Gypsy Den World?

Photo by Jeanne RiceThe Gypsy Den has opened a second restaurant in the Artists Village in Santa Ana, and so help me, Carl Karcher and Martin Diedrich, I swear I can see the coming of Gypsy Denny's. Isn't this the way it starts? One day, you're celebrating the simple split of the little amoeba of caffeine and sprouts and culture and faux-boho motif that's been making life better in a post-nuclear-themed mini-mall next to a Pep Boys in Costa Mesa, and the next day, it's a Gypsy Den World filled with Gypsy Den coffee cups and T-shirts and Big Cookie clocks. Get ready for the Gypsy Den compilation CD and the "Gypsy Den Presents the Gipsy Kings" concert tour. You'll be able to take home packets of plant-your-own poppy and eggplant seeds and buy strategically worn retro furniture to put in your own Gypsy Den. The national advertising campaign will feature TV spots with Mark McGrath gabbing a mile a minute, all gakked out on tumblers of Red Eye coffee-and-espresso combos, and magazine spreads with Gwen Stefani grinning demurely through an Adobe Stew mustache.

Meanwhile, about that second Gypsy Den, the one that just opened in the Artists Village in Santa Ana: it's great! Turns out we like our funky bohemia roomy and with easy access! My girlfriend, Lisa, and I brought her daughters (ages 10 and 5), who bemoaned the passing of every fast-food outlet on the way but became intrigued and pleased when we arrived in quaintly restored Santa Ana. Aside from the grumpy guy who runs the parking lot across the street—his attitude forced us into the city-owned lot down the block—the atmosphere is comfortable and interesting.

Although the Gypsy Den has just arrived here, it seems more indigenous to this setting than its Costa Mesa birthplace on car-swept Bristol Avenue. Rather than a refuge from the ugly outside world, this new Gypsy Den is an accouterment to a pleasant neighborhood. The décor is almost identical, from the earthy burgundy and mustard-brown walls to the art and carpets and funky little bottles that adorn them. The not-quite-antique furnishings sit on a cherry-wood floor, a warm and classy step up from the chilly cement back in Costa Mesa. The menu is exactly the same, filled with a creative coffee bar, soft drinks, juices and smoothies; an eclectic collection of healthy post-hippie sandwiches and salads; and a sweet scourge of blow-your-diet desserts. Corie and Tabitha each chose a small order of nachos ($4.75), and they were pleased with the Gypsy Den's light-and-fresh spin on what is so often a bricks-and-mortar experience. The three types of beans, cheese, salsa, sour cream and olives work more like a slightly sticky salad. Lisa took advantage of the sandwich and salad combination ($5.50), opting for cool but savory roast turkey on a bed of provolone, cucumber, sprouts, tomato, mayo and mustard. She chose the caesar salad and stung it with an extra blast of creamy herb dressing. To drink: a frothy vanilla-cream soda. Hey, it's summer!

I went for the sandwich and soup combo ($6), alternating bites of the refreshing roast turkey sandwich with mouthfuls of the inimitable Adobe Stew, a lightly spicy brew of mixed vegetables and pinto beans topped with Jack and Cheddar cheeses that stick to every spoonful. Meanwhile, I guzzled a draft root beer.

Afterward, we walked off the meal by strolling through the nearby galleries, taking in several exhibits in the beautifully restored Santora building, before heading back to the Gypsy Den for dessert: lattes, hot chocolates and big cookies.

The Gypsy Den, located at 125 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, is open Mon.-Thurs., 7:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri., 7:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sat., 8 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sun., 8 a.m.-8 p.m. (714) 835-8840. Beer and wine. Lunch for two, $12, food only. Visa, MC, AmEx accepted.


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