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; www.bowers.org.

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)

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
Notice our Rods. Photo courtesy Anaheim Baseball
Notice our Rods. Photo courtesy Anaheim Baseball
A place for everything, and everything on a doily. Photo by Tenaya Hills
A place for everything, and everything on a doily. Photo by Tenaya Hills
Boom, boom, boom, let's go. Photo by Madame Montana
Boom, boom, boom, let's go. Photo by Madame Montana

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. 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; www.rickssecretspot.com.

I beg to differ! Now that the Crystal Cove Shake Shack is no more, having been bought out by Ruby's, the real grimy deal is Schleppy's, located at the very end of the San Clemente Pier, where you can munch on hamburgers and hot dogs while admiring crappy seashell jewelry and fending off the hovering seagulls. 615 Avenida Victoria, San Clemente, (949) 492-8335.(Gustavo Arellano)

I beg to differ! There's nothing like the hole-in-the-wall that is Q-Tortas. Try the burrito. I dare you! 220 S. Bradford Ave., Placentia, (714) 993-3270. (Jon Mann)

I beg to differ! Screw the burrito at Q-Tortas. Stick to the tortas. (Gustavo Arellano)

I beg to differ! The breakfast burritos at Nick's are made with eggs, potatoes and cheese, just like everybody else's, but for some reason these just might be worth dying for. 223 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 598-5072.(Jennie Warren)

I beg to differ! The chicken tortas at El Gallo Giro are what made this reconquista'd country great! Do they ever close? 1442 S. Bristol St., Santa Ana, (714) 549-2011. (Matt Coker)

No. 44: The Orange County Courthouse
They don't make courthouses like this—or like the one in Long Beach, or like the Boeing office building on Lakewood Boulevard in Long Beach—any more, and no one seems to realize or care that commercial buildings from the 1960s are of an age where they're every bit as endangered as 1950s Googie-style restaurants ever were. It's just that we're finally at a point where we've razed all those restaurants, motels and bowling alleys (remember Kona Lanes?), and what will be next? Those commercial structures. Details are what make this courthouse grand—and its pedigree as the last major public project from famed modernist architect Richard Neutra. It has all those huge windows with extruded aluminum frames, that cool typeface on the aluminum lettering outside, wide mosaic floors, wooden door handles that taper at each end, and a reflecting pool that has long since been allowed to dry up. No, there are no plans in the works to demolish or remodel this place, but we're the nervous type and water-stained ceiling tiles don't lie. 700 Civic Center Dr. West, Santa Ana; (714) 834-3734.

I beg to differ! They have not knocked down all the bowling alleys yet, and worrying about the future of swanky old Linbrook Bowl (it's on the corner of Lincoln and Brookhurst, see?) seems to be a much better waste of time than some place where The Man kicks around common citizens. 201 S. Brookhurst Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 774-2253.(Dave Wielenga)

I'm with you! Seriously, Linbrook Bowl is beautiful.We walked over there all trashed one night and got the karaoke jockey mad at us (well, mostly at me), and the place is just . . . freaking . . . perfect—shiny and retro-grand and full of bowlers and drinkers and karaoke-ers. And we love it! (Rebecca Schoenkopf)

And yet: Always a good idea for us to point out endangered property at a prime intersection. Smell that bulldozer? (Chris Ziegler)

No. 45: Nickel Nickel 5-Cent Games
Crowds are what make this place great—well, that and the fact that most games cost a nickel, except oldies like Pac-Man and Centipede, which are free. So what if the carpet is dingy and there are crowds of ankle-biters three deep around the dance games and the shoot-'em-ups? You're standing in the loudest museum ever: this is how we played video games before we let the corporations sell us home systems—like they sold us hi-fis and iMacs and iTunes—and barricaded ourselves in our homes for day-long sessions of Counter Strike. Once upon a time, when you faced off over a two- or three-player console, you were looking at a bunch of pimply boys just a few feet away. It was ugly—but it was fun. 10912 Katella Ave., Garden Grove, (714) 638-5050.

I beg to differ!Why, back in my day, video games were free! 'Course you had to walk five miles in the snow to get to an arcade, and then the arcade was empty because video games hadn't been invented yet. But, boy oh boy, those were the days. Now get off my lawn! (Mr. Glicken)


No. 46: Tree of Life Nursery
Hard to believe, but this is still the county's only nursery devoted exclusively to California native plants. Harder still to believe, but the vast majority of people still resist filling their yards with foliage that looks and smells like California should look and smell. Hardest to believe is if everybody did cultivate California natives the environment of Orange County would feature more birds, insects and small wildlife while using drastically less water. 33201 Ortega Hwy., San Juan Capistrano, (949) 728-0685; www.californianativeplants.com.

