Where is Main Street Orange County? Not at Disneyland. The uninformed might scoff at the idea of our county, a widespread collection of diverse cities, having an archetypal thoroughfare. But we know better. O.C. doesn’t have one Main Street—we are spoiled with several, each acting as the vibrant hub of its respective town, packed with history yet ever-evolving.
The plaza in the center of Old Towne Orange and the antiques shops that line the streets nearby are so well-known that many people come to browse the vintage furniture and knickknacks, snap a photo at the plaza fountain, and head home.
That’s a shame, because those day-trippers miss a large aspect of Old Towne Orange’s personality, one that’s young and dynamic thanks in part to the proximity of Chapman University. Yes, some of the buildings and homes in the area were constructed before 1920, and the whole downtown district landed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. But there are plenty of spots around the plaza that look to modern times for inspiration.
For one thing, it’s a great place for craft beer aficionados. At The Wall, nearly 60 rotating taps include hard-to-find brews from across the country, while around the corner, Provisions offers flights and pints of nearly 30 beers on tap. As it nears its 10-year anniversary, Haven Gastropub continues to attract a lively crowd every night with unique craft beer, innovative cocktails, and creative, upscale food.
The plaza area is also a fun place to shop for trendy clothes and jewelry at Coco Rose and Laurenly, or an oversize pool float at the local toy store, Tiddlywinks. Neighboring vintage clothing shops Joyride and Elsewhere carry meticulously organized fashion for men and women from the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, pieces that blend seamlessly with today’s trends.
That’s not to say that old-school favorites are past their prime. The same family has been serving paella, fried plantains, and other Cuban specialties at Felix Continental Café since the 1970s, all in view of the plaza.
BUILT IN 1937
The art deco fountain in the plaza is iconic, but it’s not the original. It replaced a more traditional Edwardian sculpture, built in 1887, that’s now at the public library.
RENEE DALLAS & DEANNA DURIGON
Owners of Old Towne Orange Walking Food Tours, local historians, food experts, sisters
Favorite place to get a drink in Orange
Deanna: Francoli Gourmet. I go sit at the little bar and have a Spritz, a delicious Italian drink with prosecco and Aperol.
Best place to shop
Renee: The Potting Shed by Carlisle, a garden shop with unique home‑decor products. It’s perhaps the Orange version of Joanna Gaines’ style.
Most interesting off‑the‑beaten path spot
Renee: La Poblana, a Mexican bakery owned by a mom and daughter. They have these amazing Jell-O creations with flower art, plus homemade tamales and pastries.
Best place for culture
Renee: The Hilbert Museum, which specializes in California Scene art. If you love the history of this state, you can see it there.
Best things about being in Orange
Deanna: The people and the sense of community. Everybody cares about what’s going on in the community, and you feel it when you walk down the street.