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Orange County Itinerary

Shoot and Shop on Baker Street

Stretch of establishments offers pool hall, china, lingerie, soul food.

June 19, 1997|BENJAMIN EPSTEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

You can put yourself through the spiritual wringer along one stretch of Baker Street in Costa Mesa. Start out at a pool hall and a pleasure boutique, continue at a spiritual bookstore. There's soul food around the corner.

LUNCH: 1

A live shark swims in the 2,000-gallon tank at the Shark Club (pool hall, pool shark, get it?); Renaissance reproductions hang on the walls surrounding 25 pool tables.

The upscale impression begins with valet parking. Daytime is the hot ticket: Pool is free 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays with the purchase of a lunch entree ($4) and beverage. Eat, then play for hours. A half dozen choices range from quesadillas to tiger shrimp fettuccine with garlic bread. Half-price appetizers and $2 draft beer and house wine are offered during happy hour (4 to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday).

Otherwise, items on the typically eclectic California-style menu run $4.75 to $8.50. Drinks include Shark Bite (blue curacao, vodka and Amaretto) and Redrum Redrum (rum, Southern Comfort, coconut cream in "blood red" punch), each $5. Table rates are $10 per hour Monday through Wednesday, $12 per hour Thursday through Saturday. There's a $7 cover Thursday and Saturday evenings, $10 on Friday evenings, with dancing on those nights.

AFTERNOON: 2 3 4

Once patterned after the Reject China Shop in England, Almost & Perfect English China now focuses mostly on flawless china, crystal and tableware. Items are discounted, somewhat: A single dinner plate can run from $17.90 to $144.50. If you're seeking seconds, look for items marked with a big red "SEC." A dinnerware set with a cobalt net design, modeled after one made in St. Petersburg in 1744 and owned by Catherine the Great, comes from Russia's Lomonosov factory. The shop also carries a large selection of collectible, stiffened-fabric Clothtique Santas.

Lotions & Lace bills itself as "your one-stop love shop," specializing in lingerie in "plus sizes," bachelorette supplies and instructional books. Accessories include furry love cuffs ($14.99) and a variety of body glitters, but don't think this isn't a healthy atmosphere: Videos include "Full Figure Aerobics," "Sexy Treadmill Workout" and "Nude Yoga."

Cuh-leanse thyself! Videos at Paulist Press Book Center run more toward "Babette's Feast" and other titles focusing on spiritual, emotional and social issues. The books are predominantly Catholic, but also catholic in the sense of all-embracing. Among the choices are "The Mystery of Nancy Drew: Girl Sleuth on the Couch," "Zen Keys" and the Talmud. The center is hardly prudish: Inventory also includes "Ecstasy (in Secular and Religious Experience)" and "A Celebration of Sex."

DINNER: 5

What once was a roadside dive has been miraculously transformed into one of the hottest dining destinations in the county. Memphis Soul Cafe Bar may sound like a haven of Southern cooking, but the menu touches on a spectrum of regional American cuisines, including Cajun-Creole, Southwest and upper Midwest.

Down-home gumbo (with shrimp, chicken, okra and chicken andouille served with rice and corn bread, $4.95 at lunch, $5.95 at dinner) is not to be missed.

Other small-plate winners include Zuni fry bread (topped with red onion, roasted poblano chiles, corn, jack cheese and sage pesto, $5.95) and baby spinach salad (with toasted pine nuts and thin-sliced tasso in a pancetta and Gorgonzola vinaigrette with crispy shallot "croutons," $5.75).

Large plates at dinner run $7.25 to $13.95. A huge favorite is the grilled pork chop ($12.75) marinated in garlic and spices and served with grits that are a wonder unto themselves, braised red cabbage and a balsamic cherry sauce.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Baker Street, Costa Mesa

1) The Shark Club

841 W. Baker St., (714) 751-0206.

Open 11 a.m.-3 a.m. Thursday and Friday, 6 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Wednesday.

2) Almost & Perfect English China

743-B W. Baker St., (714) 241-9973

Open 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday.

3) Lotions & Lace

743-A W. Baker St., (714) 429-1911.

Open 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

4) Paulist Press Book Center

801 W. Baker St., (714) 545-8021.

Open 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.

5) Memphis

2920 Bristol St., (714) 432-7685.

Open for lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Open for dinner 5-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 5-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 4:30-9:30 p.m. Sunday *

Buses: OCTA Bus No. 57 runs along Baker Street with stops at Century Place (northbound), Randolph Avenue (southbound) and Bristol Street. *

Parking: Valet parking at the Shark Club, or free parking on nearby streets. Ample free parking in lots at all other locations.

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