THE BLIND RABBIT
To visit the Packing House in Anaheim is to be rewarded with a bounty of culinary options, all sharing space in an open-plan warehouse setting. It’s difficult enough to choose among the visible options in the multi-level food hall, formerly a Sunkist orange packaging plant, but be sure to save room in your itinerary (and your stomach) for a reservation at The Blind Rabbit, a hidden speakeasy downstairs.
Yes, reservations, as well as proper dress, are required after five o’clock p.m. to pass through the wall of sake barrels bearing a discreet, rabbit-shaped door handle. (On weekends from noon to four, anyone’s welcome.) It’s even recommended to reserve online weeks in advance; the policy was added out of necessity when guests were waiting up to four hours to enter.
Once inside, “you get transported back into time,” says co-owner Ying Chang, who operates the restaurant alongside her husband, Robert Adamson. The 550-square-foot, 35-seat space is decorated to evoke the jazz age when alcohol was outlawed. The theme and proximity between patrons justify the technology-prohibitive code of conduct described as “punctilious” on the secret bar’s menu.
The rules are a short read in comparison to the long list of spirits and craft cocktails, including once-banned absinthe and a signature stirred cocktail made with rye, amaro, aperol, and bitters. “We wanted to do an homage to the city of Anaheim,” explained Chang. Their Manhattan-like “Annaheim,” then, is based on an early concoction called “The Whiskey River,” and “Anna” is a reference to the Santa Ana river, where German immigrants established Anaheim in the mid-nineteenth century. Little histories like this pop up throughout the pages of drinks you can read by the dim light of a booklamp, but a well-informed, attentive staff is equally ready to help you decide.
Come for a cocktail (it’s one of few to be had in the Packing House),and stay for a meal. The bar recently appointed Peter Lai to the position of executive chef, who has been busy curating seasonal, award-winning menus that split the difference between Prohibition-era finger food and modern-day gastropub fare. According to Chang, excellence from your glass to your plate is all part of The Blind Rabbit’s ideal of elevating what’s possible in Orange County. The speakeasy is located in Anaheim Packing District, an area that’s exploding with creativity and entrepreneurship. But Anaheim has long been world-famous for its magical ability to transport guests to another time and realm. The Blind Rabbit is no exception.