There are bars, and there are cocktail lounges.
Each serves a purpose. Bars are for getting together with a bunch of pals under bright lights and watching football and drinking beer and telling jokes and not worrying about how loud you laugh. Cocktail lounges are cozy.
Cocktail lounges are for tete-a-tetes with your sweetie, or for solo imbibing when you want to be serene and contemplative. They should have low lights, a low ceiling, intimate seating and lots of stuff to absorb sound and keep hushed conversations hushed.
Sadly, good cocktail lounges are scarce, victims of the belief among bar owners that you gotta have a gimmick. Fortunately, a few still survive, and the coziest of the cozy may be a room in Santa Ana called That Other Place.
Until a few months ago, That Other Place had enjoyed success for many years as Nieuport 17. When the owner, Bill Bettis, built a new Nieuport 17 in Tustin, he retained ownership of the old restaurant, hauled out all the aviation art and memorabilia that covered the walls, and turned it into a continental restaurant with emphasis on Italian food (which is excellent).
And, bless him, he changed the layout of the cocktail lounge not at all. There are still lots of small tables set up for two and four people, plenty of brown leather banquettes, the all-important low ceiling and lighting, a thick, conversation-absorbing carpet, live piano music in the evenings, good service and--the piece de resistance-- a fireplace in the center of the room with a facing couch, two love seats and a large coffee table.
There are no windows, no traffic noise, no fussy decor, no gimmicks of any sort. This place is snug.
And, throughout December, there is a lighted Christmas tree next to the hearth.
If you can't get cozy in that setting, you are either claustrophobic or not a fun date.
Bonus: the after-work hors d'oeuvres are wonderful.
That Other Place, 1615 E. 17th St., Santa Ana. Open 11 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, Friday till 2 a.m., and Saturday 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Closed Sunday. (714) 547-9511.