No. 47: Garden of Eden Adult Bookstore
A tribute to original sin and its many imaginative spin-offs and well-worn clichés, this adult bookstore puts the danger—and not just eventual eternal damnation—back into sex, thanks to the shadowy men lurking on its shadowy fringes. One half of the store is a sex toys and videotape emporium—with dusty VHS tapes, obscure DVDs and a rack of medieval pleasure devices all managing somehow to be out of reach, so when you reach for them, or ask for help getting them, you're embarrassed. Kinda like sex. Whatever. The other half has rows of semi-private porn booths where the low-end ecstasy endlessly loops, and you spool in and out depending on how regularly you feed it dollar bills. And it's full of tweaker guys who may or may not follow you for a couple of blocks in their Taurus when you leave. Nice. 12061 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove, (714) 638-0124.

I beg to differ! Look, I've never been to the Garden of Eden so I'm willing to allow that it's a terrific porn palace and therefore a county treasure. Still, I think you have to at least give a nod to the folks over at Spanky's, who are pretty much the gold standard when it comes to sex DVDs. They've got everything from homemade celebrity sex tapes to sex tapes of someone at home making the maid. Hey, hey! The selection is wide ranging, the staff is helpful, the environs are clean—and Spanky's clearly has the most entertaining print advertising campaign of any business in OC: meat and potatoes guy with a right arm twice the size of his left, polishing a rocket, spanking a monkey, etc. Good stuff. 213 N. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 554-4495. (Steve Lowery)

I beg to differ!Steve seems to know an awful lot about Spanky's. Also? Can we stop using the phrase "gold standard" to talk about porno DVDs? Gone With the Windthey ain't—except maybe for taping people's boobs together. Now, I've said too much. (Theo Douglas)


No. 48: Wholesome Choice Market
The best supermarket in OC puts every immigrant's cooking needs—Cherry preserves from Turkey! Goat cheese from Bulgaria! Paul Newman salad dressings!)—under one roof, and adds an international deli that does great takes on Indian, Persian and Greek food, and flips out luscious Persian breads by the hour. Plus, the check-out aisles stock gossip rags from US Weekly to Farsi-language glossies for your escapist needs. 18040 Culver Dr., Irvine, (949) 551-4111; www.wholesomechoice.com.

I beg to differ!Orange County teems with grocery stores tiny (the mom-and-pop halal markets of Little Arabia) and large (the Mexican González Northgate Supermarket chain). (Gustavo Arellano)

No. 49: Rally Monkey
The legend of the Rally Monkey is a good one, with the added bonus that it happens to be true. Two guys working the screen thingy at Angels Stadium were bored one day during some long game of suck in the dispiriting 2002 season, so they put a picture of a jumping and howling monkey up on the screen. A screeching, jumping, howling monkey—that's right: it was the Reverend Lou Sheldon. But then what happened? We won! And every time we were dawdling beyond the seventh inning stretch they would break out the Reverend and we would win again! We won and won and won, and then there was some stretch where, for like two games, the lowest batting average was .750. But now I can't find that and everyone here is laughing at me. But it happened! It DID! And then we won and life was grand, like a Disney movie (the plot of one such Disney movie, in fact, even had as its punch line that the mean Dad who leaves his family comes back "when the Angels win the World Series," something that could Clearly. Never. Happen. (That dad was a douche!) But then in the movie, as in life, the Angels DID win the World Series. And then they sold David Eckstein and MVP Troy Glaus, and in 2004 they let Percy go. And like that. The Rally Monkey don't work so good either, any more.

I beg to differ! True, it can be a bit pungent, definitely an acquired taste, but we've found if you first marinate the monkey in a citrus-peel sauce with a couple shakes of Emeril's Italian Essence and a splash of rum—the higher the proof, the better—you'll gobble down your entire distant cousin long before the seventh inning stretch. (C. Heston)

No. 50: Merry's
Best place to support the economies of the Axis of Evil. A clothing boutique that imports fashions from Morocco, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan and a few others. It's REALLY a cool shop. 2747 E. Broadway, Long Beach, (562) 987-4363.

I beg to differ! On the orange side of the county line, Little Arabia has the largest concentration of Muslims and Arabs west of Detroit. There's no central meeting place, so stop by the offices of the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and ask them about their favorite Halal dining and grocery spots. Irvine's Persian community congregates around Heritage Square Plaza, where Caspian Restaurant, an ornate shrine to kebabs and mounds of flavored rice, hosts banquets, and Assal Pastry pleases palates with its cookies and saffron rice pudding. Little Arabia, in Anaheim and Garden Grove, roughly along Brookhurst Ave., between La Palma Ave. and Garden Grove Ave.; CAIR, 2180 W. Crescent Ave., Ste. F, Anaheim, (714) 776-1847; Caspian Restaurant, 14100 Culver Dr., Irvine, (949) 651-8454; www.caspianrestaurant.com; Assal Pastry, 14130 Culver Dr., #H1, Irvine, (949) 733-3262.

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