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* Looking for a new neighborhood to explore? Here are a few suggestions, culled from recent stories. Complete stories can be accessed at http://www

October 08, 2000|DENNIS ARP

Garden Grove: Eclectic Eateries With Elvis Accent

Imagine there are no master planners. It's easy if you try. Even easier if you wander the sidewalks and meet the merchants of Main Street in downtown Garden Grove.

A Mexican restaurant serving chips and salsa amid a mass of Elvis memorabilia? Venerable antiques surrounding a shrine to Howdy Doody? The contrasting sights and sounds smack of a genuineness that far outstrips the strip malls. Main Street's quirks and characters are the antidote to franchise madness.

Old-timers recall the days when orange groves surrounded Main Street and people hitched their horses before tying one on. Relative newcomers talk of new blood provided in part by adjacent satellite campuses for Cal State Fullerton, the University of La Verne and Coastline Community College.

For Charles Johanson, executive producer of the nearby Grove Theater Center (12852 Main St., [714] 741-9555), it's the mix that matters.

"It is a main street, with everything that connotes. But it isn't tired or sleepy. There's an energy," he says.

The heavy door of the Rainbow Room (12942 Main St., [714] 537-9946) swings open and the weight of history spills out into the sunlight. The neighborhood bar opened in 1953, three years before Garden Grove was a city. It's changed little since then, even though the hitching post out front has gone the way of the orange groves. Prices aren't the same, but they are still reasonable. A draft is $1.50 and a burger $2. The steak sandwich is the priciest menu item at $5, but regulars say it's well worth it.

At the Crooners Lounge inside Azteca Mexican Restaurant (12911 Main St., [714] 638-3790), there's an Elvis jukebox, Elvis guitar, Elvis plates and Elvis gold records--more than 450 Elvis items in all. The spicy tostada doesn't disappoint, but even the garlic isn't as enduring as the mental image of Presley portraits hanging next to a stained-glass window depicting a California mission.

If you want to linger, grab a blended mocha and a scone at Yaba Java Coffee House (12908 Main St., [714] 534-1265). Shop for Christmas ornaments at Gary's Woodcrafts & Country Store (12891 Main St., [714] 636-2010). Load up on the steak and eggs or the chili cheese fries at Kaye's Kitchen (12939 Main St., [714] 636-1480). Browse the Native American artifacts at Harper's Trading Post (12952 Main St., [714] 539-9036). Or pick up deli at Zlaket's Market (12921 Main St., [714] 534-2188).

Getting there: Take the Garden Grove Freeway (22) to Euclid Street and head north. The first major cross street is Garden Grove Boulevard; turn left. The first street on your right is Main Street; turn right and you're there.

* A new Discover Orange County will run next Sunday in the Orange County Calendar.

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