Take a history lesson in Olde Town Orange

Don't let the neighborhood's name fool you: This Southern California jewel celebrates the old and the new

Orange Eclair

Enjoy tried-and-true stops such as the Filling Station, known for desserts like éclairs.

Gina Sabatella

Nostalgia with a twist describes Old Towne Orange these days.

The late-19th-century buildings are protected by their National Register of Historic Places status, but what's in those storefronts has changed.

Between the consignment malls packed with antiques and vintage goods are updated restaurants and home decor boutiques. So now you have a choice - old-fashioned treats, modern pleasures, or a little of each.

GETTING THERE

Exit State 22 at Glassell St. and drive north to Chapman Ave., or exit State 55 at Chapman and head west. Or arrive by Metrolink (800/371-5465); the train station is just a few blocks west of the Plaza.

SIP THE OLD WAY

Watson Drug Indulge in a root beer float at the soda fountain in Orange County's oldest drugstore. $; 116 E. Chapman Ave.; 714/633-1050.

SIP THE FRENCH WAY

Paris in a Cup Enjoy a French sparkling soda or a drinking chocolate in a new tea salon inspired by '40s Parisian cafes. $$$; closed Mon-Tue; 119 S. Glassell St.; 714/538-9411.

SHOP VINTAGE 
 
 

Country Roads Antiques This consignment mall feels like a series of small village shops, thanks to the pitched roof over each stall and the vintage quilts, table linens, and kitchenware. Behind the mall, Johnnye Merle's Gardens has the same flavor, with plants displayed on the flatbed of an old Ford truck. 204 W. Chapman Ave.; 714/532-3041.

SHOP FOR NEWBIES

Two Little Monkeys Fashion-forward clothes for toddlers and children. A little one would love a T-shirt from Gwen Stefani's Harajuku Lovers line. 109 N. Glassell; 714/639-0919.

EAT RETRO

The Filling Station A 1920s gas station turned into an outdoor cafe. Go for its home-baked desserts - pumpkin pie, strawberry cheesecake, or, if you're really lucky, brick-size chocolate éclairs. $; 201 N. Glassell; 714/289-9714.

EAT GLOBAL

Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen Quesadillas de huitlacoche (a Mexican truffle), enchiladas, and other traditional dishes inspired by the chef's travels south of the border. $$; 141 S. Glassell; 714/633-3038.

WHILE YOU'RE THERE

Take a walk: The square mile around the Plaza is full of small, charming pre-World War I bungalows with pretty cottage gardens. The 200 block of Pine Street has some particularly good examples.

The nearby Orange Public Library & History Center (closed Sun; 407 E. Chapman Ave.; 714/288-2400) offers a history walk around the 120-year-old neighborhood.

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