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Orange County Itinerary

Hilly Goat's Stuff : Need a little R&R? Hit the railroad, then head on over, to a real billy club.

June 18, 1998|BENJAMIN EPSTEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In the 1930s a rivalry developed between high school students in the new town of Costa Mesa and neighboring Newport Beach. Newport youths called Costa Mesa "Goat Hill" because the families there raised goats for milk. Costa Mesans dubbed Newport "Mackerel Flats." Now you can hop aboard the Mackerel Flats and Goat Hill Junction Railroad, enjoy a blast from the past at Goat Hill Records, park your caboose (but don't get derailed) at Henry 'n Harry's Goat Hill Tavern, which celebrates its 30th anniversary today.

1. EARLY AFTERNOON

The third weekend of every month, the Orange County Model Engineers offer free train rides at Fairview Regional Park. Look for the Goat Hill Junction whistle stop ("Established 1990; Elevation 70 feet").

Trains, ranging from one-fifth to one-eighth the size of the real thing, are variously powered by live steam, diesel and electric locomotives and can pull 20 passengers--usually train buffs and local children--at a time. Realistic rail cars bear company logos, some more recognizable than others, e.g., Shell Oil and Goat Hill Milk Co.

They currently traverse more than 16,000 feet of track around the park; when completed, 25 scale miles (one-eighth of a standard mile) of track, tunnel, bridges and stations will make the project one of the largest public tracks in the world. About 20 sets of trains are housed in the adjacent rail yard.

2. LATE AFTERNOON

Make it an LP (long-playing) day of fun. Goat Hill Records buys and sells new and used LPs, CDs and tapes. Among collectible LPs are "The Many Faces of the Detergents" ($60 monaural)--who could forget "Leader of the Laundromat"?--and, for dance maniacs, "For Your Hully Gully Party" ($40). Classical buffs will appreciate a six-LP set of turn-of-the-century performances called "A Record of Singers, Part One" (HMV Treasury, $50) that includes an entire LP featuring castrato voices--male singers who underwent surgery to preserve their preadolescent vocal ranges. (Remember the 1994 movie "Farinelli"?)

In the $2 bin recently were Tony Bennett's "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," a pair of Elvis albums (suitable for framing?) and, an unopened copy of "Gershwin Conducts Gershwin."

3. HAPPY HOUR

Hundreds of signs, vintage photos of Costa Mesa and at least half a dozen stuffed goats grace the walls of Goat Hill Tavern. The ceiling's covered too.

Brews from around the world are poured from 142 tap handles, a county record; if it's not too busy, ask the bartender to show you the cooler, a maze of plastic tubing and metal kegs. T-shirts celebrate Goat Hill Tavern, "a division of Zeb's world-famous Boathouse," with a toast: "May you be in beer heaven before the devil knows you're dead." Zeb is owner Zeb O'Breen, who forsook the Boathouse bar in Santa Ana in favor of the Costa Mesa tavern in 1968.

In-house beers include Goat Roper Lager and Black Sheep Pale Ale ($2 per pint). Draft beers are served in several sizes. If you're thirsty, try the 24-ounce Big Billy. The 5-5-5 Sampler includes any five 5-ounce tastes for $5 (excluding Belgians.) Sheep Dip is one of about 40 single-malt Scotches.

Among mixed brew drinks are Black Fog (Anchor's Old Foghorn Barleywine and Guinness Stout) and Snakebite (Harp Lager and Wyder's Apple Cider). Holy smokes! One-third of the bar, as well as three pool tables, are outdoors. Dart and shuffleboard games are indoors. (And there's a new cigar store next door.)

Pub grub is limited to Vienna Chicago Style hot dogs, turkey dogs and Polish sausages, with or without chili, and snacks such as popcorn, pretzels and pickled eggs. One special is served any time: a hot dog and draft beer for $1.99. Everyday champagne brunch includes two hot dogs and a bottle of Dom Perignon for $85.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

1. Mackerel Flats and Goat Hill Junction Railroad

Fairview Regional Park, 2480 Placentia Ave., (949) 548-7246.

10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, third weekend of each month.

2. Goat Hill Records

1920 Harbor Blvd., (949) 646-8551.

11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily.

3. Henry 'n Harry's Goat Hill Tavern

1830 Newport Blvd., (949) 548-8428.

11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Friday and 10:30 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturday-Sunday.

PARKING / BUSES

Parking: There is free parking in lots at each location. (Enter lot behind Goat Hill Tavern from Magnolia Street; enter lot at Fairview Park at signal north of Estancia High School.)

Buses: OCTA Bus No. 43 (Fullerton-Newport Beach) stops at Wilson Street and Placentia Avenue. Bus No. 45A (Costa Mesa-Orange) stops at 19th Street and Park Avenue. Bus No. 57 (Newport Beach-Santa Ana) stops on 19th Street at Newport and Harbor boulevards.

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