A trip back in time, with cutting-edge and fun cuisine and a cache of antiques

Cars make their way around the traffic circle at Orange Plaza in Historic Old Towne Orange. Many people still refer to the area as the Orange Circle. It is off Chapman Ave. and branches off to Glassell St. The traffic was moving on a Wednesday May 28, 2008. The view is seen from atop the Wells FArgo Bank.
(Karen Tapia-Anderson / Los Angeles Times)

In Old Towne Orange -- a mile-square district established during the citrus boom of the late 19th century -- reverence for the past is part of daily business. At the center is Plaza Square, where cars whip around the Victorian-era fountain and garden in a traffic circle once trod by horses and buggies. Around the plaza, old-fashioned soda fountains, barber shops and historic buildings mix with trendy fashion retailers and wine-tasting salons. It’s not surprising that Old Towne Orange has been dubbed the “Antique Capital of California,” with antique depots crowding the district.

Walk into the past

Would you like some history with your latte? Stop in at the local Starbucks (101 E. Chapman Ave., [714] 628-9622), housed in Orange’s original 1886 bank building, to check out the dramatic carved wood ceiling. Sit in a pew while you wait for your table at PJ’s Abbey (182 S. Orange St., [714] 771-8556,, a full-service restaurant occupying an 1891 Victorian Baptist Church. Traffic in art -- not fruit -- at the former Sunkist Orange County Fruit Exchange Building, now home to the Exchange Fine Arts Gallery (195 S. Glassell St., [714] 997-8132).


The best finds

With so many antique peddlers in town, it can be tough to separate the good stuff from the junk. Two standouts include the Orange Circle Antique Mall (118 S. Glassell St., [714] 538-8160), which is a treasure trove of Americana, and Country Roads Antiques & Gardens (204 W. Chapman Ave., [714] 532-3041, (, stocked with salvaged windows and shabby chic furniture.

Local eats

No trip to Orange is complete without a stop at local institution, Watson Drug and Soda Fountain (116 E. Chapman Ave., [714] 633-1050), established in 1899, where the shakes are thick and breakfast is served all day.

Feminine frills

The precious Paris in a Cup (119 S. Glassell St., [714] 538-9411,, welcomes ladies who lunch with a French-themed tea salon. At cute-as-a-button cupcakery the Perfect Circle (165 N. Glassell St., [714] 997-CAKE), don’t miss the Old Towne Orange cupcake, topped with a candied slice of the city’s namesake.