Photo by Jack GouldVilla Park is so small—just 2.1 miles in area—that you could drive by and not notice, which is how most of its 7,000 residents like it. They are quiet folk, mostly upper-middle class and just plain upper class. The Spanish/ranch-style/colonial homes are generally on at least half an acre; the seemingly requisite pools, tennis courts and horse stables are out back. The driveways showcase cars in near-showroom quality: late-model SUVs, sedans and midlife-crisis sports cars. Most of the neighborhoods have no street lamps or sidewalks, which would suggest that no one walks in Villa Park.
Bordered by Santiago Canyon Road to the west and Loma Street to the east, this little suburban anti-mecca offers limited shopping and entertainment opportunities, mainly because there's just one shopping center. Villa Park's motto might be "Beat it . . . please."
EATING AND PICKING UP IN VILLA PARK
Bagel Me. Twenty-six kinds of bagels, 14 different spreads, smoothies of countless variety (actually, you could count them, I just didn't want to), coffee drinks, salads, sandwiches, juices and a full line of MET-Rx drinks for the healthy Villa Parkian. Grab a bagel glazer with a cinnamon/sugar glaze and hot chai latte. Then find a table outside and relax. 17767 Santiago Blvd., (714) 998-1212. Rockwell's Bakery. This family restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, but people come back for the baked goods. Rockwell's bakery cases are loaded with brownies, fruit bars, cookies and an amazing selection of muffins—20 different kinds on my last visit. (My favorite remains the carrot cream cheese.) They also have fantastic cakes, including the chocolate curl cake (filled with your choice of mousse flavors or fruit, whipped cream icing, and white or chocolate curls). This is what Villa Parkians dream of at night. That and mulch. Mmmmm, mulch. 17853 Santiago Blvd., (714) 921-0622. China Panda. With close to 200 menu items, I'd lean toward the three ingredient taste, an ESL-named chicken, beef and shrimp combo in a broccoli brown sauce. Or the honey shrimp with walnuts; the salty, sweet shrimp go perfectly with a cold Tsing Tao beer. 17853 Santiago Blvd., Ste. 102, (714) 998-4592.The Coffee Grove. Villa Park's answer to Cheers, the Coffee Grove is a place where you can chat with the locals or read the paper while they whip up your favorite coffee drink. 17769 Santiago Blvd., (714) 974-2650.First Class Pizza. Go for the employee sampler, which features four different pizzas, including the barbecue chicken, zesty Italian, Villa Park special with fresh basil and garlic, and the combo with pepperoni and sausage. 17853 Santiago Blvd., (714) 998-2961.
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GOD, DRUGS AND THE NEATEST RALPHS
Ralphs Fresh Fare. Designed to compete with Gelson's and Bristol Farms, this isn't your average Ralphs. No, sir. This is Ralphs Fresh Fare, with the "fare" cleverly serving double duty—as if this might also be a public gathering, a festival, a "fair." The floors have granite-tile accents, and the aisle signs are highlighted with wrought-iron work and carved wood. The bakery case is abundant with carbohydrates, the produce is organic, and the meat is all premier USDA choice. They even have a wine steward. You don't get that in Anaheim, but you could stop by Ralphs Fresh Fare on the way home and choose from among more than 20 varieties of olive oil and goat cheese to go with your mixed field greens and candied walnut salad. I say go for the Bertolli's Extra Extra Virgin. 17801 Santiago Blvd., (714) 998-0004.Banking in Villa Park. There are no churches in Villa Park, but there are three banks and four real-estate offices. Amen. Odd combos. The Villa Park Pharmacy looks like a turn-of-the-last-century drugstore, with a soda fountain and a counter serving ice cream and coffee. They make their own fudge, including cookie dough, Heath bar and chewy praline. But they also specialize in homeopathic medicines such as phytonutrients, Chinese medicines, vitamin and mineral supplements, and many others. 17821 Santiago Blvd., (714) 998-3030.Villa Parkless.There are no parks in Villa Park—lots of grass, many trees, loads of flowers and gardens, but no parks. Makes you think.
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