30 August 2010

Orange County Round Up, Part 1

I think it's about time that I share with you my favorite places in Orange County--the places that have fed me, nourished me, and kept me sane in this Republican bastion, the hinterlands of L.A., the place otherwise known as the Orange Curtain.

Granted, some parts of Orange County are bursting with flavor and culture like  Little Saigon in Fountain Valley or Santa Ana.  But this girl here is an L.A. girl at heart, and she happens to be living in the master planned city of Irvine aka Sterile City U.S.A.  So these favorite places have been hard earned and cherished, collected one at a time, gripped in a strangle hold during times of uncertainty.  You get my drift.

First, let's start off with two local cafes that a Newport Beach-ite recommended to me.  Gypsy Den and Alta Cafe.  Alta Den is located right off the bay in Newport Beach.  Don't let the wood-grain walls throw you off.  This little house turned cafe oozes character and charm.  The baristas are laid back and beachy cool and the proprietor will charm you with her British accent.  During the day, they can be quite anti-study people but the coffee is excellent (roasted on site) and the lunch sandwiches are gorgeous and affordable (especially the ginormous half sandwich with chips for $4.50).  The pastries haven't knocked my socks off but they're not bad.

Gypsy Den is a little less cool because, well, it's fabricated.  It's decorated with wall tapestries and oodles of vintage frames, paintings of nude women, and other paintings that you remember thinking was really ugly and dated at your grandparent's house.  But you know what, when you're in Orange County, you take your coffee with character however way you can.  It's the Disneyland effect.  Gypsy Den is located in two places: The Lab in Costa Mesa and the Art District in Santa Ana.  I like both for different reasons, though the Santa Ana one is cooler for being in a historic downtown area.  The food is yummy (though their chili and soup is lackluster), their Pirate Chai is truly worth its reputation, and their outdoor dining actually makes for a great dinner party of 4-8 people.  They even serve wine.

And lastly, I leave you with my all time cherished find.  Are you ready?  This will be it for now until Part 2.  This place is....

located in Crystal Cove

involves big hunks of cake or bricks of creme brulee bread pudding

a dinner to boot

a view of the ocean

A beautiful courtyard and patio seating

all for $9.99

It's called Pacific Whey Cafe.  Every day after 3pm, they have a dinner and dessert special for $9.99.  You get to pick one of seven different freshly made dinner options (like lasagna, meatloaf, fish'n chips, chicken pot pie, pasta) and any dessert out of the monstrous case of desserts.  And let's say you're full and you just want a coffee and something sweet.  No problem, all desserts are half off after 3pm.

I stop by here every time I come back from Laguna Beach after seeing my spiritual director.  The drive up Pacific Coast Highway takes my breath away and as the golden California sun sets over my beloved beach, I get to journal, eat, reflect, and collect myself for the week ahead in gratitude.  This is when I feel so lucky to be alive and lucky to live in Orange County if just for that moment.

Tune in for Part 2 Orange County Round Up!


  1. My tummy is rumbling. Glad you've found these gems!

  2. I remember Gypsy Den in Santa Ana. I liked it, but yeah it is kind of contrived.
    Check this out: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/30/us/politics/30orange.html

  3. Old School like 82 -- ah, thanks for the link. that's a good article. i agree with it that orange county is very diverse. it is...it just feels sprawling and very far from l.a. but i have been loving the beach lifestyle.

    Charissa--highly recommend for a date with yourself, your hubby, or girlfriends :)