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Quirky, unique, or fun in O.C.?

Joani Macaroni Jun 12, 2008 08:19 PM

Several weeks ago there was a similar list for the L.A. county folks on the west side. Maybe the O.C. folks can come up with a list of "quirky, unique, or (out-of-the ordinary)fun" places. I'm looking for places with quirky or unique decor/theme, food, surroundings, music, staff, etc. Food should be good but need not be outstanding. No chains unless a particular location is extra special.

Some places that come to mind are Azteca in Garden Grove - Mexican food but the decor and music are completely based on Elvis (on Main St. in Old Town G.G.); Gypsy Den; Po' Folks in Buena Park (there is a train set that goes all around the restaurant ceiling, the place features southern/homestyle food - great place to take kids), etc.

If you have the links or addresses please include them with your comments, and your favorite items on the menu. Thanks!

  1. brekkie_fan Jun 12, 2008 08:28 PM

    I would have to say PJs Abbey in Orange. Dinner in a Baptist church?! The tables around us were having a rowdy birthday celebration. Or was that a bachelorette party? Either way, it certainly falls under quirky.


    3 Replies
    1. re: brekkie_fan
      hobbess Jun 12, 2008 10:17 PM

      Alice's Breakfast in the Park in Huntington Beach. Next to Huntington Lake, its a former bait shop that's been remodeled and filled with antiques.

      Burrell's BBQ in Santa Ana, which is grandfathered into a residential neighborhood.

      Crab Cooker on Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach with cheesy nautical decorations that works cause this place has been there forever. It was the inspiration for the Crab Shack on the TV show, The OC.

      1. re: brekkie_fan
        OCEllen Jun 12, 2008 10:23 PM

        Good and interesting setting but food is a bit boring/standard (though well prepared)..haven't been in awhile but we used to take my atheist FIL there.

        1. re: brekkie_fan
          Joani Macaroni Jun 15, 2008 02:26 PM

          Thanks for reminding us about this one Brekkie. We tried it about five years ago and you're right about quirky - or at least it feels quirky eating in a (former) church! But then, we attend church now in what was formerly a skating rink, so I guess the turn-about can go both ways!

        2. h
          HBfoodie Jun 12, 2008 10:47 PM

          I think there is one of the last Bobby McGee's in Brea. I have never been there, but used to enjoy other locations in the 80's and their theme rooms, discos, and the actors-in-training food servers who dressed up in costume and played characters. They used to have a gigantic salad bar, but I cannot vouch for their menu today. It may be worth checking out...

          1. Professor Salt Jun 12, 2008 11:05 PM

            Trabuco Oaks Steakhouse. Trees grow through the dining room. Probably not a level floor or a plumb wall in a structure that's probably been around since silver mines used to operate in the surrounding hills. Over 12,000 neckties scissored from their former owners garnish the ceiling.

            The steak house fare is stuck in a 1970's time warp: mesquite grilled steaks, basic fries or baked potato, iceberg salad with Italian dressing. In this retro setting, that's a good thing. The food here is just passable IMO, but it is a fun, casual place to eat with friends, and sometimes that's good enough.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Professor Salt
              RSMBob Jun 16, 2008 09:42 PM

              I'll 2nd Trabuco Oaks and opine that the food is far better than passable. The setting is certainly unique and I think they've got some of the best steaks in SoCal. It doesn't have the name or style that Ruth's Chris, Morton's, Flemings and others have (or the prices!), but there's something about eating there that just makes it taste better. The shoestrong fries are among the best anywhere (although last time I was there they weren't up to par making me wonder if they changed methods/suppliers).

              It's a great evening (no lunch) out!

              1. re: RSMBob
                Joani Macaroni Jun 17, 2008 01:59 PM

                Thanks Bob (and Prof. Salt!) -
                I LOVE steak! I love meat! I'll skip the fries! Trabuco Oaks sounds really interesting and worth a drive!

                1. re: Joani Macaroni
                  stormin norman Jun 17, 2008 04:33 PM

                  Make sure you call first.I saw on the news that during the last spell of wild rain,they sustained serious water damage...not sure if they are open

            2. brekkie_fan Jun 13, 2008 07:59 AM

              I'll also add the retro allure of Park Ave in Stanton (where?!). Had a birthday party in the back room, and my guests loved the ambiance. Makes me crave a martini and cigarette . . . not that I smoke.


              1. o
                OCBites Jun 13, 2008 09:19 AM

                I like the Park Ave. suggestion-- far tastier than Bobby McGee's.

                Also, try La Cave in Costa Mesa (another retro joint, underground, with live music).

                Mesa Restaurant in Costa Mesa. Cool room with open ceiling. Very loungey. Probably not as cool as it thinks it is.

                Across the street is Habana and Memphis. Both worth contenders, in an OC manner.

                Also try The Crosby in downtown Santa Ana. Part cafe, part bar, all cool. There's another Memphis down there too (at The Santora bulding)... you could walk to each.

                1. h
                  huaqiao Jun 13, 2008 09:30 AM

                  Caspian Restaurant in Irvine. It's more like an over-the-top gaudy Persian dinner show than your typical quiet Middle Eastern restaurant. I thought the food was pretty good, but then I'm no expert on Persian food.


                  1. nomnomnoms Jun 13, 2008 10:31 AM

                    Go to the Art Walk at the Artist's District in Santa Ana. Every 1st Saturday of the month. They open all the art galleries and studios for public exhibition from 7pm to 10pm. Couple monthes ago they had some celebrity artists like Basil Wolverton and Mark Mothersbaugh... Really hip and cool. Most places provide simple refreshments like chips and cheap wine.
                    After you're done looking at all the local artworks, go to Memphis or Pangea for a late dinner. Memphis is really hopping during the Art Walk... Very busy.
                    Pangea is a little pricier, but I like the atmosphere there. Cozy and intimate, unless you're at the patio.
                    And then walk over to Gypsy Den for some coffee =)

                    1. j
                      Joani Macaroni Jun 15, 2008 08:37 PM

                      Having just tried Johnny Reb's today for the first time, I would add this one in Orange (on Chapman ave. 1/2 mile east of the 55), (one of four locations) to O.C.'s "quirky and fun" category. For more details, see my review under the "Which Johnny Reb's is Best?" thread.

                      1. j
                        Joani Macaroni Jun 29, 2008 08:39 PM

                        Saw kc_girl's post about this tea house and thought it should be on this list! For her full review see the Chowhound post 533850. Thank you kc!

                        "Enjoyed The Tea House on Los Rios in San Juan Capistrano very much."
                        . . . "We gals (ages 9 to 63) walked to the tea house in the historical district from the Mission San Juan Capistrano (after their Flower and Garden show and Lynn ChiChi's "Table Talk"), but there is parking close outside the tea house. Seating on four tops (or push tables together), private room, or patio seating."

                        Tea House On Los Rios
                        31731 Los Rios St, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

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