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BEHIND THE SCENES / ORANGE COUNTY

Spectrum Spectacle

January 22, 1998

Here's the problem: You have a date, a real good one. You want it to be impressive. But . . . you're pinching pennies because the holidays left you with short pockets.

Instead of schlepping over to the corner bar for flat beer and greasy buffalo wings at happy hour, you could take a clue from thousands of Orange County singles who converged last year at Date Central.

Where?

The Irvine Spectrum Center, at the crossroads of the Santa Ana and San Diego freeways, a.k.a. the awful El Toro Y.

Besides the good people-watching and the run-of-the-mill moviegoing, there's kiosk-hopping and dancing to bands at Smokey Joe's amid photos of Hemingway.

Wolfgang Puck Cafe has cocktail parties from 4 to 7 every night, where drinks and mini-dinners are less than $3. A dirty classic martini and a roasted chicken flat-bread pizza probably won't break your bank.

Overheard from one twentysomething at Puck's lounge: "This is a place not only for young people who have to be cheap but older people who want to be cheap."

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