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Early Adopters

OC locals share their favorite hotspots

ralph-self-palumbo-photog
Self portrait by photographer Ralph Palumbo
Ralph Palumbo

We all have friends who know the best places to go. They’re quick to give informed recommendations when it comes to romantic hideaways, what boutique just opened, or can easily spout out the best ways to show off what our great county has to offer.Coast polled a few of these local influencers to see what’s cool; what’s new; and what we’re missing out on right now.

 

Mona Shah-Anderson

Mona Shah-Anderson is the gal-pal you always wanted. She’s witty, bubbly and plugged in to every facet of the OC culinary scene. From her hipster-approved clients like ARC Restaurant and Portola Coffee Lab to her buzzing social media presence, Shah-Anderson can easily tell you what you should be eating right this minute. But, her OC hotspots aren’t all food related. From Mission Viejo to Tustin, Shah-Anderson shares with us her favorite local hideaways.

Best late night spot

When I started dating my husband Paul, we realized that we both love bowling. We made our way through the ultra-trendy alleys in OC to find our favorite: Tustin Lanes. There’s nothing flashy about this place – it’s an old-school bowling alley that is family owned, has a simple bar, an artery-clogging snack bar, and a great arcade room… We were sold on this place once we saw the small collection of pinball machines. Paul and I are part of a pinball league and we’re always excited when we stumble upon a cool machine.


Best outdoor spot

I’m not an outdoorsy person, but Lake Mission Viejo has it all. It’s a great place to barbecue with friends (you can bring your own food and alcohol), they have a nice little beachy area, and you can rent everything from kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, to party boats and fishing pontoons! They have a summer concert series that attracts some fun talent. This past summer, I took my newborn twins, Lara and Lennon, to nap on the grassy hills under one of the lake’s many lush trees. The catch? You have to be a member or tag along with someone who is and pay $2 to get in!

Best workout

If you’re looking for a great workout, try Power Pilates… I went six days a week in the months leading up to my pregnancy and I didn’t realize the impact it had on my body until after I gave birth. I bounced back to my pre-pregnancy belly within three months without going to a gym.

Where do you like to see art in OC?

Downtown Santa Ana Artist Village and East End. If you’re looking for an eclectic mix of art in an exciting setting, you can find it there. You’re likely to stumble on a crazy talented unknown artist and get sucked in to a conversation with some really interesting folks. Plus, there are lots of great places to eat – a huge selling point for me…

Favorite place to shop for rare finds

Over the past five years, Old Towne Orange has really come into its own. With great eateries, boutiques and an abundance of vintage and antique stores that have remained. Last year, I found an eight-foot door for sale in an alleyway – at $30, I couldn’t resist scooping it up. We got crafty and turned it into our dining table. We get so many compliments on it.

Best date/night romantic spot 

For a date night that’s filled with gorgeous scenery, great food and a little adventure, you must rent a Duffy boat and take a sunset tour around Newport Bay… If you don’t feel like bringing a picnic, you can opt to “dock & dine” at some of OC’s best restaurants, conveniently located in Newport Harbor!

 

Peter Blake

Visitors from all over come to Laguna Beach for many reasons, and one of them – art – is the territory of local fixture, Peter Blake. The man and his eponymous Peter Blake Gallery, are both known for their good taste, but it’s through his gallery’s carefully curated selection of modern and contemporary art that a glimpse of what’s behind the art dealer is revealed. So where does an art-centric, man-about-town love to frequent? We wanted to know, too.

Best late night spot
The Dirty Bird (Sandpiper) is still the best dive bar in the county. You can do shots with a surfer and guzzle with a geezer simultaneously. 

Best outdoor spot
The rooftop deck at La Casa del Camino in Laguna has the best views of the coastline and hills; with great Mojitos and people watching,

Best workout or fitness place

Thousand Steps beach in South Laguna minutes before the sun sets.

Where do you like to see art in OC?

Tough one… LOL! Peter Blake Gallery, of course, and OCMA.

Favorite place to shop for rare finds.
Vinyl records at the Sound Spectrum and vintage Mid-Century furnishings at Archive in Laguna.

Where do you take someone when you want to show off what OC has to offer?
A drive from San Clemente to Huntington Beach on PCH to count Ferraris and Woodys.

Where do you go to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life? 

The bench on the sand at 15th Street on Lido Island by the Surf Shack. I refer to it as my outdoor office, but I’m really there to people watch.

