Okay, we admit it: we know next to nothing about Rancho Santa Margarita (RSM). We know it's the city that serves as a buffer zone between exclusive gated communities and the rest of us heathens, that its Catholic high school was created by a bona fide boy-lover (medically diagnosed, even!), and that anyone who lives within the city limits has to join one of two homeowners' associations, making anyone who lives in RSM a big ol' sap. We know the easiest way to get there is via toll roads, but since the Weekly doesn't endorse the use of anything run by the incompetent Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA), we have to take the long route, which takes as long to get there from Santa Ana as it does to reach downtown Los Angeles—and guess where we'd rather visit?
All that said, there are some things worthwhile in this master-planned community, none better than the little plaza at the southwestern edge of Rancho Santa Margarita Lake. It's in a monstrous Spanish-fantasy shopping plaza, its two saving graces just 100 feet from each other: the spectacular Pizza e Vino (31441 Santa Margarita Pkwy., 949-713-1500; www.pizzaevino.net) for thin, massive pizzas and The Blind Pig (31431 Santa Margarita Pkwy., 949-888-0072; theblindpigoc.com) for expert cocktails. After you gorge yourself, take a stroll along the man-made lake, just so you can say you have.
Summertime means carne asada, so buy some at El Fenix (29941 Aventura, 949-459-3809; www.elfenixmarket.com), a little slice of Aztlán that sells everything you can find in SanTana at the same low prices. And when your meal is done, swing by the Rancho Santa Margarita Library (30902 La Promesa, 949-459-6094; ocpl.org/libloc/rsm). For being such a wealthy community, the library seems a bit worn—but that's made up for by an excellent lecture and film series that goes throughout the year but is best enjoyed during the summer, when the scorching heat reaches RSM and you start dreaming of anywhere but here. . . .