Old Towne Diner in Orange, California
Pros: Friendly, helpful wait staff. Familiar food, fun atmosphere
Cons: Bland food
This small diner in Orange, California has the aura of an old-fashioned 50s/60s diner with a few modern additions such willingness to substitute chicken, turkey or veggie patties for beef in hamburger sandwiches. They also offer built-your-own omelet and build your own burger selections that would have gotten you frosty looks back in the day.
The décor features old ad for Coca-Cola, with women who used to be called “bombshells” dressed in modest swimsuits with a refreshing (but sugar-laden) bottle in their hands. There are also miniature front ends of ‘57 Chevys and such protruding from the walls. Ever the music is the popular music from back in the day. (I SO wanted to hear “Running Bear.”)
One can order either at the counter or at the table. Take out service is available and seemed to be a large part of their business, as available seating is fairly small. The menu consists of not only the aforementioned omelets and burgers, but salads, hot dogs various hot and cold sandwiches, malts, shakes ice and ice cream. Sides include fries, fruit, pasta salad, and a curious mix of potato and macaroni salad. Breakfast is served all day. One can order pancakes, waffles, eggs dishes, and several types of breakfast burritos. Happily for people like me, they serve also oatmeal.
The diner is named for the area of Orange where it’s located, that is, Old Town, an area that’s undergone a wave of restoration and is, as of 1997 (according to the city of Orange website) on the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in the late 19th century centered around a traffic circle (Old Town purists insist it be called “the Plaza”) at the intersection where Glassell St. and Chapman Ave. cross. The Old Towne Diner is barely a block away from the traffic circle on North Glassell.
Most of the menu items are named after local streets, such as the Chapman Avenue Burger which features buffalo sauce, crumbled blue cheese, frazzled onions, lettuce, tomatoes and mayonnaise.
Which brings me to the food. While there is nothing wrong with it, I can’t say that I found it particularly enjoyable. Perhaps the worst I can say was that it was on the bland side. The first time I ate there I order a grilled cheese sandwich (Pine Street Grilled Cheese). The second time I had a build-you-own burger and deliberately chose the spiciest items I could.
Mr. Siduri, on the other hand, found everything very much to his liking. The prices are reasonable (Most items are $7.99) and the portions just right. He ordered rueben sandwiches, which I don’t care for. He enjoyed the mac and potato salad. I wanted to douse it with vinegar and pepper.
Both times we’ve been there the wait staff has been friendly and efficient. Parking in back is limited, but there is a large public parking lot a couple of blocks away so this shouldn’t be an issue.
The Old Towne Diner
photo: from the Old Towne Diner website