This year marks the 70th anniversary of Sarinana's Tamale Factory, an old-school dive in an industrial area of SanTana. How do I know its age? Birth year painted on the outside of its wall. If only Orange County restaurant chronology were this easy, though. I know, for instance, that the first place in the county to sell pho was Pho Hien Vuong in SanTana, and that Dad's Donuts and Sugar 'n' Spice wil forever claim to be the Balboa Bar's birthplace. But what was the first restaurant in Little Arabia? Little Seoul? The oldest pizzeria still in existence? In the hopes of spurring some of ustedes to do research, we present Orange County's five oldest continually operating restaurants. If I'm wrong, do correct me!
The Arches: The iconic Newport Beach restaurant moved a couple of years ago from its longtime spot on PCH to the Balboa Peninsula, but the same stuffiness that has characterized it since 1922 remains. Great place for the Iowans to be in awe of eating at roughly the same environment where Gary Cooper ate! 508 29th St., Newport Beach, (949) 675-3206; www.thearchesrestaurant.com.
Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner: Unlike Disneyland or the OC GOP, this is a relic that never gets old. It started in 1934 in Old Ma Knott's dining room, and the current dining room doesn't seem a year past 1957, but that fried chicken and rhubarb...8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park, (714) 220-5080; www.knotts.com.
: Most famous for their tamales, but also bakers of viciously unctuous chicharrones. As said earlier, open since 1939. A former house--that's how old-school this place is.
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El Adobe de Capistrano: Around since 1948, but famously became a Mexican restaurant after Richard Nixon raved about its Mexican food even though it wasn't offered to the public. What I want to know: to what publication did Nixon rave about El Adobe's Mexican food?
31891 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano, (949) 493-1163; www.eladobedecapistrano.com.
La Chiquita: The pride of SanTana's Logan barrio since 1950, this spot is actually starting to enter the modern age. It has a Facebook page, and is starting to incorporate new desserts like a margarita cake and a dulce de leche cheesecake. Come here before Mayor Don Papi Pulido's gentrification plans bulldoze this treasure into overpriced lofts! 906 E. Washington Ave., Santa Ana, (714) 543-8787.
*Note: What's now Ruby's Crystal Cove Shake Shack has been around since the 1940s, but we won't include it on this list because it closed for a bit while becoming part of Ruby's corporate empire, and because we're still too brokenhearted about the development of what was once truly Paradise. Fuck you, Irvine Co.!