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A Peek at Our Hidden Orange County Issue | February 2021


Hidden Orange County
We reveal the lesser-known  aspects of our county: secluded camping, surprising services, secret spots, and dishes that are hiding in plain sight.

Photograph by Julie Salas-Rodriguez

“We get two responses (about our drive-in shows): ‘Thank you for bringing us arts during COVID-19’ and ‘Thank you for keeping us safe.’ The first is the one I expected; the second is the one that makes me cry.”

Farrell Hirsch, CEO of Muckenthaler Cultural Center

Top Dentists of 2021
These 286 dental professionals were chosen by their peers as some of the best in our area. Also: Read about Newport Beach dentist Alan Gonzalez and his experience practicing during the pandemic.

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

People & Places

Opener | A seasonal waterfall in Dana Point
’Hoods | A busy thoroughfare where Cypress meets Buena Park
Perfect Getaway | Take in the sunset, the oak trees, and the relaxation of Ojai.
Culturephile | A Santa Ana wildlife artist and muralist
O.C. Events | This month’s top outdoor and online happenings

Style & Home

Opener | Colorful pouches from Stoney Clover Lane at Lido Marina Village
At Home With … | Irvine-based company creating spaces for high-end fashions
On The Market |
A Santa Ana property with a spa-like bathroom
Finds | Stock your closet with something blue, this season’s favorite color.
Hot Shop | ZeroUV at Rodeo 39 Public Market in Stanton

Mayfield photograph by Emily J. Davis

Food & Drink

Opener and Main Course | Family-style dining with Mediterranean flavors shines in San Juan Capistrano
Three’s a Trend | Roasted marrow adds a rich—and nutritious—element to these local comfort dishes.
Food Trends | Globally influenced brunch spots


My O.C. | Never learning to be comfortable in the water leaves a longtime impression on this writer.
Excursions | Neighbors look to reclaim Santa Ana open space, but homeless people have few options.

Dining Guide

Many of our 200-plus restaurant reviews

Down for Dance photo courtesy of Annie Griffith

Back Page

Person of Interest | Co-founder of Down for Dance, a nonprofit dance program for the Down syndrome community

8 Kobe Bryant Murals in Orange County

Social Kitchen + Craft Bar, Costa Mesa
512 W. 19th St.

Photograph by Michelle Pagaran

Santa Ana
452-462 N. Spurgeon St.


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El Toro Bravo, Costa Mesa
739 W. 19th St.


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Golden Spoon, Corona del Mar
2445 E. Coast Highway

Ashe Society, Santa Ana
3601 W. Garry Ave.

BoxHaus, Newport Beach
1342 Bison Ave. 



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Laguna Beach
1294 S. Coast Highway

Santa Ana
Bishop St. and Standard Ave.

For an updated list of murals in Orange County and beyond, head to kobemural.com.

Read more about the nine O.C. residents we lost last year at orangecoast.com/life-style/heres-how-all-9-killed-in-helicopter-crash-were-part-of-o-c-community-including-kobe-bryant/.

The Return of O.C.’s Gary Turner and His BMX Bikes

Photograph by Emily J. Davis

Gary Turner is back.

After a two-decade hiatus, the GT in GT Bicycles—an Orange County company Turner co-founded in 1979 that became the world’s top BMX brand and a giant in the American bicycle industry—is back in the bike business. The 73-year-old’s name, famous in the bike world, appears on trendy limited-edition oversized BMX street cruisers that Turner and his son Craig make at an Orange workshop. Demand is through the roof.

“Who woulda thunk it?” Turner says. “I had no desire to ever make bikes again. And then …”

Turner retired in 1999, a few years after his business partner Richard Long died and a decade after GT had been sold. He spent the next 17 years dabbling in real estate, helping his wife with her antique store in Orange, and pursuing his hobby tinkering with high-performance dragsters and Funny Cars from his nearby garage. During that time, the only signs of bikes were the old BMX plaques and trophies on his office walls.

“About seven or eight years ago, an explosion of BMX nostalgia on the internet started getting 40- and 50-year-olds searching for their roots,” Turner says. “Lots of them had kids and wanted to ride with them. Others just want to get in shape. So instead of buying a mountain or road bike, they started thinking about their old BMX bikes.”

As many started putting together replicas of the bikes they rode as 10-year-olds, a realization set in: “They didn’t fit on those little 20-inch wheels anymore,” Turner says. “They were 6 feet tall and weighed 200 pounds now. They needed an adult-sized BMX bike with bigger wheels. A cruiser. ”

BMX cruisers with 26- and 29-inch wheels from a number of brands have become popular in the past few years. In 1979, for just one year, GT made a 26-inch BMX cruiser, and fans hadn’t forgotten. At BMX revival shows around Southern California, where attendees buy and sell BMX parts and participate in restored-bike shows, the same questions were asked again and again of Craig Turner.

