Don't be turned off by the Vegas-intensity neon that reaches out to freeway passersby or by the massive-but-still-inadequate parking lot that will have you clenching your teeth. The newest Diedrich Coffee, in the equally new Spectrum Entertainment Center in Irvine, provides a great night out--sans alcohol--for a reasonable price.
Once past that neon glow (coming from the Edwards 21 Megaplex) and safely inside Diedrich, visitors can marvel at painstakingly designed arches, fixtures and color schemes that contradict most current espresso drinkers' assumptions about the origin of "coffee culture."
While it may shock the many would-be Kerouacs, Ginsbergs, and Ferlinghettis populating innumerable open-mike readings in Orange County, Diedrich's updated bazaar stylings recall the North African origins of coffee shops, where coffee was being triple-roasted for flavor and served as a vital part of social life hundreds of years before the Beat Generation. (Perhaps William Burroughs picked up his taste for the bean during his stints in Tangiers.)
As with the 10 other Diedrich locations throughout Orange County, you can get just about any coffee drink imaginable at the Spectrum location. Reasonably priced lunches, dinners and exquisite desserts are also available.
The large interior (capacity 125) is framed by two-story windows that look onto outdoor table seating, where many go to smoke and people-watch. Barnes and Noble booksellers shares an interior archway with Diedrich, and the dual draw of clientele is undeniable.
A Moroccan belly-dancing duo provides the highlight of this month's entertainment; the dancers appear frequently on a schedule that also features such coffeehouse-circuit regulars as pop band the Overreactors and blues guitarist Peter Dobson. The belly-dancers, Miranda and Lilla, ebb and flow in authentic dress to recorded accompaniment accented by zills (finger cymbals), chanted vocals and the dumbek drumming of Miguel L'Larte and none other than Martin Diedrich, founder of this coffeehouse chain. The effect of the dancing duo, which causes a curious crowd to gather at the windows, would be hypnotic in any context; at Diedrich, the dancers complete the mood.
Miranda and Lilla make their next appearance at the Spectrum Diedrich on Jan. 21 from 5 to 9 p.m.
* 31 Fortune Drive, Irvine.
* (714) 450-4959.
* Open 6 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, till midnight Friday and Saturday.
* No cover.