Best date/night romantic spot
My place for sunset, steak and Stephanie [Blake’s girlfriend]

 

Greer Wylder

Greer Wylder scopes out OC’s hottest and latest local finds. Tall, blonde and svelte, Wylder at first glance looks like a stereotypical Orange County housewife portrayed on TV. But looks are deceiving. For a decade, she wrote columns for SoCal newspapers and magazines and eventually started her own award-winning lifestyle blog. Wylder dedicates her free time to juvenile diabetes research and still stays plugged in to new restaurants, charity events and OC shopping hotspots. While we’d love to run around town with her – Wylder’s favorite trail cuts through the Back Bay – we’re unsure if we have the stamina to keep up. Like the Energizer Bunny, she just keeps going and going; spreading her knowledge with everyone she encounters.

Best late night spot

MESA in Costa Mesa. The new executive chef Niki Starr Weyler is adding seasonal holiday dishes to the menu like comfort food sliders with duck confit, cranberry orange compote, and pomme purée on a potato bun served with a gravy dipping sauce. And MESA’s kitchen is open until 1am. That’s unheard of in OC.

Best outdoor spot

Noguchi Gardens in Costa Mesa. It’s a collection of sculptures and plantings that represent California’s landscape: water, the desert, redwoods, land, and an energy fountain. It’s serene and beautiful.

Best workout or fitness place                  

My friends who are doing The 12Movement love it; and they are in great shape. But, I just love to run around the Back Bay a few times a week.

Where do you like to see art in OC?

My favorite art gallery will always be Peter Blake in Laguna. There’s nothing like it and he has the best collection of modern and contemporary art in OC. But the hidden gem is by far Coastline Art Gallery on Monrovia Avenue in Newport Beach. It features art works from students of Coastline Community College, well-known artists and more.

Favorite place to shop for rare finds. 

I love the OC Mix since there’s a collection of small, unique retailers and I’m really excited about Union Market opening at the District at Tustin Legacy this month. It’s the same concept as OC Mix with restaurants, too.

Where do you go to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life? 

I’ll always love Victoria Beach in Laguna; it’s sort of hidden, not touristy.

Best date/night romantic spot

Vitaly at The Camp in Costa Mesa. It feels like you are in a modern café in Italy. It’s the best place in Orange County for handmade Bolognese pasta and flights of gelato; plus Vitaly was where I went on the first date with my boyfriend.

 

Jason Quinn

If you’ve been following the foodie scene in Orange County over the past half-decade, chances are that Jason Quinn’s name has come up. The 28-year old, who rose to culinary fame after winning TV’s “Great Food Truck Race” for his Lime Truck, has since opened the Playground and Playground 2.0 in downtown Santa Ana, and is currently working on other food-related projects. He’s outspoken, controversial and one of OC’s most talented chefs. Naturally, we wanted to hear about his favorite under-the-radar haunts.


Best late night spot
Social, great drinks and the best chicken and waffles I’ve had.

Best outdoor spot

Habana, my wife and I love going there late as well.

Best workout or fitness place
I definitely don’t work out.


Where do you like to see art in OC?
DTSA Art Walk the first Saturday of every month.

Favorite place to shop for rare finds. 

Surfas, spice shop, and Asian markets like Mitsuwa and Ranch 99

Where do you take someone when you want to show off what OC has to offer?

Taco Maria

Where do you go to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life?
There’s a way to get away from that?


Best date/night romantic spot

Taco Maria or Pie Society

 

Ralph Palumbo

The popular adage: a picture is worth a thousand words, perfectly describes artist and photographer Ralph Palumbo’s work. From mustachioed bikers to fire jugglers, musicians and Olympic athletes, Palumbo captures them all. But while he takes each subject’s portrait, his pictures allude to something more. His photographs are a freeze-frame of a special moment. Maybe it’s a quizzical smirk or an unexpected expression, but what Palumbo shoots is a glimpse into the passions of our local phenoms. Since he often gets to witness the magic behind the scenes, we asked him for some insight on what’s happening in OC.

Best Late Night Spot 

The Observatory in Santa Ana. Two stages under one roof; it’s a great place to see live music.

Best Outdoor Spot 

Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. I mountain bike there a few nights a week till sunset. It’s a wildlife sanctuary; very beautiful and peaceful.

Best workout 

Lau Kune Do martial art schools. Located in Newport Beach and Lake Forest, it’s a blend of multiple Chinese hard and soft martial arts (MA) styles. Its headquarters are located in Long Beach and classes are still taught by its founder, which is rare since most MA founders are long dead. It’s great that he is still alive.

Where do you see art in OC? 
Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana. I love when there is performance art on the first Saturday of each month. It’s a great mix of interesting art and people.

Best/ favorite place to shop for rare finds 

Orange Circle Antique Mall. I collect antique cameras among other things and usually leave with something special.

A place to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life

Top of the World in Laguna Beach. The view is amazing.

Best romantic/date night spot 

Steamers Jazz Club in Fullerton. It’s dark, intimate and always has great music.


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