Take a step back into Orange County history with a walk through Old Towne Orange. The traffic circle at Plaza Park at the intersection of Chapman and Glassell marks the center of one square mile of restaurants, art galleries, boutiques, and antique stores. Treat yourself at California’s original soda fountain and spend the afternoon searching for treasures from the past. Here are a few of our favorite spots in Old Towne.
Best Places for Dinner
If you’re in the mood for BBQ Smoqued California Barbeque serves up everything from beef brisket, smoked chicken wings, pulled pork, and St. Louis Ribs to sides of fried pickles, avocado fries and taterquiles. If you’re looking for an authentic flavorful Northen Italian experience, look no further than Francoli Gourmet. They also have a wide selection of fine wines from every one of the Italy’s twenty regions and you can take bottles to go too! Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen is fun atmosphere with a dark but modern interior. Located in a prime location in Old Town Orange reservations hard to get but worth the effort. Avila’s El Ranchito is another great place to get Mexican food if you can’t secure a reservation at Gabbi’s. For more casual fare check out both the Pizza Press and Blaze Pizza where you can build your own pizzas.
Smoqued California Barbeque: 128 N Glassell St
Francoli Gourmet: 100 S Glassell St
Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen: 141 S Glassell St
Avila’s El Ranchito: 182 S Orange St
Pizza Press: 155 N Glassell St
Blaze Pizza: 101 S Glassell St
Best Places to Eat
Watson’s Soda Fountain & Café, established in 1899, is a blast from the past. Stop in for breakfast (it’s served all day) or a sweet treat from the counter. Another fun spot is the Filling Station Café. Another popular spot for breakfast all day, but their lunch and dinner menus are also full of traditional favorites. Diners will feel the nostalgia of the old days as they dine on old-fashioned comfort food at this gas station-turned café. Orange Elks Lodge #1475 is another great stop for lunch or dinner. You must be a member or be with someone who is, but the delicious meals are affordable and served in a fun and friendly environment. On weekdays, lunch is served from noon until 2:00 for $6.00. Sundays they have movies or sports on the big screen TV. Dinner is served every Friday from 6:00 – 8:00. Bagel Me! has been serving bagels, egg melts, bagel sandwiches, smoothies, drinks and much more since 1997. Whether on the go or eating in Bagel Me! is a great option for a casual breakfast or lunch spot.
Watson’s Soda Fountain: 116 East Chapman
Filling Station Café: 201 North Glassell
Orange Elks Lodge: 211 East Chapman
Urth Cafe: 100 W. Chapman Ave.
Bagel Me!: 60 Plaza Square
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Best Places for Entertainment
The District Lounge is a great place to start or end the evening. Though not a dive bar, this lounge has a dark feel and features a modern juke box, a vintage photo booth, karaoke and two pool tables. O’Hara’s Pub is a well-known spot where university locals hang out. There are bar stools, booths and tables with plenty of televisions and music plus a couple of pool tables. Haven Craft Kitchen + Bar features and a wide selection beer and drinks, stone fireplaces amidst a lively atomsphere. Haven also has a specialized menu just for dogs. The Wall has a self-serve beer station featuring a lineup of 50-plus rotating craft beer taps that lets you skip the bartender and get straight to pouring yourself a beer. You’re charged by the ounce so try many or pour yourself a full glass of your favorite beer.
The District Lounge: 223 W Chapman Ave
O’Hara’s Pub: 150 N. Glassell St
Haven Craft Kitchen + Bar: 190 South Glassell Street
The Wall: 80 Plaza Square
Best Antique Shops
Country Roads Antiques is full of country collectibles with a garden in the back. Outdoors you’ll find patio décor, plants, and other fun items. Antique Station and Orange Circle Antique Mall are packed full of rooms overflowing with everything from fringed jackets and collectible Pyrex to lava lamps and lunchboxes. Kids will love seeing old Loony Toons memorabilia, read-along picture books that came with records, and old porcelain mugs that came with the purchase of a meal at McDonalds.
Country Roads Antiques: 204 West Chapman
Antique Station: 178 South Glassell
Orange Circle Antique Mall: 118 South Glassell
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A Few More Favorites
The Army Navy Surplus store has everything from camping supplies to military gear and more. Kids and adults alike love this shop for the hours that can be spent searching through lanterns, pocket knives, and tents. Music lovers would stop in to Mr. C’s Rare Records to browse the vast selection of vinyl. Just a few steps away from the heart of Old Town is Chapman College. Take a trip to the basement of Leatherby Libraries for a free visit to the Huell Howser exhibit. The exhibit features images, texts, and memorabilia from the late host’s adventures filming PBS’s popular show California’s Gold. He helped teach others about so many wonderful and unique locations around California, and the exhibit continues to educate and inspire.
Army Navy Store: 131 South Glassell
Mr. C’s Rare Records: 148 North Glassell
California’s Gold Exhibit at Chapman College: 1 University Drive
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Best Time to Visit
Visit Old Town every Saturday from 9:00 – 1:00 for the weekly farmers market. Located at 303 W. Palm Avenue, the event features fresh local ingredients, a kid’s club, yoga classes, cooking demonstrations, and more.
The Orange International Street Fair has been happening since 1973. Every year on Labor Day weekend, 15 streets surrounding Plaza Park are packed with ethnically diverse food vendors, entertainment, arts and crafts for kids, dancing, local artisans, and vendors from around the community. A fantastic community event that is fun for the whole family.
TV/Movies Filmed in Downtown Orange
- Smiles (1919) – Documentary
- Fallen Angel (1945) – Movie
- Gumball Rally (1976) – Movie – Motorcycles crashed through Sir Wickets Men’s Shop. This movie inspired real Gumball rallies that are still held today.
- Monster in the Closet (1983) – Movie
- The Bridesmaids (1988) – Movie
- Samantha (1991) – Movie – Scenes filmed at Chapman University.
- Crimson Tide (1994) – Movie – Starring Denzel Washington, Gene Hackman and Viggo Mortenson and filmed at Chapman University.
- America’s Most Wanted (1994) – Television
- That Thing You Do (1995) – Movie – Scenes shot in Watson Drugs and Soda Fountain and Mr. C’s Records.
- A Letter to My Killer (1995) – Television – Filmed around the Orange Plaza.
- Snapple (1996) – Commercial
- Vital Signs (1997) – Television
- The George Wallace Story (1997) – Television
- Oscar Mayer (1998) – Commercial – The Wienermobile cruised around the Circle.
- Small Soliders (1998) – Television
- Rocky and Bullwinkle – Movie – Filming at Chapman University.
- Forever Lulu (1999) – Movie – Starring Melanie Griffith and Patrick Swayze with filming at a craftsman style house on Shaffer.
- Fraility (2000) – Movie – Directed by Bill Paxton at the Orange Plaza.
- Big Mama’s House (2000) – Movie – Martin Lawrence cross-dressed at an an actual home on Shaffer Street.
- The Man Who Wasn’t There (2000) – Movie – A Coen Brother’s movie where Paul’s Cocktails’ façade was turned into an Italian restaurant.
- Clockstoppers (2001) – Movie – A car crashed into a magazine stand on the corner.
- Fazoli’s (2002) – Commerical
- Del Taco (2002) – Commercial – Dialogue at College Barber Shop on Glassell.
- Surviving Christmas (2003) – Movie – Starring Ben Affleck, Christina Applegate, James Gandolfini with scenes shot on Glassell and the Plaza.
- American Wedding (2003) – Movie – 3rd American Pie movie.
- Merge (2003) – Television – A lifetime movie at a private residence on Glassell.
- First Daughter (2003) – Movie – Katie Holmes ran through streets and alleys of Old Towne Orange.
- Prius (2003) – Commercial – Filmed at Old Towne Plaza and Hart Park.
- Pfizer (2003) – Commercial – Scene included a bus driving through Old Towne Plaza and surrounding residential area.
- Medical Investigation (2004) – Television – Filmed at Watson’s Drugstore.
- Kentucky Fried Chicken (2004) – Commercial
- The West Wing (2004) – Television – Filmed at the Plaza Sqaure.
- The Ghost Whisperer (2005) – Television – TV show starring Jennifer Lover Hewitt and filmed at the Plaza Square.
- The Benchwarmers (2005) – Movie – Filmed at Watson’s Drug Store and the Army Navy Store and starring Rob Schneider, David Spade, Jon Lovitz and Molly Sims.
- Accepted (2005) – Movie – Starring Blake Lively and Justin Long and filmed at Chapman University.
- American Horror Story (2017) – Season 7 – The COBA Academy on Main was transformed into a store called “The Butchery on Main”.
- Castle Rock (2018) – An American psychological horror online series inspired by the works of horror writer Stephen King.
About Old Towne District | Orange, CA
Plaza Historic District
The Old Towne District consists of the City of Orange’s original commercial core of historic structures dating from the 1880’s to the 1930’s, surrounding the Plaza at Glassell Street and Chapman Avenue. The Plaza was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 9, 1982.
The Downtown Core serves as a backdrop for the Plaza District. It is comprised of the eight blocks surrounding the Plaza Historic District, bounded by the centerline of Maple Avenue on the north, Almond Avenue on the south, Grand Street on the east and Lemon Street on the west.
Spoke Street Corridors
An area within the Old Town district consisting of all properties with frontage on North Glassell Street from Maple Avenue to Walnut Avenue, South Glassell Street from Almond Avenue to the Garden Grove (22) Freeway, East Chapman Avenue from Grand Street to Cambridge Street, and West Chapman Avenue from Lemon Street to Batavia Street.