La Palma

Cypress writ small

Photo by Jack GouldBuilt in the heart of Moo Valley on the site of dairies that once stretched clear to Santa Fe Springs, La Palma today is another of the county's numerous bedroom communities. While virtually all of La Palma's residents live in tract homes built in the 1970s, a few of the old dairy ranches remain.

The city incorporated in 1955 as Dairyland, reflecting the stranglehold on local government area cows enjoyed. But within a decade, the tide had turned against the heifers. In 1965, residents revolted against the dairies and approved a new city name with a bit more cosmopolitan flavor: La Palma, which is Spanish for the Palma.

The town's international flair is no joke—La Palma is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the county, with Asians accounting for nearly half its population. Whites weigh in at 36 percent, Latinos at 10 percent and African-Americans at 4.5 percent.

LA PALMA EATS

Johnie's Jr. This converted Taco Bell has delicious Western omelets, '60s-era booths, and lots of decals emblazoned with the Johnie's mascot, Fat Boy, who appears to be the long-lost sibling of the late Big Boy. 7811 Valley View Ave., (714) 228-0464.La Capilla. Imagine a non-franchised El Torito, and you've got La Capilla. The tortilla soup is savory, and the camarones criollos—shrimp creole—are plump and tender. In other words, classic Southern California Mexican fare, served heartily and capably. 4997 La Palma Blvd., (714) 821-6191.A'Roma Ristorante Trattoria. The décor here is modern: deep, soothing colors, with none of the red-checked tablecloths that cover a million tables in Italian restaurants across the country. The food is rich and pleasing, like the tender, golden chicken stuffed with mozzarella and mushrooms. Even the salads are memorable. And for dessert, don't forget the chocolate mousse with raspberry sauce. 30 Center Pointe Dr., Ste. 1, (714) 523-3729.

LA PALMA SHOPS

Hannam Supermarket. The city says 1,500 shoppers file into this Korean grocery store every day. That's no surprise: this place is stocked with plenty of Korean squash—which resemble flattened pumpkins—frozen vegetable dumplings and corn buns for all your authentic Asian dining needs. 4941 La Palma Ave., (562) 865-4116.

LA PALMA LOUNGES

Central Park. Lots of parks in OC are bigger, but few have the dignified charm of La Palma's Central Park. It has loads of benches and barbecues for a Saturday afternoon party, a nice baseball diamond, playground equipment for the little ones, and plenty of slight, rolling hills to tire out the kids. Corner of Walker Street and Byrne Drive.
 
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