Southern California is dense with bars, gastropubs, speakeasies, lounges and taverns. However, no one has quite seen anything like The Cauldron Spirits & Brews, which has officially opened in Buena Park, directly across the street from Knott’s Berry Farm.
A long-time dream of owner Lara Hanneman, The Cauldron is unique in that it’s an upscale bar setting wrapped up in an environment one would expect to find in a haunted house maze at Knott’s Scary Farm. That’s no surprise, as Lara worked at Knott’s for over two decades, ultimately becoming the park’s Creative Director, overseeing all aspects of Halloween Haunt and the property in general throughout the years. For Haunt fans, it is a familiar environment – like stepping inside the event’s now-famous Trick or Treat maze for the evening to enjoy cocktails and food. For guests not familiar with Lara’s past or Knott’s Scary Farm, it’s a walk on the slightly spooky side – without any gore or anyone jumping out of the shadows; it’s a moody, dimly-lit immersive experience that speaks to all ages.
Much of the environment found within The Cauldron is courtesy of Jeff Schiefelbein and his crew from Sinister Pointe. Sinister Pointe Productions has been creating some of the Southland’s hottest Halloween attractions and horror experiences for decades. Jeff is one of the venture’s investors, and has put his haunting know-how and artistry to work throughout The Cauldron, creating a space unlike we’ve ever experienced in our bar-hopping travels. Sinister Pointe’s involvement is applauded, as it brings a level of entertainment to The Cauldron usually reserved for pop-up experiences or haunted attractions – special effects that aren’t in-your-face, but are subtle and wonderful when noticed by patrons. Pay particular attention to the bar itself, as images move and change on bottle labels, a black cat’s shadow can be seen scampering across the shelves, and more!
The walls of the establishment are adorned with gothic and otherworldly artwork – pieces that Lara has painted herself, as she is an accomplished artist as well. One of my favorite features of The Cauldron is its selection of lamps and faux candles, which provide dim, really warm ambience throughout the bar. The lighting in The Cauldron is really spot-on, in my opinion; not too dark and definitely not too bright. The furnishings range from group tables to plush lounges and nooks. The Cauldron has bar seating as well, so guests can enjoy their surroundings while chatting with the bartenders as they whip up a great assortment of spirited concoctions. There is even a hand shuffleboard table for those looking to engage in more physical activity than putting glass to face as they enjoy their evening out.
The Cauldron features a hidden room – perfect for private dinners, business meetings, or casual get-togethers. The room is hidden behind a bookshelf, and is relatively isolated from the sounds coming from the rest of the bar, making it a really cool and useful addition to the property. Ask one of the staff members, and if the room isn’t being utilized, I am sure they’ll be more than happy to show it off!
The food and cocktail selection at The Cauldron is fairly upscale, currently featuring such mouth-watering temptations as cheese and charcuterie selections (artisan cheese and meats), saucisse en croute (housemade sausage wrapped in puff pastry), fruit de mer cocktail (fresh seafood in a blend of bloody mary cocktail sauce), French onion soup, chicken salad sliders, champagne shrimp, boeuf bourguignon, and steak fries (do add the bacon jam to this – BOMB.COM!). Save room for dessert, including creme brulee, and housemade ice cream! The Caldron’s signature cocktails are classics with a twist, such as the Cocktail A La Louisianne (herbal rye Manhattan), Smokin’ Hot Maria (housemade bloody caesar mix and mezcal), and Harvest Moon (featuring Ketel One Oranje). Of course, the bartenders can make most other classic cocktails nicely, as The Cauldron features a great selection of hard alcohol, beer, and wine. Soft drinks are available as well for those who don’t commune with the spirits. According to Lara, the drink and food menus will rotate seasonally, giving guests a wide variety of selections to choose from throughout the year.
The staff at The Cauldron is attentive, friendly, and service is quick. Theme Park Adventure was there for a private event where most everything was brought to us on serving trays; however, we visited prior to this event on a very busy Saturday night, and the staff was delightful and our orders were handled quickly, so I’ve seen the staff in action aside from the Grand Opening event.
Parking is simple, even when the bar is packed – which it often is. There is a dedicated lot off of La Palma, just east of the La Palma/Beach Blvd. intersection, across the street from Knott’s Berry Farm (Camp Snoopy, to be exact). Parking is free. The Cauldron is also a quick walk from Knott’s, making it very accessible to tourists or locals visiting that don’t want to bother moving their cars or are within walking distance of their hotels. I would anticipate The Cauldron becoming very busy during the Halloween season as fans “pregame” before Haunt, and as a nightcap following an active evening at the Scary Farm. That said, I expect The Cauldron to be busy year-round, considering how quickly word of mouth has spread already prior to its Grand Opening on January 30.
Lara Hanneman and her associates have created something wonderfully unique; not just to Southern California – we would be impressed finding this bar anywhere. It’s unusual, surprising, spooky, and fun. Hardcore Haunt and horror fans will love it, and casual guests will find it delightfully entertaining as well; it appeals to everyone, giving it legs to last a long, long time.
The Cauldron is currently open 2pm – 2am Wednesday – Sunday. Visit The Cauldron website for more details and information.
Congratulations to Lara and her team on a job well done! Here’s to many great years as one of the most interesting and fun bars in Southern California – and beyond!
- Rick West
Video Tour of The Cauldron and Interview with Lara Hanneman: