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CLUBS in and around Orange County | WANNA DANCE?

Cotton Breathes

Blues is in the air on Wednesdays at Hop City Steakhouse in Anaheim.

June 25, 1998|ZAN DUBIN | TIME STAFF WRITER

The Cotton Club, which is what Hop City Steakhouse & Blues in Anaheim calls its latest promotion, isn't meant to invoke the music of the storied Harlem jazz joint after which it's named.

But the blues-soul-R&B band that gives the new Wednesday night promotion its moniker does credit to the energy and flair of that famous New York nightclub's legend. King Cotton, a Long Beach-based nonet that has played such hot spots as B.B. King's blues club in Los Angeles, is the centerpiece of the midweek promotion, put together by brothers Larry and Leon Metoyer.

Larry Metoyer handled promotions and marketing for the old Red Onion chain during the '80s, and experience seems to have paid off.

One recent night, he delayed King Cotton's opening number until the end of Game 1 of the NBA Finals, which had glued a vocal clutch to the dinner-dancing-music spot's long, curvy bar.

Still, Hop City, which has been booking nationally touring blues acts for about eight months, is no sports bar, brick walls notwithstanding. No, the money here didn't subsidize giant TVs; it went into a tastefully understated arrangement of minimalistic lighting fixtures, a mauve granite bar and a large, narrow skylight that looks as if it's made of rice paper.

Nor is the venue's spacious stage makeshift. Large and well-lit, it's backed by a green crushed-velvet curtain. The dance floor at its base stretches far enough to comfortably accommodate 15 couples before abutting dark, leathery dining booths.

On a recent Wednesday, King Cotton easily pulled a near-capacity, baby-boomer-age crowd from its seats by 10 p.m. Who could resist? The band's leader, after whom the group is named, sweated right through the silvery shirt he wore to complement his white dreadlocks. His backup singers danced in unison a la the Temptations for a charged-up delivery of hits and original tunes.

The music tends to be too loud for much conversation, but this band isn't to be missed. The mix included slow-dance songs, making this a great spot for those who like to let their food digest and heart rate moderate. Cooling off also is possible on a delightful patio that Hop City shares with neighbor the Catch Seafood Grill (they also share owners).

One wall of the steakhouse opens onto the outdoor seating-eating area, worth a visit if you want to get some air. It's got an unusual fireplace--a small, roundish pit filled with glistening, fine black sand, in the middle of which skate flames in concentric circles.

The same sort of cool beauty asserts itself elsewhere on Cotton Club nights, when a handsome host in a sharp zoot suit greets guests beside an effusive bubble machine and steers them toward a card-house-style castle of champagne flutes for a free glass of bubbly.

Dinner isn't as cheap but can be delicious and reasonable. Entrees, plus veggies and soup or salad, include fish, pasta or steak (from $11.95 to $22.95 for filet mignon).

Hop City also books bands for East Coast swing on Tuesday nights, and Friday and Saturday are devoted to blues. Thursdays are for families: 17-year-old Taryn Donath plays boogie-woogie piano, and children 12 or under eat for free.

BE THERE

The Cotton Club at Hop City Steakhouse & Blues, 1939 S. State College Blvd., Anaheim; (714) 978-3700. Wednesdays. Opens at 4 p.m. for happy hour; band begins at 8:30 p.m.; dinner served until 10 p.m. Cover: $7, includes a glass of champagne.

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