Hidden O.C.: We’ve Been Saving Our Best Finds for You!

Who doesn’t love a good mystery? Or stumbling on a gem of a business you didn’t know existed? Or discovering a great deal?  Heck, we all do! We’ve been saving our best finds for you, from speakeasys and sunken artifacts to rooftop restaurants. Shhhh… don’t tell anyone.

Knock, knock
• The Woodshed supplies gourmet cooking wood to some of our favorite restaurants: Costa Mesa’s Arc and Taco María, plus the Huntington Beach Brewery, Houston’s in Irvine, pizzerias, and others. It also sells retail, so you can get that woodsy flavor at home, too. There’s pecan and hickory from Oklahoma and Texas, orange and almond from California, and red oak (the most popular) from the Santa Maria area. Available in chips, chunks, and logs—perfect for the fireplace or your barbecue. 1015 N. Batavia, Orange, 714-771-2626, thewoodshedoc.com

Fries by Guys
• Because it’s famous for orange rice, white sauce, and killer gyros, The Halal Guys doesn’t register as french fry nirvana. Slow down on the fresh pita bread and make room for golden crinkles fries, salted just so. Direct from the fryer, the squiggly spuds are perfectly fluffy inside crisp skins. 3033 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, 714-850-1080, thehalalguys.com

For crafty ones
• Coast down Garden Grove’s historic Main Street and be on the lookout for the prominent facade of Azteca Restaurant. The tiny arts and crafts mecca Your Pad or Mine? is two doors away. Stock up on paper-crafting supplies, including unique die-cuts and stamps, and check out the multitude of classes and clubs, such as Mason Jars of Fun Make & Take and the Julie Nutting Doll Club (paper dolls!). 12903 Main St., Garden Grove, 714-638-4206, facebook.com/Your-Pad-or-Mine

The Woodshed in Orange.

Go alfresco
• Mezzet’s pocket patio can be your secret arbor. It’s invisible from the street and even from the restaurant’s main seating area. Adorned with painted vines, the setting feels worlds away and just right for a quiet mezze lunch or kebob dinner from the brick oven. 3333 Bear St., Costa Mesa, 714-540-3365, mezzetsouthcoastplaza.com

Art for all
• With the goal of inspiring everyone to find joy in art, Open House Creative offers classes that are just a bit different, such as block printing and ceramics. There’s also drawing, screen printing, and macramé, and look for seasonal classes, too, such as this month’s tutorial on wreath-building.
1602 Babcock St., Costa Mesa, 949-438-5674, openhouse-creative.com

Fuel Up
• A gas station is probably the last place most people would look for tasty Mediterranean food, yet that’s just what we found at Fountain Valley’s Kech Cafe. The family-run business, inside a Shell station’s Circle K convenience store, serves customizable lavosh wraps, flatbreads, espresso drinks, and a variety of side salads with surprisingly fresh produce. Friendly service from owner Harry Kechijian and family is what keeps us coming back. 17966 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley, 714‑968‑1122

Say “Jeff invited me”
• Squint to find this American dinner house in a sleepy center that doesn’t hint at the gracious service and classic, upscale fare locals would rather keep to themselves. The eight bar stools at Jeff’s Inviting Food and Spirits are always taken, so make reservations to avoid being turned away from a full house. 1904 N. Tustin St., Orange, 714‑998‑8282, jeffsoc.com

Gifts from the Villa
• Villa Park is a little hidden to us. So we only recently found The Green Pear, an elegant gift shop with French linens, exquisite baby presents, Skyros Design plates and bowls, locally made jewelry, Olivia Riegel picture frames, holiday banners, and more. Tucked into a sprawling shopping center, it’s known for its sophisticated and complimentary gift-wrapping. 17853 Santiago Blvd., Villa Park, 714-998-2090, greenpearhome.com

Outpost Kitchen in Costa Mesa
Outpost Kitchen in Costa Mesa

Searching for beans
• It’s an adventure to find this purveyor of the certified organic coffee served at Alta, Bogart’s, and Lola Gaspar. Take the driveway to the back parking lot to find the three small rooms housing Wilson Coffee Roasting. Owner Jim Schwartz and staff roast beans sourced from Asia, Africa, and South and Central America using a fluid bottom roaster for a less-bitter brew. One-half to 4-pound bags are available. They offer cold-brew bottles and organic tea, too. 1651 Placentia Ave., Costa Mesa, 949-574-9444, wilsoncoffeeroasting.com

In the outback
• You’ll have to tool around Westside Costa Mesa’s outback of industrial buildings to reach Outpost Kitchen, but maybe that’s appropriate given that co-owner Jay Lewis is from Australia. He and partner Elizabeth Lewis craft enticing breakfast and lunch fare that’s locally sourced, fresh, seasonal, and organic. Oh, yeah, it’s all super-delicious. 1792 Monrovia Ave., Costa Mesa, 949-873-5123, outpostkitchen.com

Circle of memories
• The horses don’t spring to life as they do in “Mary Poppins,” but the centerpiece carousel
at Adventure City still boasts its fair share of magic. From the prolific carousel-maker Allan Herschell, this 1946 spinster, with its turn-of-the-century music, will conjure up happy memories for parents and kids alike. Bonus: It’s just one of the affordable, family-friendly attractions Adventure City has to offer. 1238 S. Beach Blvd., Anaheim, 714-236-9300, adventurecity.com

It’s a sly heat
• For a sleeper dish in an unsung beach hang, order Jorge’s Calamari at Fly ’N’ Fish Oyster Bar & Grill and specify your 1-to-10 heat tolerance. Fresh calamari is sautéed with capers, lemon juice, shallots, garlic, parsley, jalapenos, and blue agave tequila. House-made garlic-Parmesan toast is included for dipping. 2304 W. Oceanfront, Newport Beach, 949-673-8400, flynfishoysterbar.com

Old Bones Co. in Costa Mesa.
Old Bones Co. in Costa Mesa.