“Could your dad build me one?”

Gary Turner said no. But he was willing to teach his son.

Building a bike frame is a lot of work—cutting tubing, welding, painting. “I’ve kind of enjoyed appearing at these shows as a celebrity guest, autographing frames, and posing for pictures,” Gary Turner says. “But if I was going to get back in the bike business, Craig was gonna have to do most of the work.”

So Gary Turner bicycles came full circle, given that it started with a bike that Gary built for Craig.

In 1974, Gary took young Craig and his $29 Huffy banana-seat bike to a dirt lot in Long Beach, where he’d heard kids were flying off jumps and having fun on their Schwinn Sting-Rays. Watching the scene, Gary decided he could build his son a faster, safer bike.

A machinist at the time, Turner used his welding skills to raise the bottom bracket, where the cranks rotate, so the pedals would clear the bumps more easily. He made the frame out of a super-light, strong steel alloy used in race cars. His novel design, which slid the seat post through a port in an oversized top tube, was lighter and better looking than others available in the new sport of BMX. The Gary Turner bike became an instant hit at the Western Sports-Arama track in Santa Ana. Every kid wanted a GT, the nickname they gave the brand.

Turner teamed with Long, an ambitious Anaheim bike shop owner, and they manufactured under the name GT BMX in Turner’s garage. They rapidly outgrew the garage. BMX exploded in the late 1970s, and GT became the dominant brand. The company then became a leader in the booming adult mountain-bike market. By 1996, it made road bikes and was one of the biggest bike companies in the country.

Today, Craig Turner makes bikes a stone’s throw from where Gary made his first bike in 1974. Learning the art from his father, the retired police officer welds and builds up to 50 frames a month. Gary pitches in when necessary and signs them as customers request. Although a few Gary Turners are purchased as completely assembled bikes, 95 percent are sold as frame and fork only.

“That’s because a big part of the thrill for old BMXers is building their own bike—just like they did as kids,” Gary Turner says. “Only now, they can afford a lot more.”

Eric Zimmerman, an account manager from Yorba Linda who raced BMX as a kid, is proof of that. He ran into the Turners four years ago at the Orange Y BMX track and has since bought two 26-inch and two 29-inch-wheel Gary Turner BMX cruisers. He also owns five other BMX bikes and two e-bikes.

The investment is significant. A Turner frame and fork runs $500 to $700 on the website, and a complete bike can start at $1,000 once you source all the parts. “Two of my Gary Turners are well worth $4,000,” Zimmerman says.

Why would he spend that much to ride once or twice a week for 20 or 30 miles?

“First of all, I’m a big guy—6-foot-3, 250 pounds,” says Zimmerman, who rides with his girlfriend and their friends on the beach path from Newport Beach to Huntington and the Santa Ana River trail. “This is my main fitness activity, and I don’t feel safe on a store-bought beach cruiser. I jump down stairs and up curbs, so I need a burly bike.

“And frankly, I love the attention,” he adds. “So many O.C. kids grew up on GTs, so they know the Gary Turner name, especially in the last few years with the adult BMX comeback. It’s the equivalent of owning a Ferrari in the BMX world.”

The modern GT brand, no longer a dominant BMX name, actually tapped the Gary Turner magic a couple years ago. Seeing a public relations opportunity in the heightened interest in old GT BMX bikes, it released a limited-edition version of the 1979 26-inch GT BMX Cruiser in late 2019. It was made by the Turners in their garage and promoted as the first American-made GT in 20 years. All 100 of the $899 limited-edition frame sets sold out within two weeks.

With the pandemic sending demand for bicycles soaring in 2020, sales doubled for Gary Turner frames. Special theme models with unique graphics have been snapped up quickly. Coming this year is the “CEO,” a model to honor the 25th anniversary of Long’s death.

“I thought Gary Turner bikes was going to be a limited-edition project, but people just kept ordering,” says Craig, noting that bike production has taken over the shop, relegating Gary’s dragster to one small portion of the floor space. “Now it’s my full-time job.”

Outdoor Dining Resumes; O.C. Moves To Purple Tier


With the state’s regional stay-at-home order lifted, outdoor dining and personal services are allowed to resume. The curfew (10 p.m. to 5 a.m.) is also no longer in effect.

The order, which was placed Dec. 6 to reduce stress on the health care system, was ended Monday as four-week ICU capacity projections had reached above 15 percent.

