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ORANGE COUNTY CALENDAR: ARTS, ENTERTAINMENT, LEISURE

Discover Orange County

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

Old Town Irvine: Reflect on History Over a Margarita

February 25, 2001|DENNIS ARP

Pairing "Old Town" with "Irvine" seems more than a little oxymoronic. But believe it or not, there are buildings in this forward-thinking, tech-minded city that date to the olden days. You know, before Woodbridge. A few structures go back as far as the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the surrounding acreage featured citrus groves, bean fields, grazing cattle and little else. Now those buildings, preserved as Old Town alongside the Santa Ana Freeway, are home to a hotel, post office, retailers, bars and restaurants. Although the only Old Town citrus these days may be the lime in your Mexican beer, and the only grazing is done by diners partial to salads, who can knock a history lesson that comes with a margarita and big-time sports on big-screen TVs?

The cavernous wooden building that houses Tia Juana's Long Bar and Restaurante (14988 Sand Canyon Ave., [949] 551-2998) is a warehouse built in 1895 to process and store lima beans for the vast Irvine Ranch. Where once as many as 200,000 hundred-pound sacks of lima beans were packed and stored, patrons now sip cool drinks as they ponder life's questions. Such as: Was there ever really a demand for 10,000 tons of lima beans? Or they can just sit back and wait for the next passing train, which, tradition dictates, is signaled by a bell behind the bar and the downing of a shot of tequila by those within earshot. When the bar opened in 1988, the shots were 50 cents. Now they're $1.50. It's open from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday; closed Sunday.

Getting there: You can see Old Town Irvine from the Santa Ana Freeway. Exit at Sand Canyon. Parking is free.

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