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Burbank Is an Open Book : A walk downtown will uncover a paradise for bookworms. Movie fans may also find some treasures from yesterday's stars.

June 18, 1993|KATHRYN BAKER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Kathryn Baker is a regular contributor to Valley Life

When Johnny Carson used to say his show emanated from "beautiful downtown Burbank," America thought it was a joke. There really is a downtown Burbank, or at least an area that feels like one, and it is indeed beautiful, especially to bookworms and inveterate browsers.

There are several public parking garages around San Fernando Boulevard and Orange Grove Avenue, the hub of our walking tour. This is the area just east of the Golden State Freeway, near the big AMC Burbank 14 movie theater complex and just south of the new Media City Center mall.

Beware of two-hour parking limits during certain hours. From our parking garage on Orange Grove Avenue we walked half a block south to San Fernando Boulevard and started exploring the area between Olive Avenue and Magnolia Boulevard.

1-1:30 p.m.: Book Castle, at the corner of Orange Grove Avenue and San Fernando Boulevard, is nothing less than heaven. The staff is even so kind as to have the store's boxes upon boxes of old magazines in only vague order, so you can leisurely search for that Newsweek article you meant to save, meanwhile allowing yourself to become distracted by a yellowing People magazine story on some celebrity you didn't think you cared about in 1989. Beyond, the extensive hard-back fiction section was particularly inviting. The industrious searcher can even find some reasonably priced first editions. Book Castle would seem to rival The Strand in New York for sheer volume of volumes. Our entire three-hour tour could have occurred in here, but we forced ourselves to move on.

1:30 p.m.: Just down the street is a different kind of collectors' nirvana, Movie World. The middle of this store is occupied by rows of file cabinets containing still photos from movie press kits, arranged alphabetically, so if you're looking for a glossy of a favorite star, it's likely to be here.

There are also back issues of entertainment-related magazines, plus new and used entertainment books.

A rare-books cabinet includes some autographed volumes. Movie posters, too, including ones from films not yet released.

2-2:15 p.m.: Morey's. We're talking shoes. Doc Martens to high heels, plus fashions of the polyester-blend variety. No books.

2:15-2:45 p.m.: Just across Palm Avenue we come to the well-ordered Book City. Besides used books of every kind, this store has a fairly extensive selection of movie and television scripts, plus a few CDs and tapes. There's a glass case of Beatles memorabilia on one side of the store and another filled with autographed glossies of celebrities on the other. Samples: The cast of "Cheers," $250; Clint Eastwood, $50.

2:45-3 p.m.: A quick stop to peruse magazines at Newsstand Etc. (Cigarettes appear to comprise the "etc.")

3-3:20 p.m.: At the end of the block we find Book Closeout, a mishmash of overstocks, from children's picture books to recent fiction to Larry McMurtry's "Evening Star," $3.95 for a first edition. At the corner of San Fernando and Magnolia boulevards, we paused to gaze upon the colossal Media City Center across the street. If Gotham City had a mall, this would be it. We prefer to continue our leisurely retro shopping along this would-be Main Street.

3:20-3:35 p.m.: We cross San Fernando Boulevard and double back south, coming first to The Last Grenadier. Though there are some tiny model soldiers in a case, much of this store is devoted to fantasy battle board games that apparently involve dozens of different kinds of creature-warrior figures and would seem to require years of study to figure out.

We couldn't decide whether to be frightened or purchase one of the games.

There are also some more amusing board games, albeit with rather bleak themes, such as "Paranoia." (If you win, must you seek therapy?) Also books, comics.

3:35-3:45 p.m.: We check out Market City Caffe, at the corner of San Fernando Boulevard and Palm Avenue, a cheery trattoria with a great-looking antipasto bar and optional outdoor seating. And who can resist a restaurant that has a life-size plastic cow at the door. (There's also Gourmet 88 across the street, with an extensive Mandarin Chinese menu.) A bagel shop and a candy store are tucked in the little mall/alleyway next to Market City.

3:45-4 p.m.: Now we're back on the east side of the street, south of Orange Grove Avenue. Grounds Zero, 124 N. San Fernando Blvd., advertises itself as "Burbank's hottest new coffeehouse." "Hot" and "Burbank" would seem an oxymoron, but a peek inside this little cafe reveals a cool, old-world, Eurostyle decor replete with international newspapers, books and board games to go with your cappuccino or cafe latte.

But could there be a Burbank cappuccino war brewing? Just around the corner, at 212 E. Orange Grove Ave., we find Tea 'n Tea, a dainty little tea, coffee and gift shop, incongruously boasting "Burbank's BIGGEST Cappuccino!" Next time we'll try both, but now we are weary from shopping downtown. Time to go back to the suburbs.

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