This news was met with relief by local restaurants such as San Juan Capistrano’s Mayfield, which decided to remain closed and not offer takeout during the order. Instead, the new eatery (opened in 2020) focused on its wine club, which curates bottles of natural wine every month for members.

“It’s lucky as we are getting to the point of real financial issues as we don’t qualify for any government support because we opened (last) year,” says George Barker, owner of Mayfield. “To qualify for any government financial aid like PPP programs, you have to be able to show losses against 2019. Well, if you weren’t open in 2019, you can’t and therefore can’t get any help.”

The restaurant will be allowed to seat guests at its patio and open-air dining room, which has two 120-square-foot windows and 20-foot retractable doors that ensure a natural airflow.

Under the purple tier, hair salons, barbershops, and similar personal services are allowed to open indoors with modifications. Fitness centers, museums, religious services, and entertainment centers can also open outdoors.

Head to covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy for the latest updates or refer to this chart which breaks down what’s allowed under every tier.

Chapman Alum and Opera Singer Ashley Faatoalia On His Music Career

What have been some highlights of your career?
Definitely singing at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion the first time. I grew up seeing the LA Phil with my mom, so to be on that stage was profound. Singing the anthem at Dodger Stadium. Singing at the Sydney Opera House. Joining The Industry, an experimental opera company. Getting a phone call from Aretha Franklin.

Aretha Franklin?
I missed her call. I listened to the message and almost dropped my phone. Then she called back, and I jumped on it. I just idolized her. She was considering a label of classical music at the time. It didn’t end up happening, but it showed me I was on the right path.

How did you get into classical singing?
My grandmother was a professional singer with Capitol Records, and she was an inspiration to me. I was obsessed with contemporary music. I did musical theater in high school, and my teacher said, “Ash, you can sing all these different genres, but the best idea is to learn the foundational technique.” So I studied voice at Chapman. And I began my formal operatic training with Dr. Peter Atherton.

What led to the pop album?
I had decided to be “serious” about classical singing and really focus on it. That served me well, but I never stopped loving contemporary music. So I got together with some friends and released “Extra” last year.

You recently did a virtual recital with your alma mater.
I got contacted by LA Opera, who I work with fairly regularly. My mentor and friend who is now an associate dean, Dr. Louise Thomas, accompanied me on piano. It was fun to get together after all these years.

Hear Him!
Listen at ashleyfaatoalia.com.

O.C. Sips and Bites: The Saigon Lychee Cocktail from Chato’s Bar and Grill in Santa Ana

Photograph by Max Milla

New Chato’s Bar and Grill in Santa Ana presents elevated Mexican fare by chef Sergio Ortega. As might be expected, Chato’s also offers margaritas, including an off-menu super-premium version with gold flakes. Not expected—yet one of its top sellers, more popular than any food item—is the Saigon Lychee. Turns out lychees are grown in several Mexican states … and Chato’s managing partner Chris Pham is half Mexican, half Vietnamese. The cocktail features Effen Black Cherry Vodka, elderflower and pomegranate liqueurs, lychee puree, and pineapple juice and arrives bubbling and smoking on dry ice. Pair it with the crispy fish taco—masa-fried white fish, spicy lychee slaw, and chile-ash aioli—or perhaps the grilled quail with salsa borracha. The Saigon Lychee also tops the list of canned cocktails to go. 400 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, 714-852-3256, chatosbarandgrill.com

Top Doctors of Orange County for 2021

In case you missed it, visit our Top Doctors 2021 section to read inspiring medical stories, see the list of all 660 top doctors in Orange County and check out some of the featured doctors as well.

2021 has been a year full of challenges. None are more harrowing, heroic, and remarkable than the ones faced by healthcare workers. We salute you, honor you, and thank you…THANK YOU!

Visit Top Doctors 2021

4 New Spots Coming to The District at Tustin Legacy

Hermosa Taqueria
Led by chef Philip Tangonan, who has worked at restaurants such as Chapter One in downtown Santa Ana and the Cannery in Newport Beach, this taqueria will serve signature dishes such as birria and al pastor tacos and duck confit pupusas. You can also expect house-made salsas and hand-pressed tortillas. Located inside Union Market, the 30-seat dining room features intricate tilework and paintings by local artists. Outdoor dining, beer, wine, and takeout will be available.

Dolce Gelato
The Laguna Beach gelateria is set to open another location next to AMC Tustin 14 in the spring. Choose from over 32 different flavors of scratch-made gelato, including 10 vegan options. The salted maple caramel, créme brulee, and coconut are a few of the crowd favorites. Look out for new themed flavors every month. $4.25 to $6.95 a scoop. Available in to-go pints.