Find your name
• Everybody knows your name at Cheers, but O.C. has Three Seventy Common, where you can get a free drink if your name is on the chalkboard to the right of the bar. Your friends can pre-purchase a beverage (in person), and your name, their name, and your drink goes on the board. Check when you arrive to find out what’s been reserved for you! Perfect for birthdays, anniversaries, or to brighten a rough day. 370 Glenneyre St., Laguna Beach, 949-484-8686, 370common.com

When the future glittered
• Entering the showroom/warehouse of Old Bones Co. is like stepping into an episode of “Mad Men.” The midcentury modern-inspired furnishings (they’re quality replicas) are sleek and hip. From various vendors, including Joybird and Jonathan Adler, they include sectionals, credenzas, dining tables and chairs, sputnik chandeliers, sunburst wall clocks, and more—all evoking a time when the future seemed so glittery. 641 Paularino Ave., Costa Mesa, 714-641-2800, oldbonesco.com

Master a classic skill
• Rossanna travels around Orange County giving private and group sewing lessons to children and adults. She also leads classes at Piecemakers and above an Ace Hardware store and has been teaching for 35 years. We especially like her fashion background: sample- and pattern-maker; helped to develop Nordstrom’s private label program; and had her own line of clothing. 714‑376‑2648, orangecountysewinglessons.com

Straight outta Compton, literally
• We know just the place to score truly street-style clothes with clean lines,
a neutral palette, and tons of cred. Opened under the radar at SoCo, Drifter is the retail outlet of a Compton-based brand boasting clothing with modern, edgy silhouettes for men and women. 3323 Hyland Ave., Costa Mesa, 714-617-4894, drifter.com

Six for sixty
• Sure, Old Vine Café is a cherished brunch spot, but most fans don’t know that chef-owner Mark McDonald also can be your wine consultant. Ask and he will suggest a tantalizing mix of six take-home wines from the café’s cellar for $60. This steal includes McDonald’s notes on pairing each wine for maximum deliciousness. 2937 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, 714-545-1411, oldvinecafe.com

Robotron: 2084, anyone?
• Get your game on, 1980s-style, at 2084 Arcade. This private collection of arcade video games celebrates the “golden age,” which began circa 1978 with Space Invaders. For old-schoolers, there’s a quartet of pinball machines. Open on select weekends; you pay $10 for entry and get to play into the wee hours. Pac-Man? Tron? Grab that joystick! 520 S. Claudina St., Anaheim, 657-201-9835, 2084, arcade.com

School was never like this
• Dale Frank, Newport Beach founder of Super Game Bus, says hehas O.C.’s only mobile gaming party bus. His converted yellow school bus comes to you. The equipment: seven 50-inch TVs and all the current and most popular games for Xbox, XboxOne, Wii, and Wii U games. 949-209-8946, supergamebus.com

The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano
The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano

Button, button who’s got the…
• That would be owners Boris and Galia Gukaylo, legends in the business of haute alterations and repairs. The owners say that Buttonham Palace is likely “the largest button store in the world,” with buttons from ’round the globe. This shop adjoins their other store, Knitwear Doctor, which offers repairs and alterations of leading knitwear brands, including St. John, Chanel, and Hermès. They also sell these designers’ knitwear. No wonder they’ve been here nearly 30 years. 1651 Placentia Ave., Costa Mesa, 949-650-1025

From cheese to rainwater
• The Ecology Center’s classes demonstrate how to make your own cheeses; capture and store rainwater for your garden; and design a home landscape using sustainable design principles. Check the calendar at this small center with a growing reach and important mission. 32701 Aplipaz St., San Juan Capistrano, 949-443-4223, theecologycenter.org

Writing with flourish
• Irvine resident Younghae Chung of Logos Calligraphy teaches the art of the written word. For those already familiar with copperplate calligraphy, Chung leads a workshop in flourishing and design this month at Santa Ana’s M. Lovewell. First time picking up a pointed pen? Check the Logos website for upcoming beginners’ courses, too. logoscalligraphy.com

Seven-year brunch
• We’ve been waiting since 2009 for executive chef Justin Miller’s brunch at Pizzeria Ortica. It’s finally here and so, so scrumptious. Light on pizzas and heavy on discerning egg dishes, it also offers morning treats from pastry diva Colleen Flynn. Add spirit animal Joel Caruso’s posh brunch cocktails, and you’ll know it was worth the wait. 650 Anton Blvd., Costa Mesa, 714-445-4900, ortica.com

Behind a green wall
• Seeking serenity in the garden? Akita Bonsai Nursery delivers with its Japanese landscape and design. The 2½-acre locale, which moved its operations here from Escondido in 2011, is filled with bonsai, bamboo, palms, and more. You can buy a 5-gallon plant or a 30-inch box. Or maybe you’d like a cute potted bonsai for your patio tabletop? Prices depend on age, size, and form. 8641 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach, 714-848-7709, akitabonsainursery.com

A sparkling space
• A narrow house might have fit into the ocean-view wedge that is charming Ruby Street Park,
but thank goodness that never happened. Instead, there are two cement tables, with stones inset for chess or checkers, and a nearby wooden balcony and bench on the cliff overlooking the sea, for relaxing or a romantic rendezvous. Perfection. Ocean Way and Ruby Street, Laguna Beach

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