Watson's Drug & Soda Fountain is what my father would call the "real thing." This diner/drugstore in the heart of Old Towne Orange is a throwback to a time when a quart of whiskey sold for 75 cents (for medicinal purposes only) and a generation of bobby-soxers sipped chocolate malts and dreamed of that mystery date.
The menu is classic diner fare, including about 30 varieties of hot and cold sandwiches plus eight variations on the All-American burger. Daily specials are the kinds of meals that mom might've made: liver and onions, broasted chicken and dressing, polish sausage, sauerkraut and german potato patties. Each meal is around $4. And chicken dinners to go are $3.75 to $12.75.
But at Watson's, atmosphere and ice cream are the real draws. The half-dozen outdoor tables enjoy a brisk lunch business and regular customers crowd the old-fashioned soda fountain and the well-worn, red-and-white booths.
The drugstore begins where the booths end.
Watson's pharmacy, founded in 1899, is the oldest continuing business in Orange. The bobby-soxers are gone and the drugstore no longer fills prescriptions for whiskey, but the malts still come thick and rich, made to order, and big enough to share.
You might even be able to get a prescription filled while you wait. So order that malt, and remember the good old days.
Watson's Drug & Soda Fountain, 116 E. Chapman Ave., Orange. Open Mondays through Fridays 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturdays 5:30 p.m.to 4 p.m. (714) 532-6315.