Best Of :: Shopping & Services
It's been a few years since SanTana won our Best Downtown award, but it's not winning for the same reasons it did in 2012. Yes, some of the best restaurants in Orange County are there. Yes, there's some artsy fartsy stuff. Yes, it's heaven if you're into street wear. But the reason DTSA is winning in 2015 is that between the test kitchens and co-working spaces and food halls and mixed-use thingamabobs, the area has become home to more local young talent than any other in OC. Can you believe it? Young talent isn't brain-draining to LA or San Francisco or wherever else anymore; they're staying right here, and it's thanks in part to "Downtown Orange County." (Barf. That still doesn't work.)
Given the crises in Orange County, with so many judges rubberstamping corrupt law-enforcement actions, we sadly have to depart our boundaries and fly 3,000 miles to find the winner: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Who could have predicted a Roman Catholic, Republican, Ronald Reagan appointee would be the conservative member of the highest court with the maturity to secure gay-marriage rights? "The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy and spirituality," Kennedy wrote in the historic, majority opinion. "This is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation." Put your dildo down, Reverend Lou Sheldon, and chew on that wisdom.
Many folks have bad lawyer stories in which emptying your bank account was the priority while providing lackluster, if not downright lousy, legal service. Sadly, that type of scenario plays out every day in Orange County's courthouses. There are, however, dedicated, professional lawyers here, and easily one of the best is Scott L. Sanders, an assistant public defender. A tireless worker and crafty courtroom strategist known to outfox prosecutors, Sanders rightly treats his clients as if their lives depend on him—which is appropriate, given many of them face life-in-prison punishments or the death penalty. If he ever hangs a private-practice shingle, he'll deservedly command top dollar.
Officials at John Wayne Airport claim a 95 percent passenger approval rate for their facility, and there's no mystery why. In comparison to the unwieldy, sprawling mess known as Los Angeles International Airport, this place—though much smaller—feels like heaven. It's clean, comfortable and continually modernized for visitor convenience. Plus, the airport is an annual moneymaker.
Looking to fill a spot in your home or apartment with a bit of Eastern/Buddhist flair? Head to Maikong Arts & Crafts. Located on an unusually quiet Little Saigon street, this warehouse-style shop sells Buddha statues, ceramics and colorful wall art for reasonable prices. The location, off Bolsa Avenue next to Asian Garden Mall, also means there are more than half a dozen competitors nearby for shopping comparisons.
Newport Beach's is the most sleek, Fullerton's just received a modern overhaul, and Huntington Beach probably has the best grounds, complete with a spiffy 319-seat theater. But what about SanTana? If a library's role is to "transform lives," as Fullerton College Systems Librarian E.H. Bennett says, then Santa Ana gets her vote. The library earned the 2014 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award for its young-mentoring programs, one of 11 libraries across the country singled out for its comprehensive after-school and art-and-humanities programs in underserved communities. Michelle Obama presented the award to youth librarian Cheryl Eberly and 18-year-old Josue Rodriguez Espinoza, and if it's good enough for the First Lady, it's good enough for us.