When grabbing drinks around Disneyland and the Anaheim Convention Center, the general rule of thumb is that you’ll run into a beer selection that resembles that of a baseball game, cocktails are pre-batch sugar bombs, and for food, you’ll undoubtedly run into the dreaded “wedding chicken” served over a bed of clumped-together rice pilaf and steamed broccoli. Blech.
During a recent conference, I popped into Anaheim Marriott’s nFuse Kitchen & Bar and had an epiphany. Twenty-four handles of local beer, ninety-plus whiskeys, and a bar menu that reeks of chef’s gone wild. Normally you hear a chef begrudgingly admit to their boring hotel gigs, but nFuse is like a nonchalant culinary playground. If a bourbon maple bacon wall doesn’t sound good to you, you might want to try the parmesan-crusted version, each thick slice dangling from a metal bar with a small clothespin. It’s as ridiculous and Instagram-worthy as it sounds.
“You have to try our new bourbon,” mentioned our bartender, thinking somehow Marriott had its own distillery somewhere deep in the basement. “No sir, this is our own Anaheim Marriott Private Barrel Woodford Reserve double oaked bourbon that just came out.” They do a classic cocktail with it that is just as bonkers as the bacon wall.
As soon as I ordered the “Present” Manhattan, the rest of the bar had an E.F. Hutton moment as the drink was finished. The cocktail goes into a glass-windowed chamber and is essentially Cheech & Chonged with oak smoke. As the door opens, smoke plumes out, revealing the drink like some sort of David Copperfield magic act. The drink itself is served with a hunk of ice and Luxardo cherry, and easily knocks off the cobwebs after walking around the convention floor for hours on end. It’s beaming with notes of cinnamon, vanilla, fuzzy stone fruits, and citrus.
While you’re there, definitely try the old fashioned that’s dubbed the “Past.” It’s a plated cocktail that’s stirred with Old Forester, maple, and bitters served alongside rolled chocolate cigars and house-smoked bourbon-oak salt.
The bar also recently added a pool table and shuffleboard which can be checked out from the host.
nFuse Kitchen & Bar is inside the Anaheim Marriott at 700 West Convention Center Way. Rideshare or self-park recommended.
Greg Nagel has been writing about beer since 2011, is an avid homebrewer of wine, cider, and beer, is a certified Cicerone Beer Server, level 1 WSET in Wine, a podcaster with the Four Brewers Show, and runs a yearly beer festival called Firkfest happening on June 29th in Anaheim!