We didn’t choose to drink the Japanese Whisky for $4,600, but it was nice to know it’s there as an option. There were many options available at Little Leaf Tea Bar that aren’t available at other bars, like tea in drinks. Mindy’s Last Date included a green tea, like almost every cocktail on the menu -- even my Long Island Little Leaf Tea Special had tea in it..
The bar is next door to Little Leaf Tea House, and you could distinguish the two parts of the restaurant most easily by looking in through the windows after dark. The Tea House is brightly lit, while the bar portion goes more for atmosphere. When we entered and asked about sitting at the bar, we saw that there weren’t two seats together, but people quickly moved to make room for us. Jazz was playing overhead, occasionally Dixieland jazz.
The Oakland A’s were on both TVs, which made me happy. I overheard a couple of women talking about the game. One woman was saying the A’s were one of her favorite teams. The other woman said, “You don’t care that much, so you might as well be a Giant’s fan.” The game was in Boston and went into a rain delay, which allowed me to concentrate on the menu.
It had a good variety of salads and sliders and entrees, but we had already eaten dinner. They don’t serve any desserts, so we were looking at appetizers. I saw edamame, takoyaki, arancini, and other words I didn’t understand, but I ordered kimchi french fries from the happy hour menu, and we agreed they tasted very good -- and so did our cocktails.
George, the owner of the place, was behind the bar, and he took our order. He told us he’s owned the place for four years. “It’s not very corporate. It’s laid back,” he said. “It’s really just for the neighborhood.” Almost everyone who came in the door greeted him by name, but in between customers, I was able to ask him our standard two questions, “What makes for a good bar?” and “What makes for a good church?”
He said a good bar depends on the clientele -- two people sitting next to each other at the bar might be looking for different things. “It is what it is.” He said they hold to certain standards, represented by the sign above the bottles: “Don’t blend, don’t muddle, don’t garnish, don’t ask.”
More people were coming in, so he answered our church question quickly, “Simple answer - church is in your heart, it’s not where you go.”
Brandy (“spelled like the alcohol”) was sitting at the far end of the bar. She’d been there with a friend who’d left, and she agreed to answer our questions as well. As for what makes a good bar, she said, “I’m different from most people, I like a place that’s casual and laid back.” She explained that much of the time, she likes to be left to herself.
I apologized for ruining that, but she laughingly explained she liked both being with people and by herself. “This place is the hidden gem of Fresno. Most people don’t know the place exists.” She spoke highly of George and of the food.
I asked her the church question, and she said that would be hard. I told her that many atheists have answered the question and she said, “That’s where I am.” But she went on to say churches should be “welcoming and open minded”.
Earlier this week, Mindy had been driving home and noticed a tea house and thought, “Too bad we don’t visit places like that. It looks interesting.” We were happy to discover that Little Leaf Tea didn’t make us choose between a tea house and a bar.