By Matt Coker
By R. Scott Moxley
By Charles Lam
By Nick Schou
By Gustavo Arellano
By Gustavo Arellano
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
Best Goodtime Down-Home Southern Living Burrell's Bar-B-Que. Sit at a table in this guy's yard and get a small or large plate of spareribs, brisket, hot links and gumbo. Nobody doesn't like peach cobbler. Burrell's Bar-B-Que, 305 N. Hesperian, Santa Ana, (714) 547-7441.
Best Place to Fistfight Over Pho Pho Hien Vuong. Gustavo Arellano once saw a dude try to run out on his tab, and the owner tackled him. There were about 20 OC prosecutors in there at the time. DA spokesperson Susan Schroeder recommends the beef pho; I recommend the bun (vermicelli) with egg roll and shrimp. Don't forget the mint-leaf-packed spring roll—three huge, filling thangs for just a couple of bucks. 2525 W. 17th St., Ste. H, Santa Ana, (714) 554-2696.
Photo by Heather X
Best Most-difficult Place to LiveIn March, city officials considered spending half a million dollars to repaint Santa Ana's water tower, the landmark structure that reads "ARTS & CULTURE" and "EDUCATION FIRST!" But if Santa Ana's first in anything, it's hard living—not the kind that comes with snorting coke off a whore's bottom, marrying serially, and dying young (hello, Peter Sellers!), but with living in a city that New York's Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government recently rated the most difficult place to live in the entire nation (based on life expectancy, transportation, poverty, cost of shelter, crappy education). The $500,000 might go to, I dunno, arts, culture or education. But if this marker—can we call it a watershed?—on the side of the I-5 must be repainted, can it be painted to represent something more honest? I mean a water tower that doesn't hold water can at least hold out the hope of truth: how about "We're No. 1! Eat Me, East St. Louis!"
Best JesusBoner Jesus at St. Joseph's Church. The folks around St. Joseph's have always been pretty appalled by the mural we call "Boner Jesus." With rays of light shooting from all his parts, Our Lord Jesus Christ has an Expressionist wang heading north to the heavens. 727 Minter St., Santa Ana, (714) 542-4411.
Best Historic District You decide. Either French Park, which is where the doctors, lawyers and bankers lived a hundred years ago—or else Floral Park, which is where their kids settled a generation later. Both areas went through periods of benign neglect; both have amply rebounded today. French Park is the slightly more staid of the two, with its Craftsman, Foursquare and late Victorian styling cues. Floral Park knows how to get down with amazing little Federal-style, Spanish-style and frame houses, many of which look as hep today as they did then. French Park, immediately south of 17th Street at Spurgeon Ave.; Floral Park, southwest of the Santa Ana (5) Freeway at Main St.
Most Awesomest Lesbian Radical Latino Punks Centro Cultural de Mexico. We love this fucking place. Whether you're looking for an all-ages hip-hop dance party, a "Grrrl Fair," a talk on the topic "How Punk Rock Changed My Life," or a lesson in the stunningly beautiful Son Jarocho style of Mexican song and guitar, this little DIY box is the kind of sweetly welcoming venue every city should have—too bad it's looking for a new home. P.O. Box 11345, Santa Ana, (714) 953-9305; www.el-centro.org.
Best Capitalism-Free Zone SolArt. We're sure pretty, young, homegrown entrepreneur Sali Heraldez would love to charge you for that latte she just steamed up, but since the city won't let her, she won't. Instead, feel free to come in and hang out in the great Mod environment, playing chess or helping local kids with their homework or listening to young local Latino bands, and then give her a donation if you absolutely must. 2202 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 824-0277.
Best Use of Extruded Aluminum The Orange County Courthouse. You know extruded aluminum—those silvery metal strips that hold in the windows on any midcentury modern building? This place, dedicated in 1969 as the last major civic project of famed modernist architect Richard Neutra, has it in spades, to hold on the acres of huge glass windows. Sadly, while justice may be served here, it ain't serving the courthouse, which has old, stained ceiling tiles getting ready to fall and a reflecting pool that's been dry for years. You know they'll tear it down one day. 700 Civic Center Dr. W., Santa Ana.
Best Endangered Downtown Duh. When superdeveloper Mike Harrah finally gets to bulldoze square blocks here to make his 37-story edificio, expect this historic downtown of Craftsman bungalows and sweet Victorians to go with the wind. Which might be okay, except no, and except the proposed site is bordered by two-lane roads and you can expect thousands of car trips per day. What do we say? Tear down the entire downtown, and futurify the place. Make people park by the freeway and bring them into the center on elevated floating sidewalks. Yeah, man. Floating sidewalks would be fucking sweet. Wait, never mind. That would be public transportation.
Best Tuna Melt Gypsy Den. Sweet and crunchy with bits of apple, this is one of the hippie haven's finest accomplishments. Hang out for the open mic and the pretty guitar duos while you have a glass of wine and avoid the more odious among Santa Ana's city planners. 125 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 835-8840.