The Orange Circle in Old Towne Orange is perhaps one of the best recognized places to find innovative food while being immersed around vintage and bohemian styling in Orange County. As you walk down the streets branching out from the roundabout, the local sweets shop rubs shoulders with a garishly out of place Radio Shack. Haven Gastropub serves up microbrewed libations next to the old breakfast comforts of Kimmie’s Coffee Cup, and squeezed between the narrow alleyways, a nook takes hold adjacent to a small brick bound space for coffee and burgers. This throwback restaurant is Old Towne Diner, the diner you didn’t know you missed.
If Americana was personified in restaurant form, Old Towne Diner would have all the fixings. Transfixed by the obsessions of Coca-Cola and steel counters, this diner has the walls framed with Coca-Cola memorabilia, stainless steel, and red & white booths, complete with 25 cent jukeboxes. Paper towels are dispensed as the wipes of choice for your dining messes, and rotating fans keep the inside breezy on those hot summer days. Walking up to the counter, lights illuminate from the bottom of the glass display showcasing Coca-Cola glassware, and the desserts are proudly displayed in the dessert counter to the left. Nostalgia fills the air as easily as the aromas of food in this tiny throwback restaurant.
When you are searching for ways to nit pick on the service of a restaurant, that’s a good sign. Walking up to the counter, you’ll be welcomed warmly by the cashiers, who also double as the servers. Looking up at the vast menu of tasty treats, it’d be easy to be overwhelmed and lost. There’s so many choices! Luckily, the workers are not only knowledgeable, but passionate about the food. When you ask for their opinions, they speak the way any food lover does: lavishly. If this doesn’t create anticipation for what you’re getting into, nothing will.
As diners go, burgers, shakes, fries, and hot dogs make the line up of the usual suspects. However, keeping true to the juxtaposition of this diverse area, these items are as innovative as they are classic in their makings. Take the Pixley Street Burger as case in point. This burger involves the staples which make Californian cuisine popular: avocado, chorizo, and green Ortega chilies. Mixing the regional tastes into something as basic as a burger makes this unique food item special. To “1 Up” that, they bake their own buns for their burgers and sandwiches in house, and it is evident in the taste. The buns taste rustic, hearty, and a perfect compliment for the savory flavors of each burger. Add in crisp fries and fresh vegetables and you’ve got a near perfect burger in each bite. Old Towne Diner even creates something they call “fried pickle chips” – pickle slices deep fried and served with your choice of dipping sauce. America loves to deep fry things (Oreos, Twinkies, corn dogs), and luckily the idea transferred over to pickles. This unique side dish is fantastic! They retain the moistness and crisp great pickles have with a savory coating on the outside. Even better, the pickling doesn’t hit you like a mack truck. Instead, it creeps quietly at the end of each bite, a pleasant surprise.
For all the specialties this diner concocts, the pricing is fair enough to feed even the most cash strapped Orange County college student. Burgers hover around the $8 mark, with the Old Towne Burger, the simplest burger, being $6. You can create your own burger for $8, and the sides and drinks fall near the $5 mark. With $13 in your hand, you can get a filling, quality meal.
This small, but spacious diner truly represents what Old Towne Orange is all about. The atmosphere is pleasantly relaxing, the food is comfortably filling, and even the customers are surprisingly diverse, ranging from the old couple who drink coffee black with their coconut cake to the hipsters ordering veggie burgers and iced tea. Though this place might try its best to stay secret, even hiding between buildings, the uniqueness of Old Towne Diner cannot be hidden for the hungry and chatty mouths that gush about this wonderful restaurant.
Old Towne Diner
152 N Glassell St
Orange, CA 92866