilapidated book that had the insides cut out of it to hold our check totaling to a whopping $97 for five drinks and two meals.
With our wallets empty and bellies full, we hopped off our metal barstools and waddled over to the bookcase by the living room setup in the back of the room. With my hand grasping a chain dangling from the second shelf of the bookcase, I pulled down and the entire bookcase door swung out into the zoo of people rushing out in the packing house marketplace — soft piano melody trailing off behind me, fantasy fading out.
The Blind Rabbit left me with wanderlust; a yearning for more adventures through the sake barrels. Its exclusive rules, quirky quaintness and friendly staff stand frozen in time for me, so as long as the black rabbit that guards the wall never hops away from Anaheim.