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3-HOUR TOUR

Tustin Marketplace Makes A Splash

April 01, 1993|ANNE MICHAUD | Anne Michaud is a staff writer for The Times Orange County Edition.

The Tustin Marketplace is a good example of sociologists' claim that malls and other shopping areas are the centers of America's community life.

On a Sunday, families break from shopping and settle around the central water fountain. Kids poke hands and feet into the streams of water shooting from the mouths of four stone frogs.

During the evening, couples stroll into Renaissance Coffee for cappuccino and live music. Teen-agers buzz around the ticket booth at the Edwards Theatre.

This small island at the center of the Tustin Marketplace is a good place to relax, city-style, in the company of a bustle of strangers.

6 to 7: Rubio's has some of the best fish tacos around. It must have something to do with the spices they use.

If you don't like fish tacos, this restaurant has a varied menu of Mexican dishes. Combinations dishes run from $3.79 to $4.60; the kid's meal is $2.89 with a soft drink and prize included.

Rubio's serves beer, too.

The restaurant's glass walls look out onto the Marketplace courtyard--the one with the fountain. So, Rubio's is a good place to people-watch.

The owners also apparently have a sense of humor. A goldfish tank is a centerpiece of the dining room, and many a diner must be tempted to imagine that those colorful fish could be tacos some day.

7 to 7:45: Step outside of Rubio's, and Renaissance Coffee is there to your right. Renaissance serves sinful-sounding desserts: chocolate decadence, white chocolate raspberry truffle, New York-style cheesecake.

On a recent evening, most people seemed to settle for a coffee drink. They perched atop stools and wedged into chairs to listen to a guitarist play "Tangled Up in Blue" and "Norwegian Wood." Renaissance has live entertainment every night, beginning at 7.

This coffee shop has some quaint touches. There is a rack filled with newspapers and magazines, and a recycling bin for polystyrene. If you buy a pound of coffee, you're entitled to a free cup. And if you don't want it at the moment, Renaissance will give you a wooden chip you can redeem later.

7:45 to 8: The Discount Picture Mart does not make a claim to high concept or discovering unknowns. But you could probably match any living room set with the prints found here.

The tiny shop offers a huge variety of images and frames. It's a fun place to poke around, and the prices are pretty good. A smallish black-and-white portrait of James Dean, for example, was priced at $14.95.

8 to 8:30: Yogurt America's Cup is a self-serve smorgasbord. You can walk over to one of a dozen nonfat yogurt dispensers and pour out flavors such as chocolate, cherry vanilla and pistachio.

Then, you can top your yogurt with any of about 20 selections--crumbled Oreo cookie, gummy bears, sliced almonds and more.

8:30 to 8:45: Tower Records has a variety and depth seldom matched by other music stores. In the reggae bin, for example, there are 10 recordings of Yellowman's work. Need I say more?

This Tower Records surprised me by carrying rock star biographies, music reference books and some esoteric magazines such as Country Fever, Computer Music Journal and Metal Hammer.

8:45 to 9: Bookstar is to books what Tower Records is to music--ambitiously vast. What it may lack in lovable quirks, it makes up for in variety.

The section for business books, for example, breaks the topic down into economics, computers, personal finance, investing and corporate finance, small business, real-estate, management and leadership, and sales. Whew!

Bookstar also carries some hard-to-find magazines. Among them, American Cage Bird, Journal of Palestine Studies, Civil War Times and Good Dog!: The Consumer Magazine for Dog Owners. You don't see that every day.

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