An Animal Attraction in Huntington Beach

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<i> Benjamin Epstein is a free-lance writer who contributes regularly to The Times Orange County Edition</i>

Those of you wondering what to do with your leisure time for the rest of your lives might want to check out any of several businesses on or near Brookhurst Street in Huntington Beach. Become an artist? Raise tarantulas? Make your decision over succulent sticks of satay.

4 to 5: You can get a whole new perspective on animals at Pet Metro--”The Ultimate Pet Metropolis.”

You enter the fish room, for instance, beneath an arched aquarium, so you see the bellies of the fish. Inside you’ll find some of the most incredible creatures on this planet--cowfish, guinea fowl puffer, dragon wrasse and blue box fish--all more outlandish than their names could possibly suggest.


If those aren’t special enough for you, a “special critter” section offers a blue spot stingray, snails and decorator crabs; electric scallops actually appear to send bolts of electricity across their lips.

Finches flit, and crested cockatiels perch contentedly in the bird room, but the big attraction is the nursery. Baby birds are hand-fed and sold from controlled-environment “isolettes” when they’re ready to bond with new owners. Most impressive were a 12-week-old white Moluccan cockatoo ($2,299) and, only 7 weeks old, a spectacular blue and gold macaw ($1,399).

Reptiles, arachnids and amphibians share a room. African chameleons are fascinating, but to really impress company, choose among Mexican red-knee or curly hair tarantulas, Israeli or emperor scorpions, Indonesian jumping tree or barking tree frogs, and a baby Borneo blood python. Centipedes, of course, are cheaper by the leg. Your pet will feel right at home with Repti-Scenes, terrarium backdrops featuring Amazon cliffs, tropical beaches or desert buttes.

From chinchillas to pedigreed rats, small animals are big at Pet Metro. Twenty-five kinds of dog biscuits are sold in bulk at $1.49 a pound, nine kinds of cookies at 35 cents apiece.

But the shop doesn’t sell dogs or cats. Instead, it works with pet rescue groups. Said company spokesman Scott Hudson, “We’re hoping to make adoption a mainstream thing to do.”

5 to 5:40: Drop in at Art Waves, and a class is sure to be in session. Be it painting, drawing or ceramics, children, teens or adults, budding artists flock to the place. Professional-looking works by children line the walls; several former students have gone on to successful art careers.


Art Waves offers a wide variety of workshops. Learn to sew T-shirts, design a hat or decorate glass ornaments for Christmas.

Fees range from $5 for an open-table ceramics session to $40 (supplies and firing included) for a “Glass Plate With Pansies” workshop this Saturday. For ceramics classes, students buy an unfinished piece, learn to clean it, then paint it; Art Waves fires the project. Called bisque if it’s been fired once, greenware if it hasn’t, ceramic ware includes coffee cups, dragons and castles, rhinoceroses, angels playing accordions and life-size basset hounds.

Art Waves also carries cute foods, including pumpkin butter and carrot jam. Unusual gifts include mirrored base tic-tac-toe boards with pewter cupids and hearts or bunnies and cabbages.

5:40 to 6: Tole painting is decorative folk painting on tin or unfinished wood, and at the FolkArtist, a few miles south, Kitty Lemley offers “a unique and individual approach.” Whereas most tole painting schools assign one project to all students in a class, “I don’t,” Lemley said. “I let everybody paint what they want.” Supplies initially run $75. Classes are $7.75 or $26 for a series of four lessons. Class camaraderie runs high, and it’s fun just to watch.

6 to 7: The cuisine may be exotic, but Dewi Indonesian restaurant is down-home. The owner’s mother knits behind the counter, and the dinette set decor has Southeast Asian dolls next to the Seven Dwarfs; Frank Sinatra singing in the background with game shows on the TV; “Beauty and the Beast” decals on the front door and maps of Jakarta on the walls--yet it’s all perfectly agreeable. A “market” at the rear, basically several shelves, offers sambals (pepper pastes) and bumbus (spice mixes), klapper (desiccated coconut) by the pound, and Komodo shrimp crackers that the label says are “suitable for souvenir.”

Newcomers should start with nasi rames ($5.95), a “rice table” sampling of half a dozen dishes. Satay (barbecue pork or chicken sticks, $5.25) and gado gado (bean cake salad, $4.95) feature peanut sauce. Very spicy empal pedes (hot meat with coconut, $6) is highly recommended. If that’s your choice, you can cool off with ice tjampur ($1.75), a refreshing concoction of red vanilla syrup, gelatin-like red jelly and exotic jack fruit.


The food was wonderful and an incredible value. But my mind was on electric scallops.

* 1. Pet Metro 19050 Brookhurst St. (714) 378-0330 Open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. *

2. Art Waves 19022 Brookhurst St. (714) 965-0669 Open Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. *

3. The FolkArtist 9568 Hamilton Ave. (714) 964-6771 Open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. *

4. Dewi 9606 Hamilton Ave. (714) 962-4446 Open Tuesday through Saturday, 3 to 6 p.m.; Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. *

PARKING / BUSES: B OCTA bus 35 runs north and south along Brookhurst Street and stops at Garfield and Hamilton avenues. OCTA bus 1 runs east and west on Hamilton between Brookhurst and Magnolia streets and stops at Bushard Street.

* P There is ample parking in lots at each location.