Photo by Joy BastI recently spent two long weeks doing time in the jury box of Department 32 in Santa Ana's Central Court. After taking enough notes to develop a writer's bump the size of Saddleback and maintaining a deadpan expression during courtroom antics that would've made Barnum & Bailey proud, I was randomly chosen as an alternate. My only consolation was my hour-and-a-half lunch breaks spent at these fabulous restaurants:
The Gypsy Den Grand Central Café and Bakery. Co-owner Catherine Graziano is a natural for Dumpster diving. She's petite and agile and doesn't mind getting grungy. But this Secondhand Rose doesn't need to resort to illegal activities to acquire stuff for her new 3,000-square-foot downtown den. Neighbors, friends and even her mother bring her the butt-ugliest castoff crap known to man. And as if the idea of dumping off these relics isn't shameless enough, they expect baked goods in return! Graziano cooks and has a great personality, but even more amazing is her knack for transforming these hopeless remnants into lush bohemian chic. Housed in the historic Grand Central Building in downtown Santa Ana, the new Gypsy Den should be your first stop when that summons arrives. I lived on the brick-sized wedge of nut-and-cinnamon-laden coffeecake paired with steaming vanilla-spice Chai for breakfast. The apple-and-green-onion-spiked tuna melt on wonderful homemade bread is the best for lunch. And don't miss the shaggy, moist carrot cake with tart cream-cheese frosting for dessert. 125 N. Broadway Ave., Ste. D, Santa Ana, (714) 835-8840. Lunch for one, $7, food only.Angel's Flight 6th Floor Deli. Rueben Martinez knows Santa Ana; he started cutting hair there in 1975. But Martinez liked books better than buzz cuts. His love of reading evolved from a barber-shop bookshelf into a 3,000-square-foot specialty bookstore. Martinez still cuts hair in his community-service-award-cluttered bookstore office. When the owner of the Crocker Bank building next to his bookstore showed him a boarded-up broom closet with a view of Catalina on a clear day, the Hemingway fan recognized its potential for a clean, well-lighted place. The '50s-inspired café with oldies on the radio soon opened its doors to a crowd of enthusiastic midtown working stiffs. Sandwiches are named for authors and historical figures. The Pancho Villa layers ham, refried beans, tomatoes, avocado, jalapeños and jack cheese on a soft Mexican roll. Better yet is the Leo Tolstoy: corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing seared together on rye. Martinez may run a restaurant, but his employees are no fryer-jockeys. Everyone who works for him is required to attend college. 1200 N. Main St., Ste. 600, Santa Ana, (714) 479-0600. Lunch for one, $5, food only.
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