Nothing in Cypress screams "YOU'RE IN CYPRESS!" There is no downtown, no grand park, no funky shopping district, no ethnic enclave. Mainly, there are tree-lined residential neighborhoods. They whisper. And what they whisper is, "You're in Cypress. Now go to bed."
The making of modern Cypress took 10 years, but afterward, in the early '70s, the city appeared as if fully formed. A decade earlier, cows outnumbered humans 100,000 to 4,000; when it was over, the bovines were banished to Chino and 31,000 suburbanites—most of whom worked at defense firms and aerospace outfits in Long Beach—had moved in. That rapid development meant Cypress never had a chance to evolve or to endure the growing pains that forge a civic identity. It was just a place where people lived. And left. And then came back to again every night.
"Cypress is like Cyprus in that it's an island, because you feel so isolated from anywhere else," says Slim Raiford, a musician and Cypress native who lived there off and on until he was about 30. "You always had to go somewhere else to find anything remotely interesting. If there was anything here, it was all very socially acceptable."
Cypress can brag about its real-life community college, its native son—Tiger Woods—and a racetrack next door. Other than that? They have some nice shade trees. But it's that relative lack of anything hipsters might consider cool—of a rich nightlife, a dime street or crack alley, thrift stores, crusty bowling alleys, rickety theaters—that is what makes Cypress appealing.
"Are there other cities more exciting and diverse than Cypress?" asks Slim's brother Eli, who still lives there. "Of course. But there's also something to be said for a place that just is. It makes the cool things that are here stand out even more."
And there are cool things in Cypress. You just have to look a little harder than in Paris, Rome or Stanton to find them.
Best Remembrance of Things Past Tankfarm Clothing. Started as a record company by brothers John, Mike and Ricky Anderson; morphed into a haberdasher when their T-shirts started selling huge—so much so that this January, theirs was the best-selling tee in all of Nordstroms. They do cool argyle/skull stuff, like everyone else, but more colorful. Oh, and they're named after the tank farms that used to be in Cypress. 10544 Progress Way, Cypress, (714) 252-1125; www.tankfarmclothing.com.
Best Dive Bar The White Rooster Pub. Located in the chicken sector (Grandma's Chicken House is right next door), this bar has been serving beer and wine since the 1960s. It's a small, dark, locals-mostly kind of place with two pool tables: just about the best place to be at 1:59 a.m. in Cypress. 6072 Lincoln Ave., Cypress, (714) 952-4611.
Best Art Gallery Forest Lawn Memorial Park. This cemetery has the only exact replica of Michelangelo's David in the West, so of course it—and his stupendous dong—are within sight of my grandmother's grave. Sorry, Grandma. On the plus side, there's also a mosaic of John La Farge's The Ascension, a bunch of stained glass, bronze and marble statuary—even a re-creation of St. John's Church in Richmond, Virginia, where Patrick Henry delivered his famous "Give me liberty or give me a look at a guy's marbled phallus" speech. A great place for life's memorable days. 4471 Lincoln Ave., Cypress.
Best Grub Senor Big Ed. A Puerto Rican food lover's dream, and they're dreaming of something called a canoa de platano maduro: a beef-and-cheese-infused banana that can bring a smile to the surliest mug. 5490 Lincoln Ave., Cypress, (714) 821-1290.
Best Fusion Caf Hiro. A three-year-old Cypress eatery with everything going for it but the design: what would happen if Goodwill decorated Denny's. But the exquisite entres—a fantastic fusion of Japanese, Italian, French and American—ensure a steady stream of suitors; ridiculously cheap prices guarantee many rendezvous. And the ahi poke appetizer special—the buttery fish seared, warm and salty on the outside and chilled on the inside, wonderfully contrasting the accompanying field greens' snappiness—launches a thousand romances. 10509 Valley View St., Cypress, (714) 527-6090.
Best Oxtail Irie Jamaican Restaurant. This eight-year-old eatery serves authentic Caribbean food all the way down to jerk chicken and oxtail. Near as we can tell, it's the only Jamaican restaurant in the county—and it's definitely the only one in Cypress. 9062 Valley View St., Cypress, (714) 484-0661.
Best Record StoreBionic Records. Ask the guy who answers the phone what's cool in Cypress, and he says, "Nothing. Cypress sucks." But his store, which specializes in indie underground stuff, rocks. 9549 Valley View St., Cypress, (714) 828-4225.
Best Legal Smoke Out Caf Odyssey. After running the snooty neighbor-cops-code-enforcement gantlet to get the doors open, this lounge isn't even winded, offering its delectable smoke treats long after most in this bedroom community have done their civic duty and gone to bed early. 6306 Lincoln Ave., Cypress, (714) 697-9007.
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