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Sunset at the Strip Mall Saloon

August 23, 1990

Yorba Linda could give Irvine a run for its money as the white-bread capital of Orange County, a fact that makes the very existence of the slightly rough-at-the-edges Canyon Inn even more of an anomaly.

Set in a nondescript strip mall on the southern edge of town, the inn can be easy to miss. But inside, it's cozy enough to live up to its own billing as the "last of the neighborhood saloons"--lots of wood, a well-stocked bar, a jukebox heavy on classic rock hits and help that knows the regulars by name.

There's live music on Saturday and Sunday nights--'50s and '60s covers--along with drink specials and other promotions during the week. And there's food too: burgers, sandwiches, cheesesteaks, salads and a daily special served at lunch and dinner.

The inn's friendly crowd, heavy on regulars, is decidedly eclectic, ranging from blue collar to executive. Men and women in business suits shoot pool alongside the cigarette-pack-in-the-shirtsleeve types. With eight TVs and a satellite dish, the bar is a heavy draw for sports fans on weekends.

Art Splawn has owned the Canyon Inn for 12 years and can usually be found overseeing the action from his customary seat at the far end of the bar. He takes a certain pride in keeping his joint thriving in an era of chain restaurant/bars and trendy decor.

"Most of your small, independent places are being run out of business," Splawn says. "There just aren't many of them any more."

But while the $500,000 homes in Yorba Linda continue to spring up around it, the Canyon Inn manages to maintain its unpretentious little niche. "The last of the neighborhood saloons"? In this corner of the county, that may not be too much of an exaggeration.

The Canyon Inn, 6821 Fairlynn Blvd. (just off Esperanza Road), Yorba Linda. Open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. and weekends from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. (714) 779-0880. --RICK VANDERKNYFF

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