The Academy
OC Hit Factory, an on-site recording studio, is debuting acting, dancing, singing, and songwriting classes geared towards children and teens. Classes will be available in-person (limited to 6 to 8 per group) as well as hybrid (over Zoom and private one-on-one in-person) starting this spring.

Casa Del Sol
This 6,000 square-foot, family-owned restaurant will have a bar, an outdoor patio, a private dining room, and live performances by Mariachi Sol de Mexico, the first mariachi ensemble to be nominated for a Grammy, and Reyna de Los Angeles, America’s first all-female mariachi band. Opening late spring.

Visit thedistricttl.com for info about all restaurants.

Here’s a List of Black-Owned Businesses and Organizations to Support in O.C.


Originally posted on June 5, 2020.

Lasting and meaningful change starts within our own communities. You can make a positive impact by patronizing these local Black-owned businesses and donating to organizations that are helping improve the lives of Black residents in O.C.


Aosa Coffee
Huntington Beach, 714-840-5700

Beale’s Texas BBQ
Huntington Beach, 562-588-3070

Cloud 9 Bakers
San Juan Capistrano, 949-388-8311

Fork in the Road Catering
Costa Mesa, 562-252-6923

The Fuel Shack
San Clemente, 949-388-4015

Georgia’s Restaurant
Anaheim, 714-906-1900

Hambone’s BBQ Bar & Grill
Huntington Beach, 714-968-1261

Iron Catering Crew
Costa Mesa, 888-641-8187

Made by Yub
Costa Mesa, 562-354-1331

McClain Cellars
Laguna Beach, 805-426-4441

Munchies Diner
Santa Ana

Morika’s Southern Delights
Laguna Hills

Naughty Panda
Santa Ana

The Nest
Garden Grove

Protein Lab
Buena Park, 714-503-0775

Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles
Anaheim, 714-823-4130

Tico Rico
San Clemente

Tribute Coffee House
Garden Grove, 714-852-3005

Here is a Google spreadsheet of other local Black-owned restaurants organized by O.C. food influencers @lovetram and @nonstopeats.


Amour Propre
Mission Viejo, 562-335-5947

Carla Rae Photography
714-273-6292, iwanabnpix@aol.com

C Dobbs
Newport Beach, 949-427-2321

CCC Acting Studio
Garden Grove, 714-710-1053

Cherry Hills Market
Huntington Beach, 800-504-6979


Flawless Wedding Events

Grocery Outlet
Irvine, 949-732-3876

Just Succ It
San Juan Capistrano

K.O. Dog Training
San Juan Capistrano, 949-391-0206

Laguna Candles
Laguna Beach, 949-680-8444

Leadership in Heels by Scharell Jackson
Lake Forest

Lucky Black Skin Solutions

Makena Electric
Huntington Beach, 714-960-6756

Naturalistic Brows

Noisia Display
Irvine, 858-927-4128

The Nurse Milk

Right Choice Fitness
Virtual/home fitness services
Irvine, 949-413-7405 cell, 949-786-2155 office

Rock City Climbing
Anaheim Hills, 714-777-4884

Sandra Johnson Designs
Anaheim Hills

Shen Does Hair
Orange, 714-206-4130

Sporty Cuts
Irvine, 949-387-2444

Studio C Florals
Newport Beach, 949-400-1951

Sweet Spot Waxing
Mission Viejo, 949-295-0613

The Wax & Sugar Skin Boutique
San Clemente, 949-391-2279


Arts & Learning Conservatory
Costa Mesa, 714-728-7100

Orange County Bail Fund

100 Black Men of Orange County

Black Chamber of Orange County

Orange County African American Community Center Inc.

Young Black Professionals of Orange County

Orange County Heritage Council, which organizes the annual OC Black History Parade & Unity Festival

OC Realtist

Further Reading and Resources:

Radical Thinker At UC Irvine Spreads Afropessimism Wherever He Goes
A radical thinker helming the African American Studies department at UC Irvine, Frank B. Wilderson III is an award-winning author, professor, and public intellectual.

Meet L. Song Richardson, New Dean of UCI’s School of Law
A graduate of Harvard University and Yale Law School and a faculty member at the UC Irvine School of Law since 2014, she is one of the nation’s leading experts on the complex and politically charged issue of racial bias and the criminal justice system.

The Rap Bias
With the national debate on race relations as a backdrop, we talk with UC Irvine professor Charis Kubrin about her research on rap music and the judicial system. Is there really justice for all?

‘Yonder they do not love your flesh’: Mourning, Anti-Blackness, and Claiming All of Us
A webinar hosted by UCI Humanities meant to “reflect on the persistence of anti-black violence and harm during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Have a local Black-owned business or organization you think we should add to this list? Leave a comment below.