If you have an appreciation of the historical and are not averse to drinking and reveling, the Capistrano Depot, with its feel of an old Western saloon--smoky, dark--is the place for you.
There is history here, as one would expect from Orange County's oldest village. The Santa Fe Railroad Station, built in 1895, boasts handmade adobe bricks and mission-type tiles that reflect the Mission San Juan Capistrano.
In recent times, the train depot has seen changes. In 1968, the Santa Fe Railway chose to discontinue its service to San Juan Capistrano. The old depot was not used by the railway for six years. But in 1974, after three years of negotiations with the railroad, the efforts of Pete and Jim Tyson paid off: They obtained a lease for the property and reopened the renovated depot as a rail-side restaurant, saloon and train shop.
Fortunately for the Tysons, in May, 1974, Amtrak reinstated two train stops at San Juan Capistrano. Today, trains make 16 stops per day.
A 15-minute trip from the Santa Ana train station ($5 one way; $10 round trip) drops a passenger off at the entrance of the Capistrano Depot. The passageway leads a visitor through nine interlocking railroad cars, including a caboose (formerly the Little Red Caboose Train Shop). The Pullman car, refurbished by the Tysons according to Pullman specifications, serves as a cocktail lounge.
Two of the cars are painted red. Their external walls bear replicas of original mid-'30s ads for Baby Ruth candy bars, Morton Salt, Chesterfield cigarettes, Red Man chewing tobacco and Tootsie Rolls. These cars house the dining room, the lower walls of which are paneled with wood. Slow-turning, belt-driven wooden fans hang from the ceiling. Tables and chairs provide the seating, as do actual train dining room seats, still upholstered with a faded broadloom fabric. A color reproduction of Franklin D. Roosevelt and route maps of the Atchinson, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad are displayed on the walls.
In the saloon, the lower walls are made of oak. Antique shipping crates and steamer trunks are packed into baggage compartments over the bar area, and beer is still dispensed from an antique mechanism behind the bar.
Hours: 5 to 9 p.m.; Saloon, 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Address: 26701 Verdugo St., San Juan Capistrano
Telephone: (714) 831-0232