Best of OC, Nos. 26 to 50

From the Bowers patio to Merry's

No. 26: Patio at Bowers Museum
Best place to enjoy an El Pollo Loco burrito: it's right across Main Street, it's beautiful and it's free! Plus, you know, if you feel like going to a museum . . . 2002 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 567-3600;

I beg to differ! To the contrary, the El Pollo Loco across the street from the Bowers is a great place to escape the stifling world of "culture-in-quotes." For an extra thrill, cross from between the parked cars or against the red light! 1909 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 667-0413. (Dave Wielenga)

I beg to differ! Hey, I've done the El Pollo Loco burrito in the Bowers patio, too. It's great. But if your car is dirty, consider ordering your burrito to eat at the Main Street 100% Hand Car Wash, which is easily accessible from the alley behind Loco. And for a truly disgusting experience, collect all the trash that's accumulated in your ride and dump it in Loco's dumpster, which must rank among the stinkiest dumpsters in all the county (right behind any sushi restaurant). Now throw your Loco burrito in the dumpster, too, because you'll be too grossed out to eat it. Anyway, that's what I like to do. 1807 N. Main St., Santa Ana, (714) 543-2600.(Matt Coker)

No broadband. Photo by Blake Sinclair
No broadband. Photo by Blake Sinclair
Take a bite, take a stand. Photo by Matt Otto
Take a bite, take a stand. Photo by Matt Otto

No. 40: Boom Boom Room
Oh, the Boom, how the gays love thee! When word came that you would close on Labor Day weekend, the gays, they howled. When word came that the cretins (rumor has always held said cretins to be George Clooney and Brad Pitt, to varying degrees of denial) who were buying the place to turn it into a boutique hotel had given it a yearlong reprieve, the gays, they howled again! The gays, they like to howl. Anyway, they like to come here and move clockwise through the bars and the dance floor. They like to look at each other and the go-go boys. They do not look at the sad and dour girls who got dragged along with their gays to sit and look dour. 1401 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-7588.

I beg to differ! The Boom Boom Room may be legendary and it may have played a Stonewall-like role in helping shape the local gay community; but the music's shrieky, the go-go dancers are oily, and after you go outside to smoke, you have to wait in line again to come back in. Still, sometimes there are swingers who like to hit on me. (Rebecca Schoenkopf)

No. 41: Renee and Henry Segerstrom Hall
This opened just last month with a lot of local and national fanfare; the former centering on how the $200 million hall built specifically for orchestral music would announce Orange County's cultural arrival, the latter on how the hall that is still $50 million in the red demonstrates how desperate burgs like Orange County are to be taken seriously. Beautiful? Some people really go for its curvy glass exterior, while others have said it resembles a luxury car showroom. For our money—and we have very little—it's inside that the Segerstrom is jaw-droppingly beautiful: blonde wood, red upholstered chairs, and fluid, undulating walls that suggest the movement of sound. And the sound? Very nice. A lot was made of the place's acoustics, which we are told by people who play there are excellent, and acoustic engineers have continued tweaking the place to achieve the best possible sound. They must have been freaked opening night when a persistent buzz filled the hall. It turned out the sound came from an overloaded electrical thingy that was only being used on that night for the gala opening. Once it was removed so was the buzz. Still, it did give some people like Pacific Symphony violist Bob Becker pause. "I thought one of the percussionists had gone mental and was humming very loudly to himself." Percussionist. Hey, know what you call a percussionist without a girlfriend? Homeless. 600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 556-2122.

No. 42: Mile Square Regional Park
Exercise is for suckers but Mile Square Park is a mile-square park—which is actually really nice given that everything in the entire county is paved over now. You can't hate a park; well you can but . . . it's really hard: three regulation golf courses, two soccer fields, two fishing lakes, baseball and softball diamonds, an archery range and a wilderness area in 640 acres. And a bunch of benches for you to sit on, slacker that you are. 16801 Euclid St., Fountain Valley, (714) 973-6600.

No. 43: Rick's Secret Spot
This is the finest hole-in-the-wall eating experience in OC, surpassing the times we've eaten in the storage rooms of Guatemalan grocery stores, ordered Korean tofu stew from a restaurant that was the last tenant in an about-to-be-demolished supermarket, scarfed down tacos that cost two for a buck and came with free pineapple juice, or enjoyed dessert with Vietnamese elders in front of life-sized statues depicting each of the 77 disciples of Confucius. Yes, Rick's Secret Spot is that secretive . . . and that good, featuring straightforward food—ribs, links, sauces, and pecan-apple pie—that reminds you of Arkansas. Getting there means going to the furthest lengths of the 5 Freeway, toward the recently developed interior of San Clemente, up a winding road, into an industrial park that still smells of recently laid asphalt and toward the back of an office complex. Chances are you'll still miss it. Take your cell phone to call when you get lost and, trust us, it'll be worth the trouble. 1030 Calle Sombra, Ste. G, San Clemente, (949) 429-7768;

Next Page »