Yorba Linda is—was—Orange County's badlands: some of the last vestiges of semirural ranch-style settlements, harkening vaguely back to about 1809—when the explorer Jose Yorba took it over as part of a 62,000-acre land grant from the Spanish king. Almost all that's left of Yorba today is his name; not lacking for inspiration, apparently, he named the city Pretty Yorbaafter himself. And it stuck. A city of around 64,000 today—motto: "The City of Gracious Living"—Yorba Linda has more than a few homes on lots large enough to keep horses. It also has 100 miles of horse trails, an excellent golf course, and, as a result, a somewhat slowed-down speed of life—if you can overlook its most famous native son, Richard Milhous Nixon: said to have invented indoor hail in his second White House term by running the fireplace and the air conditioner simultaneously. For this and other offenses, he resigned.
People here—Yorba Lindans?—love the low traffic levels and the short supermarket lines. They love the fantasy of low-density living that a few acres of open space provide, and they're ready to fight for it. In July, the City Council approved a concept to redevelop the city's downtown, located on and around Main Street—giving way in part to strip malls and a community-oriented (read: consumer) town center. As you might suspect, the issue has divided the city, with many residents advocating for the preservation of the city's small-town character.
One small, singular sign on a small farm, no larger than a suburban block, sums up the opposition best: "Dear City: Property Not for Sale"—probably what the king of Spain said at one point.
Best Tombstones Yorba Cemetery. Dick and Pat Nixon are interred at the Nixon Library—like the Superdome, built on an ancient Indian burial ground. No, not really. But not far off is the second-oldest cemetery in Orange County: the Yorba, with those intricate, ornate, vertical tombstones they don't make anymore. Closed 28 years, it reopened in 1967 when the Archdiocese of Los Angeles turned over the cemetery deed to the county board of trustees. Bernardo Yorba—son of city founder Jose—rests here along with other members of the family. Tours happen the first Saturday of every month, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., depending on availability. Woodgate Park: from Imperial Highway, travel east on Esperanza, turn left on Fairlynn Boulevard, turn right on Woodgate and left on Parkwood. (714) 973-3190.
Best Used Bookstore Books Redux. All your favorites: Miss Lonelyheartsand The Day of the Locust (Nathanael West), Life Against Death (Norman O. Brown), The Tender Passion: The Bourgeoisie Experience, Victoria to Freud (David Gay). Two whole rows of paperback romances and an entire section on the Kennedys. 18508 Yorba Linda Blvd., Yorba Linda, (714) 970-2957.
Best Public Historian Robert Chao Romero. A Yorba Linda-based attorney who teaches in the departments of history and Chicano studies at UCLA, Romero is the country's leading authority on the Chinese in Mexico; he writes specifically on Chinese immigration to and through Mexico and subsequent anti-Chinese legislation enacted by the Mexican government. His most recent scholarship investigates and documents Chinese immigrant smuggling across the U.S.-Mexican border, documenting the Chinese as the first "illegal" immigrants to enter the United States. www.chavez.ucla.edu.
Best Sex Toys Allure Lingerie. Lingerie, dildos and porn on DVD aren't exactly what you'd expect to find in Yorba Linda, but here we are, talking to the clerks at the counter—and they are strangely courteous. Good news for homos: Allure's DVD collection isn't as straight as its locale might otherwise suggest. 18522 Yorba Linda Blvd., Yorba Linda, (714) 777-5936.
Best Serenade to a Jerk Richard M. Nixon Library and Birthplace. Yorba Linda wasn't Dick's first choice as the site of his presidential mausoleum—that was UC Irvine, Nixon hoping the legitimacy might rub off. Four or five years later, after a flirtation with San Clemente bombed, he brought it all back home to sell Elvis-meets-Nixon (or is that Nixon-meets-Elvis?) magnets ($3.95) and to haunt lectures, book promotions and presentations by a local conservative Who's Who: Newt Gingrich, Mike Carona and Hugh Hewitt. 18001 Yorba Linda Blvd., Yorba Linda, (714) 993-3393.
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Best Place to Pray Pope John Paul II Polish Center. The object of their devotion was a grand asshole, but the Polish faithful who flock here are amongst the nicest Catholics in the world—mostly refugees from the communist days who, blissfully ignorant of our county's bilingual wars, proudly say their Masses in Polish and eat piroghi afterwards. 3999 Rose Dr., Yorba Linda, (714) 996-8161; www.polishcenter.org.
Best Anachronistic Novelties Old Towne Yorba Linda: This small stretch of Main Street at Imperial Highway is barely a block long, but it's jammed with antique stores, an old-fashioned bank (mustaches!), a few hair salons, a hardware store and a Masonic lodge. The Main Street Restaurant has sold more than 3 million feet of its famous six-foot burritos and they claim to be able to prove it—but how would we know?—and Vintage Radios sells and repairs old veneer, Catalin or Bakelite Philcos, Zeniths and Motorolas. Also: the farmer's market, Saturdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Main Street between Lemon Drive and Imperial Highway, Yorba Linda; Main Street Restaurant, 4902 Main St., Yorba Linda, (714) 777-9427; Vintage Radios, 4893 Main St., Yorba Linda, (714) 970-1928.
Best Artichokes The Wild Artichoke. As the name suggests, chef-owner James D'Aquila dishes up numerous variations on the old thistle, from the Artichoke Napoleon, plump puff pastries full of sauted artichokes, to the Wildest Primavera, garden vegetables served with pesto in a white wine sauce. Start with an order of the crispy crab cakes followed by a 10-ounce rosemary-encrusted New York steak smothered in gorgonzola. End your night with the crme brulee—but ask about the flavor, as it changes daily. 4973 Yorba Ranch Rd., # A, Yorba Linda, (714) 777-9646.
Best Martinis Fitness Pizza and Grill. Here since 1989, this place offers more than 100 menu items for the carb conscious. It's all delicious—Fitness Pizzas, Power Lunches, Dance Pastas—but the pizzas are the main attraction here: try the Triathlete (shrimp, feta, spinach, pine nuts, pesto, mushrooms). And by all means wash it down with one of their sake martinis. Sake! Not gin! Wait, where's the gin? 18246 Imperial Hwy., Yorba Linda, (714) 993-5421.