By day, Old Towne Orange is a charming area for a stroll. You can browse the antique shops and thrift stores, or perhaps indulge in a spot of tea.
At night, the walkable nature of Old Towne Orange makes it the perfect spot for drinking and dining. With a wide assortment of restaurants and watering holes packed into a relatively small area, there’s something for every taste. So designate a driver (or Uber it), and let your night of revelry begin.
Lay a Foundation
If you’re planning to imbibe, it’s a good idea to line your stomach first. And there are plenty of options: Italian, Mexican, Mediterranean, barbecue, and sushi, to name a few. We decided to do a little carbo-loading at Francoli Gourmet, a lovely trattoria with an extensive selection of pastas and other entrées. We enjoyed a pleasant interlude on the patio, sipping wine, dipping bread in a tasty blend of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and feasting on delicious pastas. The ravioli di brasato (ravioli stuffed with short ribs and served in a tomato vodka sauce) was a particular favorite. Pastas range from $13.50 to $18, and entrée prices top out at $34 for a hefty portion of grilled steak with porcini mushrooms and fresh vegetables. Don’t be put off by the $8.50 price tag on the insalata verde (mixed green salad)—it easily serves two, making it a good value.
Other solid choices for your evening meal include Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen, where the shrimp enchiladas and the mushroom tacos are popular choices; Haven Gastropub, known for its gourmet burgers (choose beef or lamb); and Smoqued, a down-home barbecue joint serving up brisket, ribs, tri-tip, pulled pork, and other meaty goodness.
Pick Your Poison
Once you’ve filled your belly, it’s time to move on to the drinking phase of the evening. So what are you in the mood for? Whether it’s tequila, craft beer, or traditional cocktails, Old Towne Orange can oblige. Want to suck down a couple of cheap domestic brews while shooting pool? Yeah, that’s an option, too.
You can’t beat the array of tequilas on offer at Gabbi’s Mexican Kitchen. There are dozens of choices, broken down by blanco, reposado, anejo, and reservas. For $30, you can order a flight of three tequilas chosen by the house. These are sipping tequilas, not shooting tequilas, so grab a seat at the bar and take some time to savor the flavors. If tequila’s not your thing, mescal, pisco, beer, and wine are also available. And the specialty cocktails are truly delicious, particularly the blood orange caipirinha. Bonus: the bar offers a tantalizing view of the rotating griddle, where fresh masa is quickly transformed into golden brown, perfectly puffed tortillas.
Beer aficionados can choose from two watering holes in Old Towne Orange: Haven Gastropub and Provisions Market. Both have an excellent selection of craft brews and tasty bites. It’s no coincidence that both are run by the same team. Partners Greg Daniels and Wil Dee know their beers—and their bar food. In addition to a full dinner menu, Haven Gastropub offers salty snacks like housemade potato chips, pommes frites, fried pig ears, and fresh pretzels to complement the 14 beers on tap. At Provisions Market, a beer tasting room, bottle shop, and specialty market, all in one spot, you can choose from 21 or more beers on tap and nosh on charcuterie and toast slathered with tasty toppings, like ripe avocado, watermelon radish, chives, pickled shallot, and fried capers ($9), or creamy burrata, prosciutto, and egg ($15). If you’re craving something sweet, try the luxuriously rich Nutella toast ($6).
The District Lounge offers a relaxed vibe early in the evening, but the energy (and the noise level) cranks up as the night goes on—on weekends, a DJ starts spinning at 10:00. If you’re looking for a dimly lit, comfortable setting where you can enjoy straightforward cocktails and good tunes, The District Lounge is your spot. This is a popular spot with Chapman students, particularly on Taco Tuesdays. But you don’t have to be a student to enjoy $5 all-you-can eat tacos and $3 Coronas.
Domestic Brews and Pool
Yes, Paul’s Cocktails is a dive bar. But we mean that in the very best way possible. The drinks are cheap, the crowd is cheerful, and game of pool will set you back just 50 cents. Paul’s Cocktails is a straightforward drinking establishment—no artisanal appetizers or mixologist-crafted martinis here. Instead, you’ll find domestic drafts for as little as $3 and well drinks starting at $8. Paul’s is the place to come when you’re looking to hang out with friends in a low-key environment. And if you’ve overindulged one night and need a little hair of the dog to get you through the next day, Paul’s Cocktails is there for you—the bar opens at 6:00 AM.
End on a Sweet Note
Waffles—they’re not just for breakfast! Since opening in Old Towne Orange in 2010, Bruxie has become a much-loved institution. If you need a little something in your stomach to soak up the evening’s indulgences, Bruxie is the spot. Enjoy a thin, crisp Belgian waffle crowned with a variety of sweet toppings, including Nutella and bananas, crème brûlée, or chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallow fluff—a riff on s’mores. If cool and creamy is more your style, get a frozen custard or a waffle sundae. But as delicious as Bruxie is, it’s not an option if you linger in the bars until last call—it shuts down at 9:00 PM Sunday through Wednesday, 10:00 on Thursday, and 11:00 on Friday and Saturday.
Old Towne Orange offers thriving nightlife options for every taste. Next time you’re wondering what to do with your weekend, check out one of the many restaurants and bars. Cheers!