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THE CORNER BAR

Midsummer Night's Hangout

August 27, 1992|JANET EASTMAN

Imagine that it's the most perfect night. You arrive early at the Festival Amphitheatre in Garden Grove to sip wine and take in the unstructured Shakespearean performances on the green outside the theater before sauntering inside to sit at arm's length from the GroveShakespeare actors who give a verse-by-verse version of the Bard. The play (through Sept. 26, a production of "The Merry Wives of Windsor"), the performers and your partner combine to create the most perfect night under the stars.

And you don't want it to end.

Where do you go from here?

Walk a short distance down Main Street from the amphitheater to Azteca, a Mexican restaurant and bar that's centered in the inviting oasis that was created when downtown Garden Grove was renovated.

Azteca's food service stops at 10 p.m., too early for the post-theater crowd, but the bar stays open until the bartender gets tired, the crowds get too thin or the clock strikes 2 a.m., whichever comes first. The waffling closing time means that you might be warned three times about a "last call" before it actually transpires; this is part of the casualness of this full-service bar.

The active, intimate crowd is composed more of "Cheers" types than Shakespearean types, adding to the unstuffy atmosphere.

Join the bar-stool patrons and you might end up singing along with them to piped in Patsy Cline or Anita Baker, or park yourself in a cozy tapestried booth, check out the kitschy ceramic knickknacks that dot each table and watch the antics from afar.

Either way, it will be the perfect ending to a midsummer's night dream.

Azteca Restaurant, 12911 Main St., Garden Grove. (714) 638-3790. Open daily